The Lib Dems’ pro-European stance is madness. And genius

January 3, 2014 3:00 pm

And, so, into the Valley of Death marched Nick Clegg.

The decision by the Lib Dem leader to base his European election strategy on being the most pro-European of the all main parties is, on the face of it, so barkingly mad that it’s actually a stroke of genius.

Mad because despite the public’s default Euro-scepticism – with just 14% of Brits polled saying they see themselves as European, (compared with 48% of Poles, 39% of Germans and 34% of the French) – Clegg intends to rub voters’ noses in it by proclaiming the glories of European integration.

While caveating his remarks to add that his party is not actually “in love with the EU” Clegg wants voters to know (in a shockingly ungrammatical phrase) that they are “Britain’s party of in”.

This is because “Europe means jobs, trade and prosperity” and the other parties are putting “narrow political interest” ahead of the good of the country.

Or so Clegg says.

Actually, the reverse is true. Clegg is putting the narrow tactical needs of the Lib Dems first. This is because they are going to tank in May’s European elections. He knows it and his poor bloody infantry does too.

nick clegg

A recent poll has them crashing to fourth place with just 8% of the vote, thanks to a pincer movement whereby Labour does rather well, topping the poll, with UKIP surging into second place.

The first national poll since the formation of the coalition will give voters the opportunity to punish Clegg and the Lib Dems for all the compromises of government. All the let-downs, u-turns and broken promises that are part and parcel of coalition life.

This is, after all, the historic function of the European elections. No-one is voting about Europe for goodness sake, they are using their vote to punish the governing party, in a consequence-free election, by flirting with the political fringe.

The Greens and BNP have, at various times, benefitted from this arrangement. All the indications show it’s now UKIP’s turn to gain from the voters’ electoral sugar binge. In fact, so inflated have expectations become that unless Nigel Farage is carried shoulder-high along Whitehall it will seem like an anti-climax.

So, bowing to the inevitable, Clegg is using the Euro elections as a loss-leader. In a recession, the smart business leader looks to the long-term. A lack of short-term profitability is a price worth paying for a long-term increase in market share.

This is Clegg’s plan. By giving the Lib Dems the Unique Selling Point of gratuitous pro-Europeanism, he aligns his party with the UK business lobby, which is increasingly anxious at the prospect of any referendum and potential exit from the EU.

By 2015 no-one will remember who ‘won’ the European elections. Frankly, no-one will care. A humiliating performance from the Lib Dems will matter little. What will count is an enhanced reputation as a reliable party of business and, so, a worthy party of government.

Clegg has spent every minute of his leadership of the Lib Dems trying to change their brand and shake off accusations of flakiness and general weirdness.

This is the prize he is really after – credibility in 2015 – and he will mount a doomed campaign and sacrifice his own candidates in May to get it. Genius.

  • swatnan

    The Lib Dems have always been one step ahead of the game when it comes to Europe; they are a European Party, whereas the others see Europe as a ploy in electioneering.
    Kevin is right and the LibDems will stick to their principles on Europe and if need be go down with the ship. But, in the end, they will be seen to be right. It is the long game. The other Parties are only interested in the short term, and opportunism.

    • MrSauce

      I agree with Nick.
      Remember, the LibDems were against starting an illegal war in Iraq, identified the dire economic position of the UK before the crash, and were anti-Murdoch when Labour and the Tories were competing to be the biggest suck-ups.
      These are all historic positions that Labour would give their right arm for now.
      Sometimes you have got to separate the message from the messenger.

      • Frankie D.

        And then they flipped sides on everything when they got a sniff of power.

        • swatnan

          …. when they had responsibility thrust on them. They certainly got a reality check.

          • treborc1

            Look back at History to whom get’s blamed for everything in a coalition it’s normally the Junior partner. Look at Wales the Liberals went into a coalition with labour and nearly got wiped out at the following election, then look at Plaid when they fell for it, they went from second looking like a p[arty likely to take power to dead and gone.

          • swatnan

            Thats because Britain doesn’t really understand coalitions; but we’ll soon change that. Its called inclusive politics or consensus politics, not adversarial politics, but co-operative politics.

          • Alexwilliamz

            Thought it was called nodding dog politics, cue link to monkey’s mention of clegg being higher than churchill, we know which one people were thinking of now.

      • Peter Martin

        They don’t get everything right. They wanted to join the Euro, if I remember rightly. And, the UK would have 20% unemployment by now!
        They’ve gone quiet on that – but we know they are just biding their time.

  • Doug Smith

    “This is the prize he is really after – credibility in 2015 – and he will mount a doomed campaign and sacrifice his own candidates in May to get it. Genius.”

    Miliband is also after credibility in 2015. And perhaps Labour too will mount a doomed campaign in May 2014 and sacrifice candidates.

    But the New Labour legacy of incompetence still weighs heavy. And no-one will be calling Miliband a genius. But then, come 2015, probably only a handful of ambitious Blairites will be calling Clegg a genius.

