Monday, 10 May 2010

Two-timing Clegg is out of his depth

Nick Clegg, when probed by Piers Morgan, went on record as saying that he'd jumped into bed with 'no more than' 30 women over the years. No doubt a greater number were interested, but the Liberal Democrat leader played hard to get.

I'm sure that Cleggy would never have had more than one girl on the go at once. And if I'm right, that will have left him woefully unprepared for the world of bluff and double bluff that he's entered after the general election.

There seems little doubt that the so-called 'Con-Dem' talks were genuinely proceeding pretty well until yesterday morning. The Lib Dem leadership has few principles and would gladly jettison its remaining ones for a sniff of government. The problem is that many of the party's backbench MPs and activists live in the naive expectation that Clegg will use this historic moment as an opportunity to screw meaningful concessions from the Tories on electoral reform. These people will have forty fits if their party is sold down the river.

Just as vocal will be the Tory MPs and activists who can't quite understand why Mr Cameron is spending so much time courting their former arch-enemies. They are already suspicious that the smooth-talking Notting Hill set is full of closet lefties and now their worst nightmares seem to be coming true.

It's a crazy and confusing world and no one knows where anyone stands any more. George Orwell's 1984 comes to mind. Is Oceania at war with Eurasia or Eastasia today? Unsurprisingly, in this febrile climate, there's a fair amount of mutual suspicion. And a lot of pressure on the respective leaders. Clegg has been told privately by his supporters to keep his options open and not rule out the possibility of a deal with Gordon Brown. The Prime Minister, meanwhile, has pulled a rabbit out of the hat with the timing of his intervention yesterday. By announcing his resignation, but being vague about the timing, he leaves every potential option on the table. A government led by him until the autumn. A government led by someone else perhaps. Either way, immediate legislation for a pretty poor electoral system called AV, with no referendum required. And a later referendum on a proportional system favoured by the Lib Dems.

I think the markets will now become genuinely twitchy. Clegg doesn't know which side his bread is buttered on and he's beginning to look like an indecisive wimp. The Lib Dem leader isn't great at gravitas and his nerves are beginning to show.

The most likely option, in my opinion, is still a minority Tory government trying to face down the numerically superior opposition in parliament. This is the strategy favoured by Norman Tebbit. Thankfully, it's also the one that will do Labour the most favours in the longer term.

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