UK Politics

Who is Nick Clegg?

I’m just asking. I know he’s just won the politics X-Factor for the most deceitful politician category, according to the Mirror, but today he is also the man who is telling us that David Cameron’s “big society” and liberalism are one and the same. That’s right you can’t shine a light between the two.

It is another sign if you needed one of the deepening bond between the Conservative Party and Clegg’s Lib Dem coalition ministers.

According to the Guardian in Clegg’s foreword to the public service reform plan he argues that both the Lib Dems and Tories support the big society and a radical decentralisation of public services — they just use different language. It is a down right shame that these fellow travellers, these political soul mates, have been so long without one another.

Clegg says: “The prime minister has coined the phrase big society while the Liberal Democrats tend to talk about community politics or just liberalism. But whatever the words we use, we are clear and united in our ambition to decentralise and disperse power in our society and that shared ambition is one of the of the bonds that will keep our coalition strong.”

For those Lib Dems who were already having serious doubts about Clegg as he abandoned his tuition fee pledge this will be another sign of where the party appears to be going as their leader pulls his wagon up and reveals his stock of political snake oil as he tries to sell the ideological bond between liberalism and Conservatism.

It is also a reason why they should take-up Ed Miliband’s offer to have a formal role without having to defect from their party and to work with Labour on its next election manifesto.

“I think there’s real disquiet on the left and indeed centre of the party about the way the party is going. There are many people in that party who are deeply frustrated and even ashamed at the way their progressive tradition has been hijacked by the coalition.

“To those that are reluctant to abandon ship but are concerned at the direction of their party. I invite them to work with us on issues of common interest.”

It is no good simply rejecting the offer out of hand as Lib Dems on the left of the party are being cast adrift just as the whole party is in the polls. Clegg’s whole proposition, his new politics, is proving itself to be an empty bag of tricks that the electorate have seen through. The YouGov Plc poll for the Sunday Times newspaper published yesterday put the Lib Dems on 9% down from 23% in the election with Labour on 42% — 2 percentage points ahead of the Conservatives.

YouGov president Peter Kellner said in an e-mailed statement that the “Liberal Democrats’ reputation for standing for a new, more honest, promise-keeping style of politics has been destroyed by its U-turn over tuition fees”.

The first big test of the anger show in the polls for the Lib Dems is on its way in the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election. It is a real chance to send Clegg a message via Labour’s newly selected candidate Debbie Abrahams. If you want to volunteer any time or help this is how you do it.