At last. The moment that Nick Clegg has been praying for for the last few years has finally come to pass. And you’d better believe he’s happy about it – even though, by the end, he’ll no longer be the leader of the Liberal Democrats.
A little context.
Back in May 2010, no single party received enough seats in parliament to form a government. After some negotiation between the parties, Her Majesty asked David Cameron to form a government in coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
Who then proceeded to allow the Conservatives to fuck the country over.
While, of course, being royally fucked over themselves.
So why are they still hanging in there? Surely the right thing to do would be just resign?
Well, they can’t. When they signed up for the coalition government, they signed up for the long term. The gamble is this:
Liberal Democrats have never been in government before. Therefore they are not trusted by the voters to run the country. This needs to change.
The party will bide its time. Take the devastating electoral hits which it so richly deserves, and just stay the hell in government.
Because if there was an election right now, things would not go well for the Lib Dems. And at last, at long last, far later than they’d hoped, the moment they’ve been hanging in there for has arrived.
The Tory party is visibly disintegrating before us. The racists, homophobes, and swivel-eyed loons are already baring their teeth at Cameron. More than half of the parliamentary party voted for an amendment to the Queen’s Speech. (To put that in context, this last happened in 1946.)
And that’s what the Liberal Democrats need. For the government to collapse because of the Tories fighting among themselves. Then they get to say: “Look. We did it. We stood by our agreements, and we governed.”
And then maybe, just maybe, whoever gets the most seats in parliament (but not a majority) will trust them again to cut a new deal come election time. Because they stood by their God-awful deal with the Tories even when they shouldn’t have.
(See the links at the top of the page for detail on that.)
And that’s the gamble. That the Tories will, once again, tear themselves to shreds over Europe and Equal Rights. That they will just be so crazy that they will turn on their own Prime Minister while in government after scraping by in an election that they didn’t gain a majority in.
It’s necessary. But not sufficient. There’s one more thing that needs to happen before the Liberal Democrats can regain the public trust.
(Once again, see the links above. Do you think one single person who voted Liberal Democrat thought they were voting for any of those things?)
Nick Clegg’s one function is to stay in power until the Tories self-destruct. And not for a moment longer.
If they don’t self-destruct, his gamble has failed and the Liberal Democrats are dead as a party. The only possible way that they can come back from this is if the Conservatives splinter. Fortunately, UKIP are there, smiling and welcoming with open arms. If the two arms of the Conservative party go to war with each other as Labour did in the 1970s, and the same result occurs…
Then his job is over. No more majority for the Tories after the next election.
And that’s when he’ll have to go.
Because although what were previously the biggest charges against the Liberal Democrats will have disappeared…
That they’re amateurs.
That they have no experience in government.
That they’re purely the party of protest.
…Nick Clegg is too tarnished to lead the next election.
(Look again to the links at the top. Think about them for a moment. If they don’t fill you with rage yourself, think of how many voters they will have filled with anger, how many Liberal Democrat voters feel betrayed right now.)
He’s a smart fellow. I think we’ll see a bloodless coup in the Liberal Democrats as soon as it becomes clear when the election is.
If the Tories go boom beforehand, then it’ll happen sooner rather than later. Otherwise, I expect him to go three to six months before the next general election.
Probably willingly. If not, then he’ll be ejected.
And the new leadership will blame all the bad things on him – whether they were his or not – and point to their experience in government, and the good things they’ve done there, as to why you should vote for the Liberal Democrats.
Because the only alternative is that he stays on as leader for the next election. After which the Liberal Democrats will have ceased to exist as a political force in this country.
I think he knows this.
I think he’s playing for time, hanging on.
I think that he thought this might be a possibility from the very beginning.
But for this to happen, for the Liberal Democrats to be saved, first the Conservatives need to turn upon themselves.
And this week, at last, it looks like the beginning of the end.