Nick Clegg, the saddest face of all, and it wasn’t really fair
by Mike Robb, July 2015
With the dust having settled on May’s General Election, many are now asking the same question: just what went wrong for the Liberal Democrats? The more sceptical amongst us are even asking whether the lights have come on, and the party is over.
And I must admit I could never have envisaged what happened to Clegg and Co back in May. Their defeat at the polls was both stunning and brutal in equal measure. The party had expected a severe ‘slap on the wrists’, as Nick Clegg himself put it, but to be utterly humiliated and lose all but eight of its MPs was nothing short of cruel.
Contrary to what many think I believe this to be unfair punishment of a party that actually made a Conservative-led government significantly more compassionate than it would otherwise have been. In the economic circumstances of 2010, when the UK really was on the brink, a Conservative majority government would almost certainly have cut far deeper and been even more radical than was the case with the Lib Dems in government to rein them in.
After all, the Lib Dems delivered 75% of their 2010 manifesto despite having just one-sixth of Coalition MPs. Take the lower rate of income tax as an example – I find it hard to believe the Conservative Party would have set out to take more than a million of the poorest in society out of income tax had they been in government on their own. The fact that this was a major policy of the Tories in May this year is perhaps one of the biggest legacies of the Lib Dems in power.
Tuition fees were undoubtedly the nail in the coffin for the Lib Dems, a party buried alive. It was a debacle that happened so early on that they could never recover the lost trust. And while Nick Clegg undoubtedly has the saddest face of any politician in the UK at the moment, I hope his party will regain its purpose and be back on the political stage before too long.