Wednesday 21 April 2010

Churchill you are not.

Comparing Nick Clegg, at this stage in his career, to Churchill, is clearly rather silly, and probably not very helpful to the Liberal Democrat cause. However there is a very real sense that "the fate of the nation" depends on Clegg's performance in tomorrow's debate. If he flops, or just comes out even, there is a real danger that the Liberal Democrat bubble may burst and we shall be back to politics as before with no real change in sight.

In terms of reforming and re-invigorating politics a Labour win will merely mean a referendum on AV, a second rate electoral system which is neither proportional nor gets rid of safe seats. A Tory win will mean no change at all, with continued partisan minority rule and continued scope for corruption.

However, if Nick Clegg can repeat his triumph there is a real possibility that the Liberal Democrat surge will continue and, whatever result the present flawed electoral system produces in seats, a vote equal to or greater than that of the other parties will enable the Liberal Democrats to insist on the Rolls Royce of electoral systems, the single transferable vote, which gives the maximum voter choice, the maximum of proportionality while maintaining the link with constituencies, abolishes the safe seat and thus will genuinely transform our politics.

Fortunately, as Jackie Ashley kindly pointed out in Mondays Guardian (19/04/10) in a debate mainly devoted to foreign affairs, the Liberal Democrats have a strong hand to play:

  • being right on Iraq;
  • opposition to the unquestioning "like for like" replacement of Trident;
  • consistent support for positive engagement in the EU: perhaps not the most popular of policies at the moment, but one that can shine compared with New Labour's "shame-faced and half hearted" record on this issue, and the "inconsistencies and unanswered questions in Conservative policy."
It may not compare with Dunkirk, but the mould-breaking moment may at last be in sight. Fingers crossed for Nick Clegg.


  1. Despite your recent post, I'm in agreement with the pollsters - I thought it was very much neck-and-neck but I did personally think that Cameron narrowly triumphed (compared with a much clearer win for Clegg in the first debate).

    Do you think, reviewing this post now, that as mainstream opinion made it a tie between Clegg and Cameron with Brown not far behind - thus matching your criteria for Clegg 'coming out even' - that the Lib Dem bubble has burst and we are returning to "politics as before"?

    Personally I do not feel the Lib Dem bandwagon is no longer rolling, but I do think both Cameron and Brown have put the brakes on it.

  2. Actually I think Brown and Clegg came out about even, with Cameron trailing, but that may be just prejudice, and I'm willing to accept the general verdict that they were all much of a muchness.

    The unfortunate thing is that, like almost everyone else, we're discussing the quality of their performances rather than the policies. There should have been much more discussion on Europe (where Clegg put our case well)and on Trident (where Clegg failed to make our case effectively). And it is alarming that only the BNP seems to have any exit strategy for Afghanistan, which was hardly discussed at all in any depth..

  3. It goes to show though that these debates are the preserve of the politically-desperate to suit an apathetic populace, doesn't it? Genuine town-hall meetings where contentions of policy are thrashed around and opinions formed seem the only way that any real meat could be chewed over, rather than the glitzy 90-minute summary-with-smiles we were treated to; alas as we've noted before, there appears to be no demand...