Liberal Democrat supporters in two constituencies hold the key to the future of the party. They have the opportunity to recreate the Lib Dems as a radical, principled political force by voting on May 7 against their own parliamentary candidates in Sheffield Hallam and Twickenham.
Nick Clegg has overseen a calamitous collapse in support for his party, down by two thirds since the last general election. If the party were a commercial organisation, its share price would now be worth pennies. And he as CEO would be long gone.
Yet he struts around the election landscape as potential kingmaker. There is a distinct, if dispiriting, possibility that he could resume office in a new coalition government after May 7.
He betrayed the party almost as soon as he entered office. All power corrupts, it is said, but seldom so quickly. He was elected on a slogan of ‘no more broken promises’, then promptly executed the most shameless volte face in our political lifetime.
Whether he was right or wrong on the policy can be argued both ways. It is not the issue. He pledged to the electorate to abolish tuition fees. He trebled them.
Clegg did not even attempt to enact what people put him in power to do.
Former Deputy Leader Vince Cable was even more brazen. He claimed they had broken no promise, given the special circumstances of coalition government and financial crisis. Yet the coalition agreement specified that the Lib Dems could abstain on this issue. And he of all people knew well of the country’s indebtedness at the time he made the pledge – he wrote a book on it!
Clegg went on to apologise. Not for breaking his promise, but, extraordinarily, for making it! Yet that promise was why many voted for his party, including in Hallam.
These two Liberal Democrat leaders had their chance, but blew it. They betrayed the electorate, blatantly and disdainfully. It is time for them to exit.
Labour’s decapitation strategy is well known – they seek to oust Clegg in Sheffield Hallam. Meanwhile the Conservatives are zeroing in on Cable in Twickenham.
Liberal Democrat supporters in these two constituencies should welcome, indeed promote these strategies. With these two leaders removed, the party can be refreshed, renewed and rise again.
Former Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate