Wednesday, October 08, 2014

#libdem14 Nick Clegg...Not gone - but forgotten.

By half past one, the 2 to 1 odds offered by Paddy Power on Nick Clegg doing a runner today seemed like easy money. After all, the conference programme billed the kick-off for the Lib Dem leader’s speech as 1pm. 

The bookies reckoned he was going to quit and had obviously gone to pack his bags for a fast exit - but then his wife turned up.
To be fair, there was no need for him to bale out since, unless he dropped his trousers, the prize for the worst leader’s speech of 2014 had already gone.

So, it must have been with Ed Miliband in mind that a surprisingly jaunty Nick ambled on stage to wrap the last political conference of a season which feels like it started last year. Surprising indeed since recent opinion polls suggest that all the Lib Dem voters in the country could have been in that room this afternoon. In fact urgent tannoy messages just before he was due revealed empty seats were still available.

It is not known if some of the more confused members of the audience had actually been on their way to afternoon bingo before being shanghaied.

Choosing Glasgow to host the conference had seemed a clever idea back before the Scottish referendum was called and the city voted to leave the empire. But Nick, whose unpopularity now knows no bounds, clearly realised that one place was as bad as another to someone whose party now trails the Greens.

As it was, even he could not have imagined the-gift-that-keeps-on-giving that is Ed Miliband’s involvement in politics. In fact it was Ed to whom Nick paid grateful thanks within seconds of stepping into the podium and grasping the lectern the Labour leader must have wished he packed.

Chancellor George also got a mention as Nick sought to comfort his members with names even less popular than his. The message was quite simple good government things = us, bad government things = them and worse government things = Ed.

It is never easy being the leader of the Lib Dems since the members have never been sure they like the idea. Indeed watching Vince Cable trying to smile during the speech showed he shares their doubts.

In times past the party could annually celebrate their exclusion from power by proposing to the statute book a series of policies with no chance of success. But, the coalition put paid to that and four years on Nick is still trying to bring himself and his party to terms with the secret that keeps speaking its name - tuition fees.
“We are the party of education”, he said

There must be many in the hall who wish they could go back to the days when what they said was meant but meant nothing.

“Life is so simple, if you know who to blame”, said the Lib Dem leader.

“Ouch”, said the hall.