Mark – my words
Clegg didn’t fail, we did
2011-02-20Posted by on
No single party won last year’s election. Most obviously, the LibDems didn’t win – in case you didn’t notice, they came third. Yet many people, including those who voted LibDem, are now expressing hatred of Nick Clegg, because as deputy Prime Minister, he is failing to implement LibDem policies.
This attitude strikes me as irrational, unfair, and immature, even childish.
LibDem policies were fairly decisively rejected by a majority of voters, so there was no mandate to implement them. Because we the voters delivered an inconclusive result, no single party can claim to have an exclusive mandate. This, like it or not, was the outcome of last year’s election, but Clegg is being vilified for “breaking his promises”. He had no right to carry out those promises, because he had no mandate. He didn’t fail; the voters, hamstrung by a dysfunctional electoral system, failed, and now we’re castigating the victims of our failure?
The unpopular coalition between the Conservatives and the LibDems and its programme of action, which nobody likes much either, was the result of political horse-trading well described in the tragic David Laws’s book 22 days in May. The alternative would have been a minority government: either the Conservatives attempting to push through their brutal policies unmodified, and a likely series of Commons defeats; or a holed-below-the-waterline Gordon Brown administration, preoccupied with a struggle for succession, limping and blundering in the midst of a fiscal crisis. Either way, there would almost certainly have been another election within 12 months, with no assurance of any more decisive outcome.
Poor as it is, the coalition is probably the best option there was. All we can do now is grit our teeth and hope to survive the hard times. Meanwhile on the 5th of May, we can, if we so choose, adopt a slightly fairer, slightly more representative electoral system, the Alternative Vote, which might just make the next election more decisive.