Friday, 29 April 2011

Do you hate Nick Clegg?

Over the last couple of years Clegg's public image
has developed from "Nick who?" through
"I agree with Nick" to "I hate Nick Clegg"

Some time ago I read an article by Martin Kettle which used a somantic definitoin of the word hate as a bizarre defence of Nick Clegg. It also included a comparison with Tony Blair and concluded with the patronising and incoherent explanation that what "we" actually hate about Clegg is the fact that he is getting the "hard things right" during the "superhumanly difficult business of governing complex modern societies successfully".

I could spend a great deal of time slagging off this very poor article, however I'm just going to stick to it's central notion that the general public shouldn't hate Clegg and a discussion of what is actually meant by the word "hate".

Kettle deliberately uses the strongest definition of hatred making comparisons with old firm sectarian violence and intimidation and contests that "Hate is responsible for more misery and wickedness than almost any politician, however hated, has ever inflicted". He is wrong to use this approach for many reasons. Claiming that the concept of hate is a more powerful force than the doings of any one politician relies on an absurd comparison and discounts the reality that in many cases politics is precisely what allows politicians to act out their hate inspired fantasies. This can be seen in extreme case such as Hitler's hate inspired policies towards the Jews, Roma, Polish, homosexuals, communists and dissidents to the apparent mix of hatred, contempt and fear which seems seem to drive Tory party policies towards the poor, the needy and the working class.

The people I have spoken to about Clegg hate/despise/can't stand/dislike/distrust him because they see him as two-faced turncoat who abandoned all the keystone Liberal Democrat policies for a tiny taste of Tory power. His pre-election speeches about making Britain a fairer place, especially for children, reforming politics and controlling the greed of the banking sector sit completely at odds with many of the hard-line Tory party policies he has publicly supported and voted in support of over the last year.

Unless the person uttering the phrase "I hate Nick Clegg" is sociopathic, psychopathic, delusional or just plain evil they are not asserting that Clegg should be tortured, maimed or killed, they are just utterly sick of him and despise him for the way that he has acted. A similar kind of meaning is expressed in the phrase "you either love Manchester United or you hate them, there is no middle ground".

I "hate" Manchester United and their disrespect for referees,
but not much in proportion to Hitler's hatred of the Jews.
Clegg's perceived dishonesty over important issues like NHS reforms, the commodification of higher education, huge public service cuts, destruction of legal aid and Sure Start and his abandonment of his "progressive new approach to politics" raise the intensity of the "hatred" above the revulsion felt by a true football fan at the familiar sight of Manchester United players surrounding the referee attempting (and succeeding) in their attempts to intimidate him into giving favourable decisions. Kettle seems to be stating a case that for the general public the concept of "hate" only exists as a blind and dangerous kind of rage, however I believe that the majority of people in this country have a proportional understanding of the word "hate" depending on the context.

During the 2010 election campaign Nick Clegg publicly held a huge signed pledge to oppose tuition fees, then before the year was out he had canvassed in support of and voted in favour of intruducing the highest public university fees in the world for English students. Anyone capable of human empathy should be able to understand the strength of feeling provoked by such a betrayal of students, the younger generation and people who oppose the commodification of higher education out of principle.

Nick Clegg's pledges,
not worth the paper they're written on.

Even the people that support the introduction of these socially and economically damaging fees must admit that this volte face is a particularly swift and dishonest looking one. Anyone who cares to defend him by repeating the conjecture and misinformation that higher fees are an economic necessity and that Clegg had no choice about the matter under the current economic climate can't defend his backslapping of Gideon Osborne and his cosy off camera chummery with David Cameron.

Many of the people that claim to "hate" Nick Clegg are of the generation that have suffered government imposed student debt over the last decade. Betraying and alienating hundreds of thousands of your own voters is not good political strategy, especially if they are young enough to never vote Lib-Dem again in another dozen or more General Elections. 

What have the progressive voters that supported the Lib-Dems been rewarded with in return for seeing Clegg and other Lib-Dem MPs enacting hard-line Tory policy for the last year? The terrible prospect of political reform being kicked into the long grass after his miserable compromise on the AV referendum is destroyed by a combination of the big budget Tory bankrolled and utterly misleading NO2AV campaign and a growing distrust and contempt towards the Lib-Dems and Clegg himself.

In the aftermath of the 2010 General Election had Clegg held out for some serious political reforms like a democratic house of Lords, real Proportional Representation in the Commons and the right of recall for corrupt politicians, the Tories would almost certainly have refused and formed a minority government. The Lib-Dems would have taken a potentially strong public perception as the critics and moderators of brutal Tory devastation and vested interests, a progressive party and principled party with a no compromise approach to political reform.

Clegg should have taken a firm stance on something like reforming the
undemocratic shambles that is the House of Lords.

A competent leader could have directed the party to present themselves as the viable political alternative to the "nasty party" while distancing themselves from the discredited New Labour people that led us into this economic and political mess in the first place. Instead of putting themselves in a position of strength the Lib-Dems have have exposed themselves as extremely poor strategists, hopeless negotiators, deceitful Tory supporters and sell outs that ditch their election promises even more dramatically than neo-Labour did in 1997 (Lords reform, PR) and 2005 (Tuition fees).

Under strong leadership the Liberal Democrats could have been looking forward to the biggest Liberal vote in Britain for over one hundred years in the local elections or even the prospect of taking a much larger share of the vote after the floundering Tory party are forced to call another General Election. Back in reality though, thanks to Clegg's supine leadership many hard working Lib-Dems face the prospect of being completely wiped off the local government landscape, losing their seats in the Scottish and Welsh parliaments and losing the referendum on the Clegg's shitty AV compromise in a public backlash against Clegg's dishonesty and the actions of his spineless Westminster Lib-Dem MPs.

 If you enjoyed this post, maybe you could buy me a beer? £1 would get me a can of cheap lager whilst £3 would get me a lovely pint of real ale.

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