Ah, the nostalgia. I remember the very first day of the election campaign. David Cameron, the eventual not-winner of the election, made a speech about standing up for the “great ignored” and I tweeted a joke saying why doesn’t he just let the LibDems campaign for themselves. How old-fashioned that joke soon seemed when, within a few days of the election, Clegg and Cameron made their deal and Cameron set off in accordance with constitutional tradition to ask permission to form a government from Rupert Murdoch. The LibDems were in power. A bit.
Suddenly the role of Deputy Prime Minister was transformed from having 2 Jags and occasionally punching a bloke in the face to one of real political significance. Nick Clegg was now the second most powerful politician in the land, reveling in his title of Minister for Taking All The Blame For Everything. Of course he got a lot of stick from voters and his party for “taking the blue pill”, and he had to do a lot of ingenious wriggling: when he said he wanted a “fairer society”, he simply meant “more blondes”. That sortof thing. But there was historical precedence.
After all, Guy Fawkes had made it clear he fully intended to blow up parliament but when he actually got there and saw the state of the public finances he decided instead to form a coalition in the national interest and put up tuition fees .
Ah, those pledges. Whatever possessed Clegg and his party before the election to make that honest, straight-down-the-lens pledge that John Cage would be number 1 this Christmas?! It was political suicide. Tuition fees look like they’re here to stay, with the only course you won’t have to pay tuition fees on being the B.A. in Hypocricy at LibDem University (I suspect it’s incredibly oversubscribed). It was U-turns like this that forced the LibDems to alter their logo to a pair of crossed fingers. Hell, they even changed their policy on Trident – they now feel we should keep it, but it’s only to be used against students.
Still, at least the LibDems have got Vince Cable. Or did have. How Gordon Brown must have loved the sweet revenge of watching Cable turning from Stalin to Mr Bean. For me, the worst thing about the VinceCablegate tapes was when he called Murdoch a “bigoted woman”. Not that we can blame him really. It was cowardly and immoral of those two undercover journalists to go into his constituency surgery disguised as attractive young women. Anyone would have fallen for it.
Tough times await the LibDems in 2011. I suspect that the referendum on voting reform will find most people in favour of the single transferable vote as long as that vote is transferable away from the LibDems. By August, their opinion poll rating will drop beneath 5 (as Armando Iannucci said, that’s number of voters, not percentage). And remember, you read it here first. I predict that by the end of the year the only way Clegg will be able to keep his party in order is by kettling them.With thanks for the pictures to @ross_owen and chigwiri.com.