A resounding no to AV was the political equivalent of a kick in the nuts for Nick Clegg, but will the humiliating result give the Lib Dem leader some balls when it comes to standing up for his party and opposing the Tories?
There’s probably still a lot of ringing in Clegg’s ears left over from the aftermath of last weeks elections and AV referendum. For the Lib Dems, it was a disaster. Clegg has been left looking like a fool, having lost all credibility which he’ll be hard pushed to claw back any time soon, and once loyal Lib Dem voters are now baying for blood. On the other hand, for their coalition buddies, it was a resounding triumph!
It’s safe to say that Clegg has pretty much used as a human shield by the Tories – they really thought it out, didn’t they? They never wanted the Lib Dems in power and were dead set against political reform. To get into government they lured Clegg’s Party by dangling the promise of a referendum on the current voting system on a stick, then when the time came they did everything in their power to undermine the Yes to AV campaign and have reneged on most of what was once promised during the ‘honeymoon period’ of government.
Tomorrow sees the coalition’s one year anniversary, and its fair to say that the relationship between Lib Dems and the Tories has been far from sweet. Both Cameron and Clegg have vowed to create a strong, decisive government but how is this achieved when the government is comprised of two different parties with very different views and agendas, and politcal mudslinging, bickering and back-stabbing abound?
By jumping in bed with the Tories, Clegg may have got his party into government but he’s also undermined a 25 year campaign for electoral reform. Now, as Britain’s third party the Lib Dems have been neutered (not that they were much of a threat before forming the coalition), any hope of voting reform has gone up in flames.
Clegg has promised to be more assertive when it comes to the coalition and challenging Tory policies i.e. the governments planned NHS reforms, but is this a lesson learned or a case of too little too late? He’s already lost the respect of those he won over during the televised electorial debates. To gain some of it back, he and his Party need to stop being the blame-takers for Cameron’s administration.
He admits, “there are lessons to be learned, and the lesson I have learned listening to people on the doorsteps is that people want a louder Liberal Democrat voice in government.” Unfortunately, up until now, that Lib Dem voice has been stifled by a majority Tory administration who, like playground bullies, seemed to have Clegg and his Party backed into a corner when it came to electoral reform.
Clegg has vowed he will “never, never, never” join the Conservatives, pledging: “I will be carried out in my coffin as a card-carrying Liberal Democrat.” No, he won’t join the conservatives. What will probably happen is that the Tories will hold another election at some point down the line, hoping for the chance to lose the Lib Dems and form a majoriy government. Bankers, the business elite and middle England will be thrilled, while the rest of us will remain broke, jobless and under-represented. Bye bye democracy!
We can only that Clegg learns from his defeat, mans up and starts calling Cameron on what he believes is important – especially the looming NHS reforms. But right now it seems that Cameron remains the puppet master jerking at Lib Dem strings, and while he’s running the show with worrying ease, his deputy minister is left shouting hopelessly from the wings.
Maybe Clegg should adopt Chumbawamba’s “I get knocked down…” as a new personal theme tune. Unless he wants to jump ship and side with labour, learning from his mistakes and coming back stronger is essential for his survival within the coalition. If he could grow a pair and publically kick Cameron’s arse over the NHS, he’d definitely win over a few more voters!
Until that happens, politically, it seems the future’s blue.