Nick Clegg is calamitously confused
But the content was not so much hiss and boo as meaningless and contradictory. Indeed, there would be more political edification, coherence and worthwhile entertainment in a production of the Sleeping Beauty or any other pantomime than there was in this speech, for it was utterly vacuous, patronising, and devoid of credibility.
Apparently, Mr Clegg wishes to push for a ‘new type of government’, but he never says what this will be. We are told that it will be ‘pluralist’, though he states unequivocally that he will ‘never join a Labour or Tory Cabinet’.
What kind of pluralism commits itself to never collaborating? It is a curiously dogmatic assertion considering proportional representation demands precisely such cooperation. Tellingly, Mr Clegg’s aides refused to be drawn on the precise details of this new ‘pluralistic’ government, since obviously there are none.
He also called for a ‘Constitutional Convention’ which would ‘redraw the rules by which Britain is governed’.
Curious that, given that it is axiomatic that Parliament is sovereign and may not bind its successors. And how ‘plural’ would such a convention be? And if it were convened by ‘a Labour or Tory Cabinet’, would Mr Clegg cooperate or abstain, refusing to be perceived as an ‘annexe’ to the party of government?
In spinning his ‘anti-establishment’ libertarianism he is talking absolute nonsense. To insist that he is in favour of ‘pluralism instead of one party rule’ is precisely the position of all parliamentarians in a representative democracy. Democracy is necessarily plural, and Parliament is concerned with democracy.
So what is he proposing? That the largest party cease to have the authority to pursue its agenda? That the party that wins an election should adopt portions of the manifestos of all the parties? How ‘plural’ does he wish to be? If he will ‘never’ sit with Labour or the Conservatives, will he embrace the DUP, Sinn Fein, UKIP or the BNP?
One detects more than a hint of monism in Liberal Democrat pluralism.
And if Mr Clegg is so keen to advocate a ‘new system’, which ‘empowers people not parties’ why did he not demonstrate this on the referendum amendment to the Lisbon Treaty? Why was he not the very incarnation of this principle if he holds to it so passionately? Why did he not vote to empower the people on the single most important constitutional issue of the age?
A political leader who renders his own colleagues impotent on such a crucial issue is hardly likely to endow the ignorant masses with greater empowerment, unless he is talking of the colour of street lights, or the frequency of refuse collection.
If Mr Clegg wishes to engage in ‘a wholesale review of the entire constitution’ in order to ‘redesign Britain's political system for the 21st Century’, he might just consider the merits of a system that has evolved over 800 years. It does not need to be ‘new’ in order to work, and it certainly does not need to be changed for change’s sake.
But a better system could never, in any case, emanate from the mind of a Liberal Democrat.