Did anyone see Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show this morning? For a moment, his sounded almost plausible, with his Cameron-esque hand gestures and sincere nodding of the head. On climate change, civil liberties and education David Cameron has already been quoted this week as saying there “wasn’t a cigarette paper” between the parties.
But Mr Clegg accuses the Conservatives for “destroying one of the cornerstones that protects British liberties, in the Human Rights Act”. That’ll be the Human Rights legislation which assisted so many in Britain until Labour decided to adopt every single last sentence and paragraph? Selective sections may have been appropriate, but not the whole lot. And there lies the problem. In every pub, canteen and workplace up and down the country, Britons laugh at the farcical nonsense of these ‘rules’. Not a day goes by without a company, individual or institution being disadvantaged by the very legislation that was intended to empower.
And on education? Mr Cleggs proudly announces that he’s thinking of breaking his party’s commitment to scrapping university tuition fees, in order to save £2.5bn. But his unilateral approach has angered even his own party – “Leaders of the Libersal Democrats don’t always get their own way” one of his party’s manifesto advisers told the BBC.
The truth is, whatever the wrapping paper might look like, underneath the ethos remains the same. This is still the party whose campaign guide advised activists to “be wicked, act shamelessly, stir endlessly” to win elections. They’ve slated Conservative Borough candidates for living outside the ward, when their own candidates don’t live there either. During this year’s Kent County elections my Liberal Democrat opponent sent out a leaflet accusing me of being a “missing politician” for living outside the area, and constantly try to blur the lines between national, county and borough politics. Mr Clegg has even – as you’ll see from the Spectator blog – commissioned a new “Anti-Tory Attack Unit” which is busily seeking to discredit key Conservatives.
If you really want to be taken seriously as a credible party, you need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.