Monday, 17 January 2011

Look around, Mr Clegg. No-one else is smiling.

Let me be the first to say that if there is even the faintest, remotest whiff of a discussion or consideration of a Tory/Lib Dem merger or even some sort of electoral arrangement, I will leave the party immediately. Luckily it's only the Telegraph that seems to think this could ever be a possibility. If any Lib Dem MPs got re-elected under some sort of coalition banner, they would probably leave the party anyway.

This is a long way off. Thankfully.

I think that a more pressing problem for the party is Nick Clegg. When you are trying to convince the public that you're only doing what's necessary, it's hard enough when all the ministers in your party have to whole-heartedly endorse government policy. But it becomes harder when your leader looks absolutely thrilled to be in government.

Being able to convince people that he genuinely believed all of what he was saying and was honest to the core was one of Clegg's strongest abilities in the general election. However, whether deliberately or not, he now applies the same style of speech to coalition policy, which is, for the most part, a thousand miles away from what he was supporting before. Perhaps he has genuinely changed his mind on everything. Or perhaps he can't help but appear enthusiastic about everything he says. Either way he should take a leaf from Vince Cable's book. Vince has struck the perfect tone of endorsing policy, but looking like Theresa May is hiding under the desk pointing a gun at his genitals while he's doing it. It wouldn't kill Nick Clegg to look like he finds it difficult once in a while. But it might kill his career if he doesn't.

It started on that sunny day in May when Cameron and Clegg were beaming at each other in the garden of Number 10, looking like it had been part of their plan all along. Clegg was the minority parter in a coalition with his political enemy, but was grinning from ear to ear about it. Cameron, admittedly, looked the same, but he was and is in a more secure position. While it might have been nice to see a bit more sincerity, the merry, jocular tone worked for that day, as they tried to create the illusion of a bright future under a progressive new government. And to be fair to Clegg, he was now a government minister; a position he probably never thought he would achieve. He was within his rights to be pleased.

But 8 months down the line, Clegg's frequent and enthusiastic endorsements of policy that should make any Lib Dem squirm is beginning to become problematic. Unless he starts to become distinct from the Tories he is working with, the party is going to have no choice but to go into the next election under a new leader, or face the consequences. Wipe that smile off your face, Mr Clegg. And try and look like someone's force-feeding you  a crocodile penis, or in 4 years you could follow Lembit Opik and be doing it for real.

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