Conferences offer all party leaders the opportunity to speak direct to the public. Nick Clegg decided to say ‘pass’ to the opportunity. He may have started his week with “sorry” to the great unwashed, but yesterday his message was very much focussed on shoring up his own position within his party.
There was even a bit of whistling in the dark, declaring his party could bounce back and become Britain’s ‘third party of government.’ Oh yes. But that depends in part on the British economy recovering from the clinical coma it finds itself in.
In stating the bleeding obvious he excelled. Of course, he’s right that the voters, not politicians, will decide who will lead the next government. But it was always thus. Your point is what, Mr Clegg?
It was a classic case of putting up paper tigers to win over his party audience. His pledge to veto a further cut in the top rate of income tax. Well, it was at 50p and is now 45p. There is little to suggest that Osborne wants to cut it further. But the delegates got the warm glow from Clegg’s declaration.
There was little comfort to the rest of the country that the austerity imposed by the government would change any time soon. He was tied to plan A and he was not for turning.
So both parties will hang together. As hang they surely will, if voters still feel the pinch at the time of the 2015 election. After all it’s alleged the reason they went into coalition in the first place.
All he was offering yesterday ‘was further belt tightening.’ Not the best of platforms to win back all those supporters that have deserted the party.
He even dared some of the rump that is left, to up sticks and go. “If people want just protest politics, if they want a sort of ‘I don’t like the world let me get off’ party, they’ve got one. It’s called the Labour Party.”
The party built its electoral base on being involved in local protests is he seriously suggesting that they can build a base without tapping into idealism and protest.
What was absolutely clear from yesterday’s bravado performance is that he ain’t going to make way anytime soon. His speech made it clear that he wasn’t going to fall on his sword.
But if the party’s poll ratings don’t improve by next year’s conference. Well, then all bets are off. Many of his colleagues will start to panic and may look for anyone they think will save their bacon. It is a party that has not been afraid to wield the knife in the past.