NICK CLEGG – STAKING HIS LEADERSHIP ON THE ECONOMY MOTION?
With the publication of the conference agenda yesterday the most striking discovery was that Nick Clegg appears to be staking his leadership on the Economy Motion (F19). It is unprecedented in the history of the Lib Dems for a leader to submit and summate on a motion. The last time a leader intervened in a debate was Ming Campbell, in what appeared to have been a hasty decision when it looked as if the leadership was losing on Trident.
Nick Clegg has made his determination to drag the party, kicking and screaming if necessary, to the right, totally open. This mission began long before the general election, the coalition only seeming to strengthen his resolve. However, this motion marks a ratcheting up of said resolve.
Now, there is much in the motion to applaud. I personally welcome the recognition that the government approach to youth unemployment isn’t working, the need to invest in housing and infrastructure, the commitment to support business. However, this motion is asking us to accept Osbornomics, plain and simple. There is no real critical analysis and rather like the doctor who tells you what a great job s/he has done of mending your broken leg, while neglecting to mention that in the process s/he cut off the other one, we are presented with a pinhole view of often meaningless information. OK, we may have near record levels of employment but that isn’t the issue, we have more people – surely it is the near record levels of unemployment we should be worried about? It is also clear that this insane desire to sign up to a Tory agenda is out of step with the majority of party members (as reflected in the recent LDV poll which found less than 20% would want another coalition with the Tories). One gets the impression that the Clegg/Alexander/Laws mission is so single minded that they really don’t care how many members they lose on the way. As Jonathan Calder perceptively observed recently, Clegg knows whose support he doesn’t want, it isn’t so clear whose he does.
So on this and other critical issues that will be debated at conference it is crucial those of us who still hold to the values expressed in the preamble to our constitution do all we can to get to Glasgow. There is certainly a battle for the soul of our party and it’s a battle I for one believe we can still win.