In a 2010 general election broadcast, Nick Clegg stared down into a camera. He said, his face adorned with mock sincerity and fake self-righteousness, “I believe it’s time to do things differently, I believe it’s time for fairness in Britain, I believe it’s time for promises to be kept”.
Fast forward 4 years and the bitter irony of these words is all too apparent. Clegg has become a symbol of all that is wrong with politicians who are prepared to make promises during an election that if and when they get into power they are unable or have no intention to fulfil. His party voted to raise tuition fees, after making a high profile pledge not to do so.
The prime reason for Clegg’s odiousness is not just that he broke his promise. It’s that he did so whilst claiming to have risen above the disingenuous and evasive manoeuvres that characterise modern UK politics. His campaign was based on a sort of meta-promise that he, Nick Clegg, would be able to evade the previous structures that have led to the lack of honesty of the regular ‘old’ politics.
The prime reason for Clegg’s odiousness is not just that he broke his promise. It’s that he did so whilst claiming to have risen above the disingenuous and evasive manoeuvres that characterise modern UK politics.
The ascendency of the orange book liberals into the leadership of the party meant the Lib Dems became a fusion of happy-clappy ‘non-tribal’ centre-leftists cloaking the hidden demons of the True-Blue Thatcherites, such as David Laws and Jeremy Browne. Faced with the contradictions of this, the Lib Dems tried to campaign on the post-ideological basis of their superior honesty and Moral Virtue, rather than put forward any serious perspective on how society should be organised.
The upcoming 2014 general election is an opportunity for Students to get revenge on Clegg for this betrayal. Clegg’s wealthy constituency Sheffield Hallam may have given him a majority of 15,284, but it is a constituency that contains a substantial number of Students. However, the closest competitor to the Lib Dems in Sheffield Hallam is the Conservative Party, who held the seat from 1918 to 1997. Students are unlikely to vote for the Conservative Party in any vast numbers, and any revenge on Clegg which resulted in a Tory victory would feel bittersweet given the Tories voted for tuition fees as well. The constituency has the lowest level of child poverty in the UK, and is largely rural, not the sort of constituency that the Labour Party is normally successful in.
So it appears that any attempt to unseat Clegg would sadly be thwarted by the nature of his constituency. Despite this, by voting and campaigning against the Lib Dems nationally, students can still help to reduce the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party to a rump that is unable to influence or hold power, with Clegg reduced to looking forlorn from his tiny fort as his party crumble around him. Such an outcome would be a victory for a politics based on real differences and clashes over how government policy can influence and change society rather than ‘Vote for me, I’m a nice guy’.
Alex Clyde is Warwick Labour’s Treasurer. This article first appeared on The Boar.