By Alec Wheeler
When it comes to voting, most of us know that politicians, even with their smiles, sincerity and nice words, aren’t the people they claim or wish they were.
A lot of the time, we end up either voting against someone or voting for the lesser of two evils, which was very much the case in the UK general elections of 2010.
With the 2015 elections just around the corner, parties are already gearing up for the race and it looks as though it’ll be business as usual for the public’s choice in candidates.
But if you look closer, you can see that there may be one face in the crowd that will allow us to have our cake and eat it too.
Before we get to that, however, we must look back ten years. Tony Blair was still Prime Minister and the UK was neither worse for wear after seven years of New Labour government nor particularly thrilled with the choices to go against it.
Due to his style of governing, Blair was able to walk a fine line of social improvement, fiscal budgets and creating an international presence that was one of strength, not weakness. Blair went up for the impossible task of trying to please everyone on both wings of the political spectrum by giving a little bit to each while not giving too much to one in particular.
It was a brilliant bit of political manoeuvring but of course it had its flaws. By trying to please everyone, he could please no one because neither side wanted the other to have anything at all. Had it not been for Blair himself and his own personality, New Labour might never have gotten off the ground and perhaps migrated, in part or in whole, to another party to fit their policy. Which, as circumstances would have it, came sooner than expected.
Nick Clegg became the new Liberal Democrats leader in 2007, shortly after Blair resigned. With new PM Gordon Brown taking the Labour Party down a road that was more traditional to party roots, Clegg, perhaps unknowingly, became the heir to the centrist style of governance and policy that Blair had perfected. However, in the run-up to the 2010 election, David Cameron was able to tap into the old wells of New Labour, find enough magic left for him, fine tune his image and became the New Labour “candidate” in 2010, with mixed results. Cameron was forced to keep up that appearance when he came up 20 odd seats short of a majority and used the Lib-Dems to form the current coalition government that sits today.
Since this coalition government came to be, Clegg has been in a unique position. Being his own party leader he can still profess his views- love for liberalism and his party’s manifesto. At the same time, he shares a significant amount of power while providing stability and support for the Cameron government that no third party leader has really had. In other words, he can speak both his own mind and the governments mind. He is both separate and joined from the government and only when he sees fit. While he may not have the same power as, say William Hague or George Osborne, his influence is equal.
Now Clegg’s style of governance is liberalism so it’s worth explaining how this works. Liberalism works because it has such a reach on the political spectrum. Liberalism allows for both legalization of marijuana and free trade because both at the end of the day are good for business, revenue and the country as a whole. Liberalism doesn’t try and divide, but unite different classes and ideals under one banner.
In Canada, liberalism has basically become the standard, with every party always trying to get sweet centre so they may govern in their own, different way, be it in the style of left or right. Canada has understood for a long time that too much of one thing can lead to an intense backlash from the other side. Extremes on both sides may produce a progressive agenda but under a liberal agenda, things will improve, no matter how slow and things will never decrease in quality, no matter what.
So the question remains: will Nick Clegg be the next Prime Minister?
There is a chance but given the Lib-Dems rating in the polls right now, behind not only Labour and the Conservatives but also the far right UKIP, it doesn’t seem likely. It’s understandable as to why; if you subscribe to the theory I put above that Cameron is a New Labour candidate, rather than a Conservative, this will quash any support Clegg has. With each party staking its footholds and gearing up for Election 2015, Clegg may just slip in between the cracks.
Is he the best choice? Absolutely.
David Cameron has made some social reforms that could sway the left, most notably his stance on same-sex marriage, but the fact of the matter is, even as a New Labour candidate, Cameron is not Blair in both terms of charisma or political skilfulness. He is too set in his own traditional ways to rise above them and modernize. Miliband, while no longer the untested new leader, is rather uninspiring as a speaker and is a ‘by-the-books’ Labour MP, talking of either stopping one thing or returning to way things were. His views are unquestionably left but he as a person, and the way he carries himself doesn’t exactly have people running out to vote. And as for Nigel Farage, leader of the UKIP, while his passion and speaking skills are impressive, he is an extremist candidate of an extremist party that will never likely rise higher than third place.
Clegg has both the experience of government and the knowledge required to lead both his party and his country into the future. A shift to the Lib-Dems now from the Conservatives would be less extreme then a shift to Labour would be, given both Clegg’s and Miliband’s own views and position.
Also, given that the positions and policies from the three main parties haven’t changed that much from 2010, Clegg may benefit from a jump in support as he did following the debates in 2010. Clegg is in the position to portray himself as an honest, alternative reformer with experience and knowledge, as well as a plan that most serious voters will listen to. He is free to pick, choose and use what government policies he wants to tie and distance from.
Bottom line is Nick Clegg can claim in 2015 that he is the best of both worlds and in that regard, the right choice for Prime Minister in 2015. Whether the voting public will listen and consider what he has to say or pay attention to trying to get a better deal under Labour or Tory rule is unknown. If either Cameron or Miliband want to have a shot at the top spot, they’d better pay attention to Clegg; he is the one looking towards his countries and party’s future, rather than looking back on the past of what once was and what could be again.
Featured image used under Creative Commons licence and can be found here: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1e/Nick_Clegg_-_World_Economic_Forum_Annual_Meeting_2011.jpg