At the start of the UK political party conference season it appears that there is nothing but bad news for Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats.
Should we be surprised?
In 2010 the UK electorate, tired of extreme politics and disillusioned by Labour (the lies of Blair and the incompetence of Brown) did something new and tried to break the mould of UK see-saw party politics. The electorate knew that it wanted rid of Gordon Brown but it was not prepared to give the next prime minister an overwhelming endorsement. Across the whole country and across the political spectrum, in an uncoordinated electoral strategy they denied a majority to either party by transferring their votes to what they thought was the centre ground of politics – the Liberal Democrats.
The former Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan once said, ‘There are times, perhaps once every thirty years, when there is a sea change in politics. It then does not matter what you say or what you do. There is a shift in what the public wants and what it approves of.”
The UK electorate thought that Clegg was someone to trust and so they gave him and his party a unique opportunity to hold the balance of power, to prevent extremism, at least in the short term, and govern in the national interest. This was the clear message from the electorate, surely no one could misinterpret it, they didn’t want to give outright power to any one party and they thought Clegg was the man to make this a reality.
Unfortunately as soon as the polls closed, the ballot boxes emptied and the votes counted the Liberal Democrats forgot all their promises and in greedy pursuit of the power that had been denied to them for a hundred years and to satisfy personal ambition completely missed the point the electorate had made and negotiated to become part of a Government with an extreme right wing agenda.
Broken political promises are nothing new but ushered in by the Liberal-Democrats the coalition government has brought betrayals of manifesto commitments that, in number and scale, are unprecedented in British politics. The Conservative Party did not have a mandate to implement their radical fiscal and economic policies but seduced Clegg into Government so that they could turn a blind eye to the electoral message.
If the political parties won’t pay attention to the electorate then what we need are legislative checks and balances. A party without a clear majority should not be allowed to implement a radical programme of policies based on extreme party doctrine even with the assistance of coalition partners – no, especially with the assistance of duped coalition partners. The electorate didn’t want the Tories to rule (they only achieved 36.1% of the vote) in the interests of the privileged few they wanted a Government that ruled in the interests of the majority.
Actually, I personally find it incredulous that the Conservatives can get anywhere near control of Government. They represent the interests of only a fraction of the country. The Labour Party should be the automatic party of Government. They achieve power through false promises and lies and people who shouldn’t be voting for them for some reason vote for them. I previously worked with people who voted Conservative and then complained when they lost their jobs in the Tory attack on public services. They only had themselves to blame!
The General Election of 2010 will go down in history books as a missed opportunity. The electorate almost achieved their objective but they failed to take into account the duplicitous nature of politicians who refused to receive the message that they were being given. The Prime Minister David Cameron said that the UK’s first coalition in decades marked a “historic and seismic shift” in British politics, sadly it did nothing of the sort because the high handed Tories have presumed to govern in exactly the way the electorate told them not to!
This is a shame and cause for some despondency because I don’t believe the electorate will be so generous or as imaginative in 2015 when there will be a certain return to traditional extreme politics that we are used to, but, on the positive side at least this will be more honest because what we have now is right wing politics implemented through betrayal and deceit.
What is becoming clear is that Nick Clegg is finished and probably so are the Liberal-Democrats, they will get their just deserts when the electorate gets the opportunity to pass judgement on their blatant betrayal of trust and they will be swept away in a electoral tsunami which will return us to the two party system that we have suffered for three hundred years. They will live to regret not embracing the alternative to coalition, which was to support the Tories on an issue-by-issue basis. As for Clegg himself, there will be no justice and instead of the shame and obscurity he deserves he will probably be rewarded with a Knighthood and a lucrative job somewhere in Brussels!