Nicholas William Peter Clegg is the most successful Liberal leader in generations. Not only has he taken our party into government for the first time in seventy years, but he has actually made coalition work, bringing Liberal values to the core of national politics. He is also immensely charismatic, as his cracker of a party conference speech reminded us. Moreover, I am told, by those who have personally met him, that he is a pretty decent, honest, sort of guy. And how many other politicians do you know who have had a mania named after them?
Why then, you may well ask, do I come not to praise Clegg, but to bury him? Purely because of experiences I have had. When I was on the campaign trail in Stoke-on-Trent, Clegg was a gigantic obstacle in the way of our getting people to vote Liberal Democrat. You see, the Clegg they know is not the real Clegg that we saw in Brighton- a principled man doing a difficult job in hard times. No, their Clegg is a mendacious, fire-breathing, duplicitous Anti-Christ with blood on his jaws, who feeds off the misery of the poor and dispossessed. As one youngish man in the doorway of a council house rather indelicately put it to me:
“I voted Lib Dem before, mate. But it’s Nick Clegg- he’s such an arse.”
Let me be clear. I DO NOT endorse that man’s statement. He was utterly wrong, and he was talking piffle. But, in my (albeit limited) experience, that kind of deep-seated prejudice will be very difficult to overcome at the next general election. Whereas getting rid of Clegg will bring electoral benefits – according to a recent ICM poll, replacing him with Vince Cable would give us a five-point boost in the polls, bringing us from fourteen per cent to a healthy nineteen per cent. That’s a lot of good Lib Dem MPs whose seats will be saved.
Ditching Nick now, of course, would be lunacy. It would destabilise the Coalition, and wreak goodness knows how much havoc right in the middle of a five-year term. But if he were to go shortly before the election, in late 2014 or early 2015, having done his duty to his party and his country, then that could be a real bonus when the country goes to the polls. Vince as caretaker leader, spearheading a distinctly social liberal campaign, to be followed by Tim Farron after the election- you know, it might just work.
Undoubtedly, some of you will say this is damnable ingratitude, throwing a good man under the bus to get us a few extra votes. You may have a point. Remember, though- Ming Campbell was dumped for less.
Reece Edmends is a Liberal Youth member in Staffordshire. He formerly studied at Newcastle-under-Lyme School and will be taking up a place at university in 2013. He enjoys politics, literature, history, music and golf.
This article is solely the view of the author. It is not representative of the views of Liberal Democrat party, Liberal Youth or the editorship of the Libertine.