What Nick Clegg needed to do today was give a plausible explanation of what on earth the Lib Dems get up to in government. What we got instead was a self-justificatory effort from a leader more interested in winning back his dwindling base – and pulling the knife out of his back – than speaking to the general public. He would have been better served standing on stage intoning “we matter”, wearing an “I heart Dave” t-shirt for thirty minutes.
At least then people might have got the message.
As it was, he waffled about with a few vague metaphors (colours Nick? Are we six?) before leaving the stage to a feeble war cry of “let’s go for it”. A weak ending to a pitifully short speech.
But he’s in government, he definitely mentioned being in government. He promised tough decisions. So there would be policies, right?
In policy terms it was light. Featherlight. Of course because Nick Clegg is now the minister for nothing (how is constitutional reform going Nick?) he doesn’t really have anything to announce. The rabbit pulled from the hat was more road kill than fluffy pet – a pledge to oppose any attempt to cut the 45p top rate of tax. A bit late now of course, coming just six months after voting through another top rate tax cut. Congratulations Nick, you’re standing steadfast, six months too late, against something that no-one has suggested.
You’re the people’s champion.
Elsewhere he explained how he would lead public opinion (perhaps by apologising for decisions from two years ago) and visibly winced when he mentioned the budget.
But the piece de resistance was still to come. Clegg made a big play of saying that the past, was the past. Stellar. We cannot return to the past, noted Nick, showing a hitherto unseen knowledge of physics and philosophy. But then he undid it all – by announcing Paddy Ashdown as the 2015 Lib Dem co-ordinater. ‘Onwards to the future friends, ignore the past, look! The future! (which may contain significant elements of the past that are more popular than me).
At least when Cameron gives a speech he actually says something. I don’t know how they’ll fill 90 seconds on the news tonight based on this meagre fare. But Nick did at least do one thing right. After his awful (Blue+Yellow=Green – all the best jokes are about primary colours) joke he turned to the assembled crowd, the last room in Britain in which he is guaranteed unqualified applause – if not support – and said “What a generous audience”.
Indeed. Too generous. but thanks for the headline, at least, Nick – if nothing else…