I am not surprised by Clegg’s latest comments, re the left and Labour:
“There were some people, particularly around the height of the Iraq war, who gave up on the Labour Party and turned to the Liberal Democrats as a sort of left-wing conscience of the Labour Party. I totally understand that some of these people are not happy with what the Lib Dems are doing in coalition with the Conservatives. The Lib Dems never were and aren’t a receptacle for left-wing dissatisfaction with the Labour Party. There is no future for that; there never was.”
I am more surprised he chose to admit it, especially on the eve of the LibDem’s conference. There have been all sorts of comments from LibDem supporters trying to reword the meaning of Nick Clegg’s comments, but the attempts I have seen only look like desperate denial tactics. What Clegg is admitting, is that he spent an election campaign claiming to be the progressive alternative to Labour, to then, once in power with the Tories, denounce any linking with the Labour party.
As many of you know, I defected from the LibDems to the Greens due to the coalition deal. I had gradually become disoriented with the position of the LibDems on many aspects, such as immigration (regional caps) and Europe (a referendum being promised). I think for many people, like me, the deal was the final straw where they realised that the LibDems weren’t ever going to be a progressive alternative – even though I never was a Labour member, the LibDem’s alternative approach in the days of a centre right administration of Blair then Bush, following on from years of Tory administration, seemed like a breathe of fresh air.
So Clegg is right, the LibDems have never been an alternative left/progressive force. But their campaigning had made you think otherwise. If Clegg never wanted Labour disaffected voters to feel as though the LibDems were an alternative lefty force, then why did he try so hard to appeal to them on issues he knew would win them over? If you aren’t convinced, have a look at this article written by Nick Clegg where he speaks passionately about the new hopes of LibDems being a progressive alternative to Labour.
Some of my favorite quotes from this article include:
“the Liberal Democrats now offer a new rallying point for a resurgent progressive movement in Britain, replacing Labour as the dominant force of progressive politics.”
Oh, and my favourite.
“A choice between a liberal movement — led by the Liberal Democrats — that is attracting disaffected progressive voters from a Labour Party which will take years to recover, if at all; and a Conservative Party that parrots the language of change to maintain the status quo. In short, an opportunity for progressives to do something different, and finally change things for good.”
How can you fight a general election on this premise and then say that “the Lib Dems never were and aren’t a receptacle for left-wing dissatisfaction with the Labour Party”. I never saw Clegg specify that the left-wing members of Labour weren’t included within the “disaffected progressive voters” that he speaks above about wanting to attract.
All this shows is again that Clegg was a good campaign liar. It shows why progressives have left the LibDems and why many more are set to follow. It illustrates that Clegg is right however, the LibDems will never be a progressive force good enough to take over Labour or any other progressive party for that matter.