As Lib Dem supporters revolt over their party’s direction, Labour supporters tell Ed to do a deal with Clegg
I had this article on the Independent website on 15 September.
Making the Liberal Democrats a party of government and of the centre are the two elements to the Nick Clegg project. His external critics struggle most with the latter, seeing him as a Conservative, and his internal ones the former, uncomfortable with power’s compromises.
I had this on the Demos blog earlier this year.
It is now more than three years since the Copenhagen climate conference. If it is remembered at all in the UK, it is not remembered fondly. For all the sleeplessness that it induced in the then Climate Secretary, Ed Miliband, it did not produce a great leap forward in our response to climate change.
I had this on Labour Uncut earlier in March.
This weekend the fog of war descended on Brighton, central London and Grantham. It seemed to be thickest in Brighton where the Liberal Democrats met for their spring conference. Some think their enemy are the “self-appointed detectives” in the media. Others are convinced that their enemy is the party with whom they share government.
I had this on Labour Uncut last year:
Edward Docx declared postmodernism dead in Prospect during the summer. Many hierarchies were shattered by postmodernism’s insistence that no perspective is more legitimate than another. This revolutionary insight has wrought all kinds of change over the past 40 years or so, but also contains the seeds of its own exhaustion. If all perspectives are valid, do any of them mean anything?
Stewart Lee describes David Cameron with his arm around Nick Clegg as being akin to “a bloke who has bred a prize pig”. The Liberal Democrats have been slaughtered to ten per cent in opinion polls and Cameron boasts of being “in a position in four years time where we win the general election and govern on our own”.
I wrote this recently for Labour Uncut.
“Pause, listen, reflect and improve”. That’s what David Cameron and Nick Clegg said they were going to do on the NHS bill. Most people know what these words mean. Cameron and Clegg don’t seem to, though.
The longer Gordon Brown was prime minister, the harder it became, sadly, to picture him in post at the 2012 Olympics. His purchase on the future evaporated. Ed Miliband has to recover this to return to government. He has to convince that he has the answers to the challenges of 2015 and beyond. And personify these answers.
The front page of the Spectator Christmas special depicts Nick Clegg crushed between David Cameron’s foot and ice. This captures the conventional wisdom. Cameron is doing well out of the deal that created his government. Clegg isn’t; and Ed Miliband isn’t in sight. The Tories hover around 40 per cent. The Lib Dems have shrunk beneath 10 per cent. Labour leads these polls, but we are told that Miliband is insufficiently visible.
For all Nick Clegg’s slightly vague talk of “giving the party with the biggest mandate the chance to govern” it wasn’t hard, given opinion polls, to see a Tory/Lib Dem government as a potential outcome throughout the general election. I warned Westmorland and Lonsdale that they might vote Liberal Democrat and end up with such a government. They didn’t listen. I was less surprised by the government we ended up with than the extent to which the motivations of my Liberal Democrat opponent, Tim Farron, recently elected president of his party, seemed so close to those of Labourites.
“The characteristic virtue of Englishmen is power of sustained practical activity and their characteristic vice a reluctance to test the quality of that activity by reference to principles.”
Nick Clegg was “apparently obsessed” with the distributional chart published with June’s Budget that seemed to show that the impact of the Budget is progressive; that is to say reducing the incomes of the richest to a greater degree than the incomes of the poorest. This claim was quickly challenged by Left Foot Forward, amongst others.
Realising he was on weak ground, Nick Clegg attempted to shift the terms of the debate in an article in the FT. The fairness of the Budget, he argued, shouldn’t be judged “solely on the basis of how much money people could be receiving from and giving to the state at a single moment.” But that is precisely how the (incomplete) distributional chart asked us to judge fairness.
It is difficult to overstate the strategic importance to the EU of Turkey. So, a sense of regret and concern should be felt across the union when Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s Prime Minister, says of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s Holocaust denying President, that “there is no doubt he is our friend.” But Europe has not been awash with such sentiment in recent days because, as Philip Stephens argues, Europe has clung to the past as Turkey has turned east.
Must Europe wither? It surely shall if we do not wake up and smell the coffee and move on from the navel gazing and introversion that have marked recent years. Tony Blair suggested three years ago that the big distinction in politics was between open societies and those which were closed. “If you take any of the big motivating debates in politics today”, argued Blair, “each essentially has, at its core, this question: ‘Do we open up? Albeit with rules and controls, or do we hunker down, do we close ourselves off and wait till the danger has passed? Is globalisation a threat or an opportunity?'” The EU has chosen to hunker down, to close itself off, not just to Turkey but to a world that is hurtling towards a G2 in which there is no place at the top table for Europeans.