Nick Clegg was only too aware he had taken on the roll of a Las Vegas gambler when he decided to roll the dice and go into coalition with the Conservative Party. What he failed to notice was the game the Tories were playing with him wasn’t ordinary roulette at all…….. it was Russian Roulette under Old Etonian rules.
In this version of the game all the gun chambers are loaded and Clegg is obliged to fire first! No wonder his party colleagues are sweating. With around a month to go to nationwide local elections the Liberals are stuck at under 10% in many opinion polls. Since joining the coalition two years ago the Liberal Democrats have staggered from one crisis to another. Each time it looks like the worst is behind them a new emergency blows up in their faces.
The first and most damaging of these was the party’s ready acceptance of the increase in student fees when it was party policy to abolish them. Many Liberal candidates had their pictures plastered all over their general election literature standing side by side with students and promising they would remain at the head of the campaign to reduce and abolish these charges.
However the heady smell of power in their nostrils saw many Liberals abandon their principles for the trappings of Government office and ministerial cars. Chief among them was the party leader Nick Clegg. He was on the right of the party and by instinct closer to the Conservatives than Labour. He also felt at home with Tory leader David Cameron. Cameron was to the left of the Conservative party and there was little difference in outlook between them compared to the Dour Scottish leader of the Labour Party, Gordon Brown, who was almost a generation older.
What Clegg was not accounting for was the Liberals taking the blame for everything that went wrong and the Tories getting the plaudits for every Government successe. It took a long time for the memory of the ” student betrayal,” to fade in the eyes of the public and just as it seemed things might look up they careered down hill again.
From out of the long grass the Conservatives produced a major new health bill, though such massive change in the sacred national health service were not flagged up in the party’s election manifesto. Not only was the bill a shock but it was unanimously disliked by all the service professionals. From Drs, senior and junior, to mid wives and nurses. For Clegg there was no port in the storm. The passage of the bill was dramatically stalled.by the Government for industry wide consultations, something unknown following the introduction of a bill. Changes were made which the bill’s critics said were cosmetic and its supporters major. But the truth was that major or not the changes made little impression on those who had originally given the bill the thumbs down and whose ranks were being swelled daily by almost every association connected to the Health Service.
Only the Liberals seemed satisfied by the changes and they paraded the ageing Dame Shirley Williams , who supported the changes,as a signal that all was right now. After a number of Parliamentary battles the bill squeezed through Parliament into law but the public showed little sign of forgetting what had been thrust upon them thanks to the Liberals.
With the on set of the Olympic games and the elections for London’s mayor looming on the near horizon the Liberals prayed for a period of silence. But in the game of politics you rarely get waht you wish for and within a week they were hit with a double wammy. First literally out of no where the Conservatives announced they were, in the interests of security, going to read each and every email. An idea they described as outrageous in opposition. The Liberals recoiled in horror and Nick Clegg gave a good impression of a man hearing bad news for the first time even though he was deputy Prime Minister.
With the Liberals once again seemingly appearing to be the great betrayers George Galloway the shock winner of the Bradford West by election joined the controversy. In an attempt to refute that Muslims alone had voted for him Galloway pointed out that the University ward, which was strongly ethnically mixed,voted 85% in his favour. The new MP announced that as far as the students were concerned it was pay back time for the Liberals who had ditched their opposition to increased tuition fees at the start of the Parliament
That was all the Liberals needed. A reminder to the public by a great orator of their broken promises now two years old and which they hoped were buried in the history books.. As the pressure mounted it seemed every mistake made by the Government was a Liberal one.
At the start f the 1960’s the Liberal party had been reduced to a rump representing the extreme Celtic Fringe. All their six MP’s were able to fit into one London taxi cab. The question being asked now is at the next election will the Liberals go from Governemt to a few fare extras in a London cab? Like Icarus it appears Nick Clegg has flown too close to the sun, or David Cameron. Whatever the exact truth it appears no one agrees with Nick anymore.