‘The Fall Guy’: fears mount over the Con’s Clegg-Screen

Last Thursday this blogger attended a lecture by Alistair Campbell at Sheffield University’s Octagon Centre. Amongst the many themes addressed, emphasis was placed on Campbell’s own fears for one Nick Clegg. The former pressman’s conjecture was that a ConDem marriage in White Hall was not as harmonious as that infamous press conference in the gardens of Downing Street made out. “We have a Conservative government doing what they always wanted to do, using Nick Clegg as a shield”. Let’s face it; why on earth would the Tories want to stay in bed with the Liberals? The key advantage of this union lies in public image. The longstanding belief of the Conservatives as ‘the nasty party’ (as Theresa May gratuitously dubbed them) can be somewhat mitigated by the presence of the Lib Dem leader. In these uncertain, unsettling times, with unpopular policies being implemented by a patchwork coalition,Nick Clegg  is proving to be perhaps the most useful tool in the government’s shed; not because he says or does anything particularly inspiring, but because he functions as a universal disappointment sponge for disenchanted voters. You stare at Nick Clegg and feel infinitely unhappy; in fact almost a little ashamed if  like me you actively supported the liberals in the general election. BUT simultaneously, you scarcely notice Cameron and co hiding behind him. No doubt about it Clegg is the human face of the coalition.

It will take time for people to absorb the full impact of Wednesday’s spending review, but one thing will be clearer today too many voters. Raucous Tory cheers for deep cuts will have helped cement an impression that had been forming in the public mind. This is no coalition government. This is a Tory government in which Liberal Democrats have accepted jobs. But in that sense, these are the same old Tories- the perceived hypocrisy of Clegg may not sit as easy with many of the electorate. It was with reference to this that Campbell said “Clegg has really got to watch out”.

But Clegg is not the only unfortunate being tied to the mast of the Conservative funeral flotilla. Vince Cable, the once White Knight of the economy, is also contradicting himself. When Cable stood in parliament and expressly said that the Browne’s report was a fair deal for students, he was totally in ignorance of the party’s previous stance of abolishing fees. Now he’s saying apposing them is “no longer feasible”? When this statement was delivered in parliament, the importance of Cable’s position, with Cameron and Osborne sat flanking either side on the bench should not be ignored. The Conservatives are mediating their policy to the public through what used to be an honest vessel. Perhaps it was for this reason that Mr. Cable’s glasses were so low, resting on the tip of his nose, to detract from this flagrant U-turn in policy.

So there it is. The green book confirms that the Lib Dems have failed to nail down promises made to them by the Tories in post-election talks – promises that have been Clegg’s fig leaf for staying in the coalition. Who will the public blame? That is to be decided. But as Campbell highlighted in his lecture the media has given the coalition a relatively easy ride allowing them to settle into governance. But when the gloves come off – who will they blame? Given the pollution and bias of the free press it is this bloggers bet that the liberals may not come out of any problems caused by these ‘rushed’ economic measures smelling of roses.

As Charlie Brooker put it ‘It’s only a matter of time before the word “Clegg” enters the dictionary as a noun meaning “agonized, doe-eyed apologist”. No wonder he’s been hitting the cigarettes so hard.



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