The monsoons were back with a vengeance this morning. We have almost given up even understanding the rapidly fluctuating moods of the weather, a mood of simply living in the now has overtaken us. Joan Bakewell recently wrote that the joy of passing one’s 70th birthday is that you can forget the tiresome routines of work and simply immerse yourself in previously ignored simple pleasures. We codgers are well past that milestone and have reinvented ourselves from being executives, plumbers, chimney sweeps and accountants. But maybe keeping chickens was not a la Bakewell, they involve more routine than the jobs we held in our previous lives. We have almost reached the point where we wonder who we are, why we are doing what we do. Bit like Nick Clegg!
I have to admit that we have blown hot and cold about the Lib Dem leader. When, during the election TV debates, he ran rings around David Cameron and Grumpy Gordon several of us even invested in sweaters proclaiming ‘I agree with Nick’, a reflection of the extent to which the other leaders were humiliated in their dialogue. But then the wheels came off the Clegg bandwagon.
From the moment of his nauseous appearance with ‘Dave’, in the Number 10 rose garden, he has appeared transfixed with the prestige of being Deputy Prime Minister. He has allowed himself to be drawn into the role of apologist for policies that most certainly match Conservative ideology, but most certainly are not part of any ideology near to the hearts of those in the middle ground of political beliefs.
Now he seems to have suddenly realised that he has taken his party to the edge of oblivion and is over-compensating. Today provides the perfect example. Probably with one eye on the local elections and the probable reaction of his party faithful, whose views he has ignored, he has now launched himself into a U-turn of monumental proportions. Suddenly he is transformed from Cameron’s best pal to his arch-enemy. And in the process he is beginning to contradict himself.
The latest example is the statement that he will block any intrusive new powers that will allow the police to track online communications, such as Facebook and Skype. The words had scarcely left Clegg’s lips before Cameron hit back. He has made clear that Mr Clegg (no Nick this time) signed up to the whole surveillance plan during meetings of the National Security Council of Home Office plans for police powers to monitor internet communications. Clegg denies this but the minutes suggest otherwise. Someone is lying and the media have decided it is Clegg.
I may be as daft as a brush to believe it, but I still say that all is not lost for Nick Clegg if he has the courage to gamble. If he were to withdraw from the coalition on the grounds that he can no longer be party to policies such as the NHS privatisation, freedom of the individual etc he might be very surprised at the public reaction. Diehards apart, most people seem lukewarm at best about both the Conservative and Labour parties. In fact people seem generally disillusioned with politicians at large. Could it be that they would respond to a return to the Nick Clegg we once glimpsed so tantalisingly?
It may well be that we will never know. The real Clegg needs to stand up. Is it the fearless champion we first saw or the lapdog that took over? One thing is for sure. If Nick Clegg simply carries on as now there will be no Liberal Democrat party within a matter of a few years.