An appraisal of Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat leader.

“Nick Clegg is a pale imitation of David Cameron.” Harsh words indeed, from Business Secretary John Hutton, speaking on BBC One’s Andrew Marr show, and judging from the questions posed to Nick Clegg, it would seem Andrew Marr would agree with him. John Hutton’s opinion of Nick Clegg can not be helped of course by the fact that the Lib Dem leader has proposed scrapping the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, which is headed by, none other than, John Hutton MP. There was a time, not that many years ago, when the Liberal Democrats looked like a genuine alternative to the Conservative Party. Now, not so much. So why am I bothering making a critique of the threat they may or may not pose to our chances in the next general election? Well, besides being in Canada at the moment, and having the time, its due to the recent comments Nick Clegg has made at his parties conference in Bournemouth.

On the Andrew Marr show he stated that the Conservatives “talk the talk, but do they walk the walk?” Judging from the opinion polls I would certainly say we do. But lets take a closer look at his speech. He said New Labour, and the Conservatives are “dying sparks of a fire that’s running out of fuel.” Suffice to say, the facts prove otherwise. Both of those parties have ran aground and been resurrected time and again in the last 50 years, at least. The last time the Lib Dems were a viable government forming political party was before World War One. It is true that there is a rise in political apathy, but, with leaders like David Cameron in the UK, and potential leaders, like Barack Obama in the US, I believe amongst people of our generation, that is a situation which will reverse, and is reversing. We should applaud him for this: “I hold town hall meetings up and down the country every couple of weeks – where I answer any question, on any topic, and anyone can come along.”
The reason he has time for it is because he is the leader of the third party in our political system. He has the time. I have reason to believe our own leader’s workload, and that of the Prime Minister, are both a little . . . busier. The Lib Dem leader also has more of a need for this, being that it is harder for him to get his name, and his party into the press, since they are less of an issue in British politics at present.

He then goes on to propose “Transparency. Openness. A new constitutional settlement. And an end to big money politics.” If he hasn’t yet noticed, politics is an expensive game. However, he stated a while back that the Lib Dems are having issue’s raising funds, so I think that fact has hit home. The Conservatives are having far fewer problems in that department. It’s like the stock market; political parties get more money the more likely they are to win a general election. As for his desire to reconstruct the constitution, well that just sounds like none-sense, and I have no desire to pick my way through mental gibberish. Our system has been this way for centuries, and yet it is also constantly evolving. History has proven time and again that violent eruptions can often have a more limited effect than the evolving of a system, or series of systems over time.

And then I found this in his speech, from a man who was rather too frank in an interview with GQ Magazine; “David Cameron wants to mimic Barack Obama and be “anti-establishment.”’ Obama is doing things which have not been seen in decades in a US Presidential election; his style, his speeches, his writings, and his method of fund raising. This is refreshing, whatever you think of Obamas’ politics, yet Nick Clegg pores scorn upon it. At the same time, in the UK, Cameron is presenting a viable alternative to Gordon Brown (since New Labour is not so ‘new’ without Tony Blair); so I do wonder, since Nick Clegg spent most of that speech to his Party Conference talking about how he would be so “anti-establishment,” does that infact make him “anti-anti-establishment,” and therefore occupying the normal slot the Lib Dems have for the last, century, almost. That of the third party in British politics? Slightly more respectable and realistic then the Green Party or the other little ones, but not quite so presentable as the opposition. Not a wife or life partner. Not even a mistress. The ‘one night stand’ of our political system.

Nick Clegg has said he would not want his party to be “an annex of” one of the “establishment” political parties. Judging from the respective chances of the political parties in Britain, I think he would be lucky to get even that much, these days. Reading his speech bored me. His style is lacking in flair or charisma, compared to the political heavyweights who were (or still are, but look likely to move on to better things) in something of a similar position; Thatcher, Blair, Cameron. A pale imitation indeed.

DOMINIC TARN.

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