Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal democrats, frustrates me. He just sits there. Like some sort of expensive garden gnome missing a fishing rod or toadstool. In local campaigning, like here in Newcastle, Libdems will say one thing on one housing estate and the total opposite on the other side of town. They’re well-known for it.
You’d think, though, on a national level that they would have an ideology. A core set of beliefs that give them direction. Some policies that they hold dear and would never turn away from. But no, it turns out they don’t. What the Libdems are doing under Clegg at the moment is sitting in the middle of almost every issue. They’re gambling that a hung parliament will happen and that they are then going to get to pick a party to form a coalition government with. So they’re avoiding doing anything too controversial. Nothing that will set them at odds too strongly with either of the main parties. Clegg is sitting on the fence.
And that’s what annoys me. Clegg will say when asked, that he isn’t planning on a hung parliament. That he’s playing to win and believes he can be the next Prime Minister. This, of course, is utter nonsense. He knows, just as the public know, that he will never be Prime Minister. What he could do, knowing he’ll never actually be PM, is produce a really radical liberal manifesto and force the other parties to discuss those policies. Force Labour and the Tories to talk about anything Clegg and his party want to. They would be driving the narrative and debate. But, no, Clegg’s doing the easy thing. Sitting on his hands and hoping to play ‘kingmaker’. Already he’s quietly dropped a lot of key policies on the grounds of the shaky economy. And now he’s being as uncontentious as possible, making bland statements and no commitments.
After all the sleaze and scandal in Parliament, the public are crying out for fresh ideas, positive agendas, different outlooks. Clegg could set himself apart, set out his manifesto and run an insurgent campaign picking up votes and seats from both Labour and Conservatives. He might still do that. There hasn’t been a manifesto yet, the campaigns proper aren’t underway. All we can really go on to get a sense of the parties’ directions are the campaign election slogans. The Conservatives have worked on the theme of change for a while now and they unsurprisingly came out with the grammatically poor
Year for change
which is predictable, but not working as well as they expected it to up to now. The Labour party announced their slogan at a big event in Warwick a few weeks ago. And the slogan Brown’s team chose is
A future fair for all
which isn’t too bad. The traditional Labour focus on fairness and the implication that the Tories are, by nature and ideology, unfair. With these slogans in mind, Clegg and his staff should have come up with something original which summed up what they were about. Something focussed and witty. And very memorable. What they actually came up with is
Change that works for you. Building a fairer Britain
Even with the bloody slogan, Clegg has parked himself firmly on the fence. Instead of differentiating his party and making the Libdems stand out, he’s co-opted both the main parties slogans and joined them into a bland bunch of toss. Even the design of the logo itself is bland.
I suppose, at the end of the day, it could have been worse. They could have done this –
Plus they’re never going to win, so it doesn’t make a difference at the end of day.