Why I still agree with Nick
Mere months ago it seemed like Nick Clegg could do no wrong. Less than a year after leading the Liberal Democrats to power for the first time in ninety years, the great-white hope now finds himself being burned in effigy, and having dog muck pushed through his family’s front door.
Many will argue that the turning point for Clegg was the vote on tuition fees, but I disagree. I think it was when he agreed to work with the Conservatives. People didn’t realise that when Clegg told Gordon Brown at the final pre-election PMQS “It’s over, you’ve failed, it’s time to go,” he really meant it.
Clegg’s decisions last May ended the long held assumption that the Liberal Democrats would automatically prop up the Labour Party, something I welcome. A third party cannot be seen as the de-facto ally of anyone else.
However, it meant that those people whose political roots are grounded in opposing the Conservatives automatically branded Clegg a sell out. I simply do not go along with their analysis. The public used the General Election to show that they no longer wanted the Labour party in government anymore, and Nick Clegg made sure that happened. He then had the courage to lead his party into taking tough, vital, economic decisions, having seen from inside government that there really was ‘no money left’.
Despite being part of a House of Commons team that consists of only 57 MPs, Nick Clegg has put Liberal Democrat policy on the statute books. I have heard the statistic put around that those 57 MPs have caused 65% of the Liberal Democrat manifesto to end up in the coalition agreement! Moreover, Clegg’s prominent position in Cabinet has given more liberal minded Conservative colleagues political cover, resulting in policy that should be far more palatable to Liberal Democrats.
Of course I can’t ignore what happened with tuition fees. A pledge was signed; part of that pledge couldn’t be fulfilled in coalition. Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander, and Vince Cable couldn’t stop fees rising, but they did introduce a better payback system, which would not have happened without them in government. I don’t agree with the rise in tuition fees, but I certainly wouldn’t brand Clegg as a traitor or a liar because of it.
From raising the personal allowance on income tax, to civil liberties, to the green agenda, under the leadership of Nick Clegg the Liberal Democrats are having a real influence in government. They are no longer a political party to just be dismissed and ignored. For me, the compromises that Liberal Democrats have had to make do not detract from the things that they have achieved.
It might not be trendy anymore, but that is why I still agree with Nick.