I am writing this note at home on another Friday night that has been ruined by mountains of work, the same work that has led me to view the election through fleeting glimpses of the paper in the morning or short excerpts of speeches on the radio. And yet, my friends, instead of resting my weary head I have decided to use what little mental function I have left at this hour to implore all of you who have a vote, not to use it for Nick Clegg.
I’m not referring to the Lib Dems, most of whom like Chris Huhne, David Laws, Mark Oaten, Ming Campbell etc are basically Tories anyway (although they do have a couple of batty policies). I am talking about the Member of Parliament for Sheffield Hallam. I am shocked and saddened at having to even discuss this vapid and silly man, but it’s clear from my news feed that some of you are seriously considering voting for him.
He represents the worst possible aspects of our political system, a cheap knock off of Blair with the same faux sincerity and hammy delivery. Tony only resigned three years ago, are our memories that short? Didn’t you get the vague sense during the debate that you’d seen those exaggerated hand movements before, those sentences completely devoid of content?
It’s the utterly shame faced nature of the man I can’t stand. I expect cynicism from politicians, it’s a dirty game, but to do it with such pained expressions of deep principle makes me feel quite ill. He’s the leader of the oldest political party in this country’s history, the ultimate machine politician bred in an underground lair in Brussels, posing as an outsider. He‘s the leader of a party that actually gave its MPs lessons on how to milk the expenses system to the fullest extent of the rules, who then lectures the others on probity.
I think the saga of the Lisbon Treaty sums the man up. Nick Clegg is a Europhile, which is an entirely respectable position (although one I strongly disagree with). But Mr Clegg had a problem; he had inherited a party which had promised a referendum on the European Constitution/Lisbon Treaty. Labour had too, but under pressure from their European partners, ditched their promise. It was shabby and dishonest but at least they looked pretty ashamed of themselves while they were doing it and had the excuse of actually being the government with a need to work with our neighbours.
Clegg chose a different route, he ordered his MPs to abstain from the vote on a referendum, effectively threatening them with expulsion from the party for keeping an election promise. The MPs did abstain, swinging the vote, there was no referendum, and the treaty was ratified.
If that were all, it would bad enough, but his rationale that the ‘real debate’ was about an ‘in or out’ referendum on EU membership left me flabbergasted. Here was a man patently ramming through something he wanted, trying to dress it up as high principle. None of the main parties advocate leaving the EU and that certainly wasn’t the issue of the day, the matter was clearly whether Britain should agree to a treaty strengthening the EU. And then, when the Lib Dems weren’t allowed to debate their amendment for an ‘in or out’ referendum, something no one else in the house was interested in, they started heckling the speaker with spurious point of order before one was kicked out and the rest followed.
Either Mr Clegg is one of the most cynical political operators of our age, or has the same sense of self righteous delusion that would make him the true heir to Blair, I desperately don’t want him to join a government and for us to find out.
And what will it do to our political system? What message does it send to our political masters when a man, looking, as one commentator put it like Peter Jones from the Dragon’s Den with a dodgy tie, can spend one evening on TV spouting platitudinous drivel, making totally baseless claims about being some kind of radical, ends up with higher approval ratings than Churchill (as one poll found)? If politicians gave us any credit in the past they certainly won’t now. Have we really sunk that low?
So do go out on May the 6th, vote Conservative, vote Labour, vote Respect, or UKIP, or if you are one of those weird breed of Lib Dem supporters, indulge in your fetish, but please for the sake of retaining what little dignity our frail polity has, don’t vote for Clegg.