D-Day For Lib Dems – And Nick Clegg Puts His Foot Right In It

Posted: December 8, 2010 in Politics
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Prime Minister’s Questions today was an interesting affair. It started out slowly with the usual procedural question and one regarding UAV defence plans, easily knocked off the bat by David Cameron. It was when Ed Miliband came to the despatch box that things began to get a little interesting.

The Leader of the Opposition started out by asking a simple enough question, regarding tuition fees and the allegation that English students would pay the highest fees for University in the industrialised world. As usual, Cameron evaded the question to roll out the usual script of how fair the new system would be compared to the current one. Just standard stuff, really, it’s what we expect from PMQs.

But then we got to the personal digs, with Cameron accusing Miliband of “rank hypocrisy”, and of being a “student politician”. That last one woke the house up, especially after Miliband’s reply:

Mr Speaker, I was a student politician, but I was not hanging around with people who were throwing bread rolls and wrecking restaurants.


Miliband then twisted the knife with mentions of the Coalition plans to remove child trust funds, education maintenance allowance and future jobs fund funding, and once again Cameron evaded the question by having a dig at the Labour party’s record on tuition fees.

I thought this was supposed to be where the PM answered questions put to him? They might as well rename it Prime Minister Accuses Labour Of Everything Time, as he very rarely seems to give full and proper answers on issues. But then, PMQs is all about theatre and posturing, it exists to achieve very little except maybe some cheap points-scoring for each party.  The main issue on tuition fees is set to be debated on Thursday 9th December, but is time-limited.

Anyway, on to Nick Clegg.

This week, he effectively suggested he would be blackmailing members of his own party into voting for the proposals…or at the very least abstaining, when he said that Parliamentary Private Secretaries (who are unpaid other than their usual MP salaries for performing these roles) would “find it very difficult to continue in these roles” should they vote against the bill.

Nice to see that democracy is alive and firing in the Liberal Democrat party.

On top of that, in a Sky News interview today, Clegg claimed that he “would love to see” the end of university tuition fees. Oh, really, Nick? Do you expect anyone to believe you at all?

The old line of having to change policy because they didn’t know how bad things were was brought up once again, and is getting very tedious now. And the excuse of reversing their stance on this pledge because they didn’t get into power as a majority is also highly flawed. Let’s look back at the pledge:

I pledge to vote against any increase in fees

The key point of that is vote against. Does that sound like the pledge of a party that was expecting to get into power with a majority? Not in the slightest. It suggests they weren’t even expecting to get into a coalition. Why is that, I hear you ask. Well…if a party was expecting a majority Government, why would they use the words vote against? Wouldn’t they have said I pledge not to introduce any increase in fees instead? The fact they were planning to vote against suggested they didn’t expect power. But when they found themselves likely to be in a position of power before the election, Danny Alexander and his minions began working on the assumption that that pledge would be going out of the window. Whilst Clegg continued to publicly push it.

Clegg keeps offering up these wishy-washy excuses on changing his mind, but it is clear that the Lib Dems have been making up policies not on the basis of gaining power, but on the basis of being an opposition party. Nobody in the party knew what to do when they actually came to power!

Chris Huhne is in Cancun at the moment on environmental issues, so is the only Lib Dem with a proper excuse for abstaining. All other Lib Dems have no excuse. As Harriet Harman said, the only principled choice is to vote against. Abstention is a cop-out, and voting for is a sell-out.

The video once again doing the rounds is that of Nick Clegg saying that the Lib Dems are the only party who will not break their promises or tell lies. That video will haunt Clegg until the end of his political career, which could come sooner rather than later. Noises are that Huhne may be preparing a leadership challenge in the not-too-distant future. What that will mean for the coalition is unclear, but one thing is certain. Whichever way the vote goes tomorrow, the Lib Dems are a spent force, dead in the water.It surely cannot be long before there is a split in the party, with Sir Menzies Campbell, Charles Kennedy and other prominent Lib Dems either crossing the floor or forming a splinter Liberal party. Nick Clegg will be out on his ear, resigned to after-dinner speeches and board positions. And David’s “Big Society” will be a Big Failure.


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