Clegg could come a cropper trying to be a clever-clogs

In Current affairs, Politics on April 27, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Clever boy

Nick Clegg is like the most popular boy at school.  A lot of kids want to be around him, because it makes them look cool. Just as many want to punch him because he is just too cool.

Right now Gordon Brown and David Cameron are trying to be both. They both think they need to schmooze up to young Clegg as he’s now the kingmaker, yet they both need to say how horrible he is in the faint hope they can grab power for themselves.

And doesn’t Clegg know it. On the weekend he said he wouldn’t prop up a weak Labour government that wins most of its seats through a flawed voting system. He added that he could work with a Conservative administration. The new boy on the block has a fair point here. His party does suffer at the hands of the first-past-the-post system.

But work with the Tories? Come on. Would the tree-hugging, sandal-wearing masses of LibDem supporters put up with that? Not on your life. Their glorious leader is playing a dangerous, but clever, game. He knows that if Labour can only hold power via a coalition with the LibDems, then he can push hard for a fair share of Cabinet posts and the removal of grumpy Gordon. Not a bad strategy for both sides really. I mean, there’s a fair proportion of the electorate that would like to see Vince Cable as Chancellor, and that is said with no disrespect to Alistair Darling, who’s done a fair job given the amount of sniping he’s had to endure from Brown’s camp. There would also be an infusion of new blood to government posts. Also good, given we are seriously in the shallow end of Labour’s talent pool right now. Plus no Gordon equals a “vote for change”. Brilliant.

But Nick needs to watch his step. Those inside the Westminster bubble might be aware of what he’s really up to, but the public see a bloke backing Cameron one minute and Labour the next which makes it look like he’s having an each-way bet to sit around the cabinet table once a week.

It was hilarious watching Dave Cameron trying to tell supporters on the weekend that a Lib/Lab coalition would just bring in the same old faces. Really Dave? Plenty of retreads sitting next to and behind you old son, so cut out the nonsense.

What is less hilarious is his shrill “a hung parliament is the work of the devil” routine. Grow up. A hung parliament means people have had their say. It means parties will have to negotiate. It means half-baked legislation might get better input, better scrutiny and ultimately just, well better.

What Cameron is really trying to do here is hide the fact that his master plan is not working. He’s reverting to type. Another old Etonian who thinks residence at 10 Downing Street is his by right (ok, that’s a sweeping generalisation, but you get the drift) and that it is simply his turn. How far are we from a full-blown tantrum from posh Dave. We could get it at the final leaders’ debate this week. With a week to go, he’s paddling furiously against tide of public opinion that seems to be saying (for now): “Sorry, old chap, but the duck house, moat cleaning business was just too irritating for our taste and we’d like to shop around.” The Chris Grayling “no gays in the guesthouse” gaffe won’t have helped either. Our old Westminster mate David Hencke has a great analysis of this.

Of course, the polls will narrow in the next few days and he could get his wish, but he needs to stop trying to scare people.

As for Gordon, well, he might think he’s going to stay on if he wins enough seats, but here’s a piece of advice for you, prime minister (we know he reads this every day over his porridge). When Sarah suggests you pop into John Lewis to check out the summer range of soft furnishings, take a rain-check, or take the Cleggs with you….


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