Monday, 23 May 2011

The end of the road For Nick?

For the first time in months I logged on to my LibDem act page and had a surf for groups. During this surf I discovered one I was a member of had changed its' name from "We agree with Nick" to "Do we still agree with Nick?" and a new one labelled "Sack Nick."
It got me thinking about the future of Nick as leader and the very real possibility of his removal from the leadership before 2015.
2010 was a good year for Clegg, he had been an energetic and charismatic young leader of the party - he did what no leader had done for generations- touched the hearts and minds of the voters. His calls for change, abandonment of the summer recess so they could deal with the expenses crisis, electoral reform and a new politics, environmentalism and a frank openness at the leadership debates. The Libdems and Clegg offered a new way and a bright future. Even as the Coalition started we were starry eyed and even buried a distrust of the Conservatives as David Cameron seemed to be saying similar things, maybe we could dull the Conservative blades.
But since the Tuition fees crisis belief in the party has waned. It is grim being a LibDem at the moment. Ten years ago it was the wasted third vote, five years ago we were a viable option and last year we were an outside edge runner that could cause a the first parliamentary upset since Ramsey MacDonald's first Labour government. Now we are pariahs... the only people viewed as lower than us is the BNP who got more votes than us at the Saddleworth by-election!

On May 5th I stood amongst fellow party members and watched the party collapse, not only in Medway but across the nation and it was frustrating to watch something I cared deeply about fail so horrendously and not be able to do anything about it. This was coupled with the utter failure of the AV campaign which meant that we were kicked in the guts whilst we lay on the floor bruised. Angry, bitter and hurt Lib Dems filed out of Count halls across the country thinking about how they were going to pick themselves up and where we were going to go now. I know I asked the question and Blogged about it.
Many turned to the leadership and Nick has been labelled as the Captain of the ship that struck the Iceberg.

The big questions are;

Is this the time to replace Nick? Who would replace him?

Nick Clegg has become like Asquith. A once inspirational leader who is responsible for many great strides and improvements is rapidly finding himself out of touch and out of his depth in the evolving political world. The Media mock him, deride his policies, the Tories hate him and us as a sort of parasite that is sapping their essence whilst feeding on their power, Labour see us as the Achilles heal and Ed Miliband wants to be Nick from last year, even his some of his own party members dislike him seeing him as a sell out. I'm a fairly loyal Cleggite but even I have found myself shouting at PMQs.
"Damn it Nick stop nodding! You don't agree with the crap coming out of Cameron's mouth do you?"

Something must be learned from the Asquith scenario of 1916. Lloyd George took over from him and yes he was more of a political force when it came to solving the national crisis that was World War One but he sold out to the Conservatives and Boner Law, the party was also effectively destroyed and split into factionalism of Asquithian Liberals, Coalition Liberals and it took decades to repair the party and get it to the position it was in last year. Do we really want to go down that road again?

Nick is also VITAL to the running of the coalition. He definitely has some form of chemistry with David Cameron, despite protestations to the contrary. They get on, they work well together and they are the glue that holds it together a new leader may not have that dynamic and could lead the coalition to rupture and crack forcing another General Election and heralding the return of Labour and further defeat for us at the polls.
We may dislike the coalition at times in fact some LibDems and some Tories hate it a lot but lets face it this our chance to make a difference and we are making a difference and pushing forward Liberal reforms and policies if we mess it up now we will always be known as the party that imploded at the first whiff of responsibility and as the U-turn party that once propped up a Tory Minority government. We don't know what the next four years hold but we should hang on in there and see.

Many great politicians messed up royally in their careers but are remembered for their successes. Winston Churchill responsible for the Gallipoli massacre and economic decisions that brought about the general strike saved by epic leadership during World War Two, Milk snatcher Thatcher remembered for the Falklands, George Washington for crossing the Delaware and not the crushing defeats in the Philadelphia campaign. The tuition Fees and local council defeats could be Nick's Quatre-Bras, a defeat he has had to suffer before a stunning victory at Waterloo. If his stance and words of tough Liberalism are genuine and start to ring true, if he stands firm on defending our stance on NHS reform, if he battles the return of the ID database and visibly stands up to the Tories then damn it I'm still on board and I will gladly Tweet "I agree with Nick again."
If... If, when all is said and done it is another damp squib and we just trundle towards the next election in a mediocre diet Tory party fashion then I think in the autumn conference of 2014 we should stand up and elect a new leader for the general election, a new face, a new direction.

But if it is worse than a damp squib and things get worse for us and the country, if we really are ceasing to agree with Nick and each other I think maybe... and it pains me to say it, we should act sooner.

But I have faith that Nick can turn it around for us.

If a replacement for Nick was to be found I think it would have to be someone outside of the government, someone who hasn't been tainted by the coalition or has stood their ground. Unfortunately that rules out Danny Alexander and even Doctor Vince and definitely Chris Huhne who has ruled himself out in recent weeks! also, unfortunately David Lawes and even Simon Hughes. I, personally think someone like Tim Farron or Greg Mulholland would be a good choice or Julian Huppert. Good, solid Lib Dem MPs who represent their constituents, who stand by their pledges and begged others to do the same. These are the people who agree with the grass root party members and if the worse comes to the worse take over from Nick.

Again I say that I support Nick, I agree with Nick and understand he has a tough job, a job none of us would or could do and his position is attacked on all sides by many vipers and carrion eaters but he stands tall and proud trying to do what he thinks is right. I truly believe that in 2015 we can look back on the coalition and say.
"Well it started badly but look what we have accomplished thanks to Nick."

It is also up to us, the grass roots activists to tell people what we are doing in government, tell people what Nick is doing rather than isn't and pushing the Liberal message.

No comments:

Post a Comment