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What’s the point of Nick Clegg

OK, so this is prompted by a new Captain Ska video but it is a valid question as we approach the end of the second year of coalition. When the Tories, in a rampage of ideologically-motivated opportunism, are using the context of the biggest economic crisis in 80 years to roll back the frontiers of the state more than Thatcher, with the support of the Lib Dems. And we can’t let them escape the blame.

Labour’s stance towards the Lib Dems has changed since the election. At first, the rage at the broken promises made us treat them almost as the main enemy. That was rectified. Outside the ranks of Compass loyalists, the LibLabbers kept a low profile. They may have been a party that had risen to the heights of Cleggmania — 34% and in first place in one YouGov poll for the Sun — by purporting to be to the left of Labour, but they sunk to 7% (in the same poll in both January and November 2011) by showing that they’re not. But national polls can mislead.

We may have won back most of those natural Labour voters who were taken in (other than in Scotland, where the SNP has taken them) but we still have to beat them wherever it’s a Lib-Lab contest. We are used to Lib Dems playing populist games to win votes, attacking the local council, for example, even where they run it. And they’ll do so again.

Take for example the NHS. For all the talk at the Lib Dem Spring conference last year, the great “listening exercise” and the so-called rebellion changed nothing. As Dr Graham Winyard, chair of Winchester Lib Dems and a former NHS deputy chief medical officer for England, admits:