Nick Clegg is making a desperate bid to stay relevant. He recently announced he would consider a coalition with the Labour party in the next general election. How magnanimous of him.
Never mind the fact that he promised not to raise tuition fees. And then did.
Never mind the fact that he promised not to raise VAT. And then did.
Never mind the fact that he promised not to allow the Tories to get away with not imposing a mansion tax. And then did.
Never mind the fact that he promised not to cut police numbers. And then did.
Never mind the fact that he promised not to go into coalition with the Tories. And then did.
As the old saying goes, Nick, shame on you if you fool me once, shame on me if you fool me twice. Fortunately, Ed Miliband knows which side his bread’s buttered. So far, he has point-blank refused to discuss power-sharing. Still, Clegg’s announcement is a serious threat to the Labour party. The statement sounds like the bitter resentful rhetoric of a man who wants out of the current arrangement. Yet the damage this could do to the Tories is minimal.
In the next general election, staunch Tory voters will vote Tory, and staunch Labour voters will vote Labour. The disenfranchised majority of Lib Dem voters will be the deciders, as they make up the next election’s huge swing vote. So how has Clegg’s announcement affected them?
Hopefully, it hasn’t. But what he’s doing is laying the framework to re-establish the Lib Dems as a left-wing party. Four years ago, this was the platform on which they garnered enough support to be the king-makers. Next time round, they want the same power. The majority of left-wing voters will be trying to decide whether to vote Labour or Liberal Democrat. Clegg knows that the only way his party will ever be important again is by winning back those he’s already lost to Miliband.
The vast majority of the changes this government has made smack of right-wing policy. So what Clegg is trying to do is win the support of those who do not support the policies his party have been responsible for making reality. He knows that if he can’t entice those he conned in the last election, it’s all over for the Lib Dems for at least a generation.
I can’t work out which future is worse: another term with the fickle Lib Dems, or a collapse to a two-party system, perhaps forever. The stakes are high, and we’ve all got a choice to make.