Tuesday, March 31, 2015

An Audience with Nick Clegg

The burning political question of the moment, for me at least, is why Nick Clegg thought it was necessary for him to have a separate audience with the Queen after Cameron had had his in order to formally tell her that he was dissolving parliament and calling an election.  Cameron's audience I can understand - constitutionally, as Prime Minister, he has to inform the Queen of the dissolution of parliament, but Clegg isn't Prime Minister.  Indeed, he doesn't even hold a post that is officially recognised in parliamentary terms.  Deputy Prime Minister is a courtesy title and, more often than not, the holder simultaneously held a senior ministerial portfolio.  The fact that Clegg came away from his coalition negotiations with Cameron five years ago only with this meaningless title and none of the major offices of state (Foreign Office, Home Office or Chancellor) either for himself or any other senior Lib Dem MP, demonstrated just how badly he'd handled the negotiations. So desperate was he to get into 'power', that he was prepared to ditch all of his manifesto promises, not to mention principles, in exchange for a meaningless title and a handful of minor ministerial appointments for some of his MPs.

But getting back to the issue at hand:  what was the point of that audience with Her Majesty?  Clegg doesn't have the authority to dissolve parliament, so why was he there?  Indeed, did he even have a real audience with the Queen?  For all we know, he might have been refused entry to the Palace on the grounds that the Queen didn't know who he was.  I have visions of him creeping around the back of Buckingham Palace, tapping on the French windows, calling out 'Your Majesty, it's me, Nick, are you there?  Hello?  I know you are in there - I saw the curtains twitch'.  I can only assume that Clegg's visit to the Palace was, like his job title, simply an ego stroking exercise, designed to convince both himself and the electorate that he is an important and powerful player on the political scene.  Which, if he ever was either of those things, he has ceased to be since his coalition with the Tories.  But Clegg's confusion over his role as party leader during a general election campaign knows no bounds, as witnessed by his declaration a few weeks ago that if Cameron wasn't prepared to meet Ed Miliband one-on-one in an election debate, he would be prepared to stand in for Cameron in order to defend the government's record.  Which would, surely, somewhat hamstring any election campaign by the Lib Dems as a separate party, as he would effectively be defending the Tory record in government as well and presenting himself and his party as being inextricably bound to the Tories both in and out of government.  His only viable tactic in such a debate would be to defend his and his party's record of restraining the Tories from implementing  their more extreme policies. Which, of course, he couldn't, because they didn't.  Ah well, we've got another six weeks of his delusions to go...   



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