Clegg the Innocent

7th October, 2014 9:54 am

Never has there been a better example of naive little fishes swimming in a vast, Machiavellian pond than Nick Clegg’s “Orange Bookers”.

It’s easy now to forget just how shocking and incomprehensible we all found even the concept of a Tory/LibDem coalition. To forget those 5 surreal days our democracy was in hiatus, holding it’s breath while just 4 men decided the future of our countries behind a locked door. For 5 days and 5 nights, Cameron, Osborne, Alexander and Clegg hammered out their agreement. A vacuum where one day, history would be.

Four men. After 29 million, 691 thousand, 380 people had voted, in fact they may as well not have bothered. The manifestos they thought they had voted for were discarded along with student trust and the last drop of belief in our political system. The party of civil liberties  were artfully convinced to give them up for the promise of a few tempting beans.

Cameron and Osborne, foxes in tails holding knives and forks and licking their lips. Clegg and Alexander eager as sixth-formers convinced they are ready to play men’s games.

Clegg went into the room with a left of centre economic position, that passion for civil liberties, a determination to see electoral reform in both the Commons and the Lords, and a pledge to scrap tuition fees. He came out having ceded to Osborne’s right wing economic strategy, with the promise of a referendum on AV that was dependent on boundary changes that would see the Tories gain an almost indefinite majority in the commons, tripling tuition fees and supporting a welfare reform bill that would throw all but the most fortunate to the wolves.

Almost every policy  decision for the next 5 years was decided in that room, by those 4 men. Since then, each time democracy has tried to object, she has been silenced with either bribery, dishonesty or the Whip. From using financial privilege to overturn Lord’s amendments and increasing government surveillance measures, to threatening the BBC and deleting old speeches from the internet.

They ripped up disability living allowance and replaced it with personal independence payments in that room, agreeing to slash a random 20% of people with disabilities from the budget – it was in neither manifesto. They awarded themselves 5 years of power with virtually no possibility of challenge the very day they left the room.

I remember Nick Clegg saying at the time “I asked a mutual friend “Can I trust this guy” [Cameron]. The friend said he thought he could and before we knew it we were feeling queasy at the sight of that new bromance flowering in the rose garden. I had always assumed that the very first thing they learn in politician-nursery-school is “You can’t trust anyone.”

Nothing has demoralised me more than watching previously centre left politicians with apparently, well, Liberal values, file into those lobbies, one by one, in support of slashing payments for disabled children, selling off our NHS in piecemeal chunks and slashing legal aid. I watched them argue over how terminally ill you have to be to qualify for disability benefit. I watched them decide that there was no longer any need to treat profoundly disabled children who would never work as though they had contributed national insurance, ensuring they were always entitled to support in their own name. After all, it was argued, they “might inherit”.

But that just demoralised me. What disgusted me, was being assured through it all that the Lib Dems had somehow stopped the worst excesses of the Tories. I have found myself living in a country that has allowed sick and disabled people to die in hunger and despair and they dare speak to me of mitigation?

I think in a funny way, the UK public did vote for a coalition. I just don’t think they trusted either the Tories or Labour to govern with free reign. They gave Clegg a once-in-a-generation opportunity to show that coalition could work. They “agreed with Nick”. A unique chance to dictate how and when he and his MPs would support the Conservatives and how and when they would not, issue by issue. Instead, he was smoothly convinced that his job was first and foremost only to “think of the markets” and “put stability above everything.” He didn’t even see the handcuffs coming. Or, it seems, such familiar right-wing euphemisms for stuffing the poor.

Now, we start to see the predictable sight of the little fishes trying to swim like mad away from the shark.  But it’s too late to pretend they’re in the wrong pond now.

In fact, they’ve forgotten the idealistic, self-righteous little minnow pond they started from altogether. Now, when Danny Alexander is “pissed off” with Conservative economic policy, it is only because they stole it from him. In 2010 it was because – as he rightly pointed out – that same policy would delay recovery by 3 long years.