  • Forbes92

    yes

  • Forbes92

    The UK economy faces a bleak future and without Europe we will be isolated and with shrinking options.
    Social policy left to the Conservatives to dertermine will shrink causing living conditions for wide sections of the population will worsen. The EU is about the only agency that will seek to reduce the the inequalities that are an increasing feature.

    • Doug Smith

      “The EU is about the only agency that will seek to reduce the inequalities that are an increasing feature.”

      Now that’s what I call a desperate hope.

      Here’s a quote from an OECD working paper:

      ” Inequality in Europe has risen quite substantially since the mid 1980s. While the EU enlargement process has contributed to this, it is not the only explanation since inequality has also increased within a “core” of 8 European countries. Large income gains among the 10% top earners appear to be a main driver behind this evolution.”

      • Forbes92

        I do not disagree with your comments but desperation at the lack of any alternatives is how I feel. Promises of better management of the economy is no solution – even as sticking plaster. Can you offer some ideas to take us forward?

        • Doug Smith

          Do the right thing and hold fast to that principle, always.

          A number of historians have pointed out that many of the gains of the last 100 or so years have been won by people operating outside the Establishment political parties: e.g. women’s movement, civil rights, anti-war movement etc.

          Of course, once the bandwagon gets rolling our elected (mis)representatives become eager to get on board because they’ll want to get some votes out of it – that’s a consequence of a successful campaign.

          Do not despair. There is a lot that can be done if you’re fed up with voting for the LibLabCon.

    • JoeDM

      The real danger is that the failing EU will drag the UK down with it by imposing further rules and restrictions on our growing economy.

      • Doug Smith

        Our economy is quite capable of sinking without any help from the EU.

        The deep structural faults underlying the UK’s precarious position remain unaddressed. As Michael Saunders chief economist of Citigroup put it: “The rebound is led by demand rather than supply-side improvements, and is not rebalancing the economy towards investment and exports.”

        • Hugh

          Or, as Michael Saunders put it more recently: “The
          recovery will remain quite unbalanced in 2014 but recoveries in investment and exports are likely to offer a path to more balanced growth over time. The UK has the right policy mix of weakish currency, low interest rates and extended fiscal consolidation, but the extent to which exports and investment pick up inevitably depend in large part on the uncertain prospects for the euro area.”

          • Doug Smith

            I suspect Hollande is leading from the front in a campaign to firm up the prospects for the EU as a whole.

            His current visit to Saudi Arabia “with an entourage of high profile defense and [nuclear] energy executives” is suggestive of a desire to supplant the U.S. as the oil monarchs’ go-to arms dealer.

            With the European Defence Agency beavering away in the background there could be a jobs bonanza for all if the threat of peace in the Middle East can be avoided.

          • Hugh

            I suspect Hollande is trying anything that he hopes might distract from his disastrous popularity ratings at home

          • treborc

            It would be nice to vote on the EU, we never had one.

  • RAnjeh

    I think Kevin is right but the Lib Dems being the ‘party of In’ is disastrous for Britain’s relationship with the EU. In a future referendum, the Lib Dems should just keep their mouths shut.

  • Monkey_Bach

    What a complete an undiluted, unadulterated, unreconstructed, unalloyed, complete and utter tw@t Nick Clegg has turned out to be as a leader, politician, and as a man. It’s hard to believe that for a moment, before the 2010 general election, Clegg was rated as high as Winston Churchill in a poll made in respect to the greatness of British politicians historically.

    Just goes to show how wrong polls, pollsters, and the public can be doesn’t it?

    Eeek.

    • treborc1

      Thatcher, Blair, Brown, Cameron, Clegg and Miliband, now tell me if you ran a large multi national company or a fish and chip shop, which one would you have in charge of growth.

    • Alexwilliamz

      But he’s got nice hair and his own radio show.

    • BillFrancisOConnor

      All the Fib Dems are the same (including your Sarah)- They’d spout any old s**t to get a few votes.

      • Monkey_Bach

        Get well soon. Eeek.

  • Steve Stubbs

    Come on, let’s have a bit of reality here. Clegg is simply concerned, as a relatively young man, for Clegg’s future in a nice EU well remunerated thank you job after he steers the libdems to disaster waving the EU flag for all to see. If he was a real thinking and honest man, he would be recognizing reality by trying to pull he Libdems back up and quitting the coalition immediately, and not hanging on to the addictive trappings of government for all it’s worth.

    • Doug Smith

      The ministerial limousines are just too comfortable.

  • Daniel Speight

    The paint begins to peel from the Blair clones like Clegg and Cameron and it’s not a very pleasant sight. Even the holy Tony is accused of sex romps with Wendi. Maybe he wasn’t the best recruit for the catholic religion after all.

    • treborc1

      I think the catholic church now has a new messiah and I suspect once he goes to sit at the right hand of god, and Jesus has to move to the back, we may well see a second coming, after all the little man would not be able to contain himself.

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