Nick Clegg is working out. He’s pumping iron for “muscular Liberalism”, which has turned to flab over the last year. It is shame it has taken him a year, and a kicking at the polls, to realise what he needs to do.
Last night we saw what looked, and felt like, a staged managed rebellion by Liberal Democrat peers. It was, of course, not unwelcome. It helped carry an amendment that could bury the government’s key policy of elected police and crime commissioners. It marked a major defeat for the coalition and it came on its first anniversary.
The question is was it gift wrapped and will anyone give Clegg the benefit of the doubt? His change of heart following his betrayal on tuition fees and sudden awakening over the NHS is, and will be seen by some, as transparent.
And for all his talk of saying he is in the coalition for five years the polls are turning against him. Two out of three voters think Coalition is a ‘bad thing’ , according to the Institute for Government think-tank.
But it is, of course, dangerous to focus on fire on the Lib Dems and people (including me) need to be reminded of this. The Tories if not resurgent are holding their ground remarkably well.
On this issue of endless fire on the Lib Dems Douglas Alexander puts it well on the Progress blog. He argues that Labour should see Lib Dems are hors d’œuvre not the main course:
“The strength of the Tory performance should also serve as a warning to Labour about who its real opponents at the next general election will be, suggests Alexander. The results underline the fact that in many Westminster parliamentary seats the beneficiaries of a collapse in the Liberal Democrat vote are the Tories, not Labour. Labour needs, therefore, to assess where best to train its fire: ‘While people may enjoy baiting Liberals, the urgent task is to beat the Conservatives. I think Labour activists should see winning support from Liberals as the hors d’oeuvre not the main course because the mortal threat to the prospects of a Labour government being elected at the next general election, is not – with respect – Nick Clegg, it is David Cameron and George Osborne.'”