As we approach the local elections, my mind casts back to a year ago when the Cleggeron Coagulation came about.
All of the forecasts prior to the election foretold a hung parliament – and although it wasn’t the hung that some of us might have hoped for, it did bring about some interesting politics. Well, interesting if you are a bit geeky about such things, and I have to admit guilt on that one.
What struck me in the early hours of the morning following the election, was that a Conservative/LibDem coalition was the obvious solution. It was so obvious, that despite the negotiations and argy-bargy, this is what came about.
There are those who would have liked a Lib/Lab coalition, however, those people; mostly, one presumes, Labour supporters and the left wing of the LibDems who just couldn’t bear to be in the same room as the evil Tories; clearly had little grasp of the mathematics involved, not to mention the slap in the face to an electorate that had soundly rejected both parties. A coalition of the losers would have been a grave injustice even if it was feasible. Therefore, Nick Clegg did the honourable thing; he entered into negotiations with the party that had achieved the highest number of seats.
Here, I have to admit to a sneaking admiration for David Cameron. I don’t like his polices and like the rest of the denizens of the Westminster village is that creature I despise; a career politician. However, his negotiations and willingness to compromise surprised me. Pleasantly, I might add. Given that his party was the senior one with the most votes and seats, he gave away far more than I expected him to.
As this year progressed, Nick Clegg became the left’s bogeyman. They saw him as a betrayer of progressive politics. Yet what choice did he have? Coalition with Labour was a non-starter. The only other option was to tacitly support a minority Conservative government. Coalition, and therefore stable government was the better option and he took it, to his credit.
There is much in this year to be disappointed about for those of us who value our personal liberty and disappointed I am. However, I do not vilify Clegg for his compromises. Compromise is an essential part of coalition government and adults realise this. He came out of it with a stab at power for a party that has been in the wilderness since the demise of the Lloyd George government and a party that by no stretch of the imagination had lost badly. Yet what thanks did he receive from his own party? Vilification.
I am not and never have been a purist. I recognise that any form of government involves compromise – even when one has a majority. What you want to do and what you can achieve are not necessarily the same. This government came to power with a toxic inheritance. An economy that had been trashed. Their programme of cuts – which in reality is a reduction in the increase in spending – has been met with violent hostility from the progressives who now look upon Nick Clegg as the devil incarnate. Yet, if they were to pause and think – yes, I know, I know – then they would realise that he had no choice. So, too, would a returned Labour government. That, however, does not stop them throwing their toys out of the pram. And don’t they just?
What does surprise me is that David Cameron, the senior partner in this coalition has escaped relatively unscathed. Is he lucky or is he more cunning than we give him credit for? Either way, I cannot help but feel just a little sorry for Nick Clegg in my more sympathetic moments. Hobson’s choice has not been kind to him, and I suspect that the worst is yet to come.