I don’t normally talk too much about the Lib Dems, despite them being Broxtowe’s joint-controllers at a borough level, and having a strong holding in Beeston and Bramcote. It’s nothing personal, yet it’s always more apparent when an issue is easily pegged as left or right. Despite their protestations, the Lib Dems are always seen by voters as the protest, non-bilateral default party.
Yet, post 2010, they are probably the most interesting of all parties. Entering a coalition with the Tories is seen by some as an honourable attempt at stability, others a pragmatic move to get some real legislative power for their policies; and – judging by latest polling, a majority- an act of electoral betrayal.
I offer no opinion, thinking the complexity of the situation is akin to that of a Shakespearian tragedy. Macbeth with yellow ties. I’m more affronted by how they spent two years providing a shit-screen to protect the Tories, but to blame them for taking the blame for something would be infinitely reducing, so I won’t. I will say however that despite my differences with some elements of their policy, I find them, at least on a local level, well-meaning, community-orientated and progressive. Sadly their leader has entered a seemingly Faustian pact which could see them out of power for a long, long time.
So when I was asked ‘Would you like to see Nick Clegg in Nottingham?’ I didn’t hesitate. Who would pass up on the chance to see a real-life Hamlet up-close? I stuck my name down, and decided to social-media my good fortune.
‘Meeting Clegg tomorrow’ , I typed out, on Twitter and Facebook, ‘ What should I ask him?’ It was like drilling into a huge, high pressure shit-well. I could explain this by explaining that my followers on Twitter and my ‘friends’ on Facebook are of a leftist persuasion, and that is true to an extent, but it would be untrue to suggest that I’m solely a magnet for those in red socks. I’m read more on Twitter by non-Labour than Labour, Facebook also. I imagine that most people I know may have persuasions to a general political stance; but are not party-centric. They are the floating vote, the ultimate treasure of all politicians seeking for where X will mark the spot.
I won’t print them, not without request, , but they were unilaterally angry. Occasionally questioning, but in the main, really pissy. Beeston Councillor Steve Carr (Lib Dem, at least when I last checked) weighed in for the defense, and valiantly fought his corner, ultimately ineffectively. It must be tough. Clegg, in a YouGov poll published yesterday, is viewed by only 7% of the electorate as being ‘sticks to what he believes in’. 93% of people, thus, see him as disingenuous, or don’t know.
So I trooped along to the Q+A Cleggles was holding, hosted in professional style by The Nottingham Post, who never skimp on their political coverage and power to get together events like this. Boardings proclaiming the DPM’s arrival adorned the secret location (Newton Building, Nottingham Trent University), and I was, by some administrative mistake, ushered into a front-row seat. When I asked why I was sitting there, a man in a suit explained ‘Not a security risk’, which made me even more nervous. One does not like to think that the 140 people behind you ARE deemed more dangerous than you.
Clegg himself? I was there, as close as anyone, and while it seemed at times he was nailing a few myths and showing that he had a passionate relaunch spirit, the overwhelming impressionistic feel is slightly darker beige, moving over beige. Stat-heavy rationalisation over passionate rhetoric? The former might be more important, but while polls (the same YouGov one again, see above) pegs his charisma at a worrying 11%, it’s not going to do anything if he can’t express it with more conviction.
Coming out of the event, I run into Bramcote Councillor David Watts and ask him how it came across.Unsuprisingly, his answer is one word, and loyal: ‘Well’. This is qualified with particular mention towards the one policy that might salvage the third-party (still Lib Dems, haven’t checked UKIP’s figures); that of the income tax threshold. ‘Not a head-line grabber, is it?’ I ask.
‘But it’s only because we aren’t getting the press now that we would get in 2015’ he explains. He has a point. Think of the currency ‘I agree with Nick’ gave you in April ’10. Is that the Zimbabwe Dollar of statements?’Wait ’til 2015′, I’m assured.
I point out that the Euro election is closer, as are the Counties. He looks a little crest-fallen by this, and apropos of only a slice of our topic, announces he won’t be standing for the East Midlands in the Euros. Which is a shame, cos a pugilist like Watts would be wonderful to witness versus a fellow fighter by the name of Jon Collins…
To summarise, Clegg was Clegg. He dazzled by doing the opposite of dazzling, and creating a charisma vacuum. I see a lot of politicians, and they do what they do without recourse to looking flash, but Nick? I’m sure, deep down, he means well, but when he walks on stage and think he’s the bloke in charge of he lectern you know that’s no JFK up there.
Who would save them? ‘Who will be your leader in 2015, Dave?’ I ask Watts
‘Clegg, no doubt’
I do a ‘hmm’ noise.
‘Well, obviously Tim (Farron, Lib Dem Chairman) eventually, but for now, he’s our best’.
The Lib Dems really are tasting power. Sadly, after a few months, it’s the same as Callaghan in the late Seventies or Major in the mid Nineties. Not just on a losing streak, but with the taint that kept Labour in the dark during the Eighties and the Tories buggered from 1994-2008.
Typically, the ‘other ‘ party has taking on the mantle of power and only been poisoned by it. The Lib Dems look finished. However, never underestimate the fickleness of politics. Gordon Brown got cheered at the Paralympics while Gidiot got booed. To paraphrase Donovan, Yellow may indeed be the colour.