Tim Farron, the last remaining token voice of the handful of centre left Lib Dems who haven’t deserted the sinking ship describes the Conservatives as “borderline immoral”. Any politician that thinks finding people in comas fit for work and scrapping the social fund is only “borderline” immoral has a very different definition of immorality to me.

The total disdain voters in Scotland showed for Westminster in the recent independence referendum rang a warning loud and clear. “Reform or Die”. From the actions of all 3 parties at their recent annual conferences, it seems the message is as far from getting through as it ever was.

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  • Danny

    One of the best articles I’ve read on LabourList.

    In many ways, this government has been one of the most right-wing we’ve had. More right-wing than Blair, more right-wing than Thatcher. So tell me Clegg, how is it that you’ve anchored them in the centre-ground you deceitful, power-hungry tool?

    • DaveAboard

      “One of the best articles I’ve read on LabourList”.

      Absolutely. However, not surprising given that Sue Marsh, despite her own severe illness, has devoted more energy to campaign on behalf of disabled and sick people than the likes of Reeves, Byrne and the rest of the “leadership” have done combined.

      • Danny

        The woman is a legend and an inspiration. Her blog should be a must-read for all politicians, but it almost certainly isn’t.

        It’s apt that we’re getting an article from her today, as I believe she is undergoing important surgery today.

        I hope it all went well Sue and that the surgery gives you the new lease of life you need to stick it to that vile creature Iain Duncan Smith a little bit more.

        • vi_sa

          Do you deny that abuse of the system does not take place? Do you think that NO reform is required for welfare (and the NHS for that matter?). And apparently immigration is all fine and dandy too because Labour still won’t offer an in/out referendum!
          What exactly will Labour change?

          • Danny

            Have you just replied to the wrong thread? I’m curious as to how any of your questions relate to the posts they are supposedly in reply to.

          • vi_sa

            You said in the beginning – “In many ways, this government has been one of the most right-wing we’ve
            had. More right-wing than Blair, more right-wing than Thatcher. ”

            That, and the focus on IDS presumably means you don’t like any reform at all. If you do, I am asking you what will Labour do differently.

    • fran cullen

      Yes, but Labour (partic. Rachel Reeves) have committed to continuing
      with PIP and its unnecessary assessments and the ditching of DLA. When
      I lose my DLA, I will literally be for the chop!! I depend on it for other vital things. What hypocricy the above love-in with DLA. Labour’s fist for its survival wouldn’t punch a hole in a dripping wet bag!! I say this as a former Labour supporter.


    It was one thing for Clegg to ‘sup with the blue devil with a long spoon’ but it did not take long for Nick to start wearing his cloths and sleeping at the foot of his bed! As for Danny Alexander he must be the first ginger poodle to listen to his master Osborne’s voice!
    Now we are beginning to see that motley crew trying to stake out the radical left ground to regain those lost to Labour.

  • swatnan

    Considering there hadn’t been a coalition within living memory (apart from some old codgers still around), they did a pretty good job in putting together a Govt of sorts, with Clegg as DPM. Lots of lessons there for Labour about how to handle a Coalition Govt more effectively, since the Lib Dems have done all the groundwork, for us.
    One thing, I would let Clegg be DPM but give him the FO and send him to the Middle East more.

    • Redshift1

      I think Clegg moving to the back-benches would be a prerequisite of any agreement (I’d say the same of Alexander, but he might be losing his seat…). The man is toxic.

      I’m not really a fan of formal coalition with the Lib Dems full stop but I think we’d have to be very specific about what we’re willing to give up. Virtually nothing economically or on health. Surely we’d be looking more at Justice or something like that?

      • Danny

        The art of negotiation is letting the other party have what you want.

        House of Lords reform? The ultimate dream, though it is just a dream, would be List PR. Offer the Lib Dems that and they’ll dance to whatever tune you tell them. Trouble is, the Labour PLP are too self-absorbed and wrapped up in their own ambitions to be pragmatic enough to look at policy that is beneficial for our politics and our nation’s future.

        • Redshift1

          Elected HoL would be a good idea for negotiation. I think we’d have to do regional list allocations rather than national if it was PR (and from a left-labour perspective national lists are a horrible idea because selections would be dominated by London)

          • Danny

            I agree. I meant List PR (regionally) for House of Commons elections, which is sadly a pipe-dream, for now. To be honest, if a Lab-Lib coalition would bring about PR, I’d root for that over a stonking Labour majority.

            But I would imagine any House of Lords reform would have to involve a much smaller number of peers and some form of PR election.

          • Redshift1

            Well you could just abolish the HoL altogether and have a hybrid system like the German Reichstag or the Scottish Parliament

          • Danny

            That’d be fine by me.

  • MoreLeftThanYou

    The manifestos they thought they had voted for were discarded along with student trust and the last drop of belief in our political system.


    We do not vote for manifestoes. We do not vote for parties. We vote for individuals. All parties are free to break promises and they do so frequently. These promises are not binding. Clegg’s miserable failure is in not realising that the penalty for breaking the promise on student fees would spell doom to his party.

    You also say: ”The total disdain voters in Scotland showed for Westminster in the recent independence referendum rang a warning loud and clear. “Reform or Die”.

    Over fifty per cent voted for the status quo – not Gordon Brown’s cheat sheet. Your statement is factually wrong.

  • treborc1

    2009 Labour party

    Attendance allowance is not means tested, meaning it
    is available to anyone who may need extra help with transport, special
    diets, handrails or other support.

    Ministers say both AA and another benefit – the disability living allowance, also for
    over 65s – may need to be merged into general social care funding under a
    new National Care Service.

    This will help pay for an insurance scheme designed to prevent people having to sell their home to move into residential care.

    They have said the two allowances will be replaced by ‘equivalent’ benefits,
    but have given no details or any guarantee the replacements will not be
    means tested.

    The two benefits are claimed by some 2.4million individuals to help them lead independent lives.

    Miss Begg, Labour MP for Aberdeen South is confined to a wheelchair after
    being struck down with Gaucher’s disease, a degenerative condition.

    After losing this battle Gordon Brown decided to try and take DLA away from young people living in care homes, this being the only benefit they could get if they were disabled. he then said people living in residential homes , he lost these battles as well.

    The disabled and the sick not forgetting the Government it’s self stated that DLA and IB had some of the lowest benefit fraud, and most of the fraud was being done by groups and gangs of people using dead children birth certificates or it was DWP error…

    I do not know what ever the Tories are doing now. Labour has tried to do it themselves and that is the problem, I cannot for the world see Miliband as being a strong leader. he sounds silly, weak, and sadly not leadership material, but look around labour and tell me except for maybe one or two, how many on the front bench could take over, take control and be seen as being strong, because if you can then I’ll bet it’s a Progress member like Byrne, Reeves, Alexander, Murphy, maybe now he’s a lord maybe it can be Freud or of course Blair .

    Do not get me wrong the Tories are the same hence people see the buffoon Boris as leadership material dear god what a mess we are in.

    I’ve given up with politics to be honest I cannot for the life of me see labour winning the next election and I’ve said it for the last three years, we had our first knock on the door it was UKIP the bloke came he knew our names and he asked whom your going to vote for and I said to be honest it may well be UKIP, he goes away happy.

    Labour came and I told them the same, I simple do not care who wins any more will my life be better under labour of course not will it be better under the Tories nope it will not will it be better under the Liberals or Plaid or UKIP hell no, and that’s the problem they are all painted blue or Purple.

  • BillFrancisOConnor

    What a great piece! Sums up the Fib Dems’ role in the carnage of the last four and a half years perfectly.
    Their conduct at this week’s conference challenges the strongest of stomachs- they are beneath contempt.


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