Monday, 6 October 2014

Clegg the Innocent

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 6 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. The 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. 


  1. If any LibDems read this, then they need to know that yours is a moderate voice, not an extremist one. Only then can they begin to realise the true scale of their betrayal.

    1. I think that's a really good point. I'm pretty good at detached but I have nothing but utter contempt for Clegg. That's not the same as despising LibDem voters, I rather like them on the whole. But they've been even more betrayed than the rest of us. I managed to persuade (with the help of George Potter and many other LibDems) the grassroots to oppose Atos WCAs. Official party policy became just that. Clegg simply ignored it. Alexander used to advocate against Atos and for sick and disabled people before he grasped power. But he dropped us like hot coals the moment Osborne beckoned. Contemptible.

  2. I agree with all you say - and like many people live in fear of even more cuts. On a medical issue (which I know won't apply to most people) I have just been invited to go into another clinical trial about transplant rejection - with an awful lot more negatives in it than positives. Luckily I found the full details online and read the study hypothesis which starts " Treatment of kidney disease accounts for a significant proportion of NHS spending"
    And ends "A cost analysis will confirm whether the screening programme and treatment protocol can save money by keeping kidney transplants functioning for longer." So less of a - let's improve and extend a patient's life, more - let's save money!

    I have written a long response and queried whether the 'informed consent' is in fact legal as no mention of costing,as one of the priorities,was on the document that I received.
    I hope all goes well for you tomorrow, very good luck - thinking of you.

    1. Often wondered if once "that hospital" got hold of #Dani some of her care was curtailed because she had cost them so much. Much of what previous hospitals had considered important was abandoned. Much hope taken away.

  3. Well written sue

    In addition, if I may add that any so-called concern on civil rights abroad with whoever the leader is our government is always full of condemnation and says how awful they are but here in our own country we have to put up with it
    Maybe Hong Kong will either teach us in going forward that the government behaves itself and stops abusing and lying to the people or face the consequences

    The young educated people today in general across the world deserve a better standard of leadership from their governments and the days of dictatorship and repression like we have in the uk for certain groups of people like the sick and disabled will one day be outlawed

    The only thing the conservatives will do in going forward will bring about the premature deaths of the weakest in society along with being at war with whomever they chose
    Not much at all of a manifesto but at least it is the truth

  4. I worked in local politics for many years and learned never to trust a Liberal. Their descendents seem just as bad, if not worse.

  5. I voted for Ed Davey last time around but probably won't this time. I won't be voting Lib Dem unless they replace him, and there's no sign of them doing that. I'm sure local parties have the power to de-select MPs, as the party is more internally democratic than the Tories or Labour, but I guess there must be enough people there who've spent their life working for him and think his being a minister is a crowning achievement. There are also plenty of right-wing libertarians in the Lib Dem party.

    The comment about 6th formers eager to play men's games is spot on. I always believed they caved in because they wanted the privileges of office, not because there were "difficult decisions to be made". Lots of people voted for them because they were Labour voters in constituencies were they were the only opposition to the Tories. Now these people will vote Labour because they know that if they vote yellow, they'll get blue.

    1. I was told by my LibDem MP that she *had* to follow the party line as she had "an unpaid job in the government* where I can do more good for people, but rebelling against the party will lose me that job." My response to which was "You have a *paid* job... it is as MP for this constituency. Do the job you are paid to do and represent the people who are paying you." I got no further response.

      *the "unpaid job" is/was, I believe, as assistant or something to our least favourite Tory.

  6. It is a shame those that watch Westminster never pay attention to Holyrood.

    There they would have seen Jim Wallace sell his commitment to things like Student finances disappear as far back as 1999 for that same sniff of a ministerial car seat.

    They never could be trusted

    Some of the SNP branches last night claimed as many in attendance as the keynote speeches of the LibDem NATIONAL conference.

    If true this speaks volumes. The pictures from the halk looked bad enough that I had thought them spoofs, maybe taken as they were setting up.

    Now I have to take them at face value. Empty hall, empty promises, hollow claims of victory over Indyref to bolster their hollow record of "achievement"

  7. We voted Lib-Dem. :( B is saying Clegg couldn't have done better for the Tories if he'd been a plant. And he did work for the Tories initially....

  8. I would never trust the Lib/Dems ever again and could never be persuaded to vote for them.
    My biggest fear is that we get a Tory/Ukip coalition! If we think we've had it bad these last 4+ years, then God help us all for the next 5 years.
    Still, we have SNP as the third largest party of the UK, and lets see how politics will be affected by that fact.
    I'm sending you all the best wishes that I can and hope that all goes well with the operation and your recovery. xxx

  9. I agree wholeheartedly Sue. I voted Libdem up to and including the last election and that was because of their apparent commitment to social justice. Never again; I have almost never felt so betrayed. I certainly will never trust them with my vote again. After not being able to vote for Tony Blair (severe negative gut reaction) I've now joined the Labour Party. Unfortunately not because I agree with their policies but because they are the only hope we have of survival. I may not be around to vote in 2020, but I sure as hell won't be if this bunch of bastards or, even worse, this bunch of bastards in cahoots with the purple peril (how bloody dare they appropriate my favourite colour!). I'm terrified that my last years as someone who will be totally dependent on others for everything will be spent watching my family suffering and being punished for the bad luck of having a mother who got MND. In fact it is probably best if I don't hang around for that to happen.

  10. The Lib Dems are doomed but UKIP could end up taking their place. Which would be true horror.

  11. As (now) an ex-lib dem voter I'm in full agreement with you Sue. Hope you're well and out of hospital soon

  12. Great piece.
    Though I would add that some of us didn't trust Clegg... we knew that he and his close associates were Tories all along. We knew Clegg had been a Tory at university, we knew he worked for Leon Brittan, we knew he held to Thatcherite economic ideals.
    But who would listen in 2010.

    He fooled a vast number of people, who gave him their trust - he then went against protocol and went straight to Cameron to discuss coalition (rather than Labour).

    I trust he'll lose his own seat in Sheffield, along with the others.

    Tim Farron could be a new Lib Dem leader who can put the party back where they belong: third every time.

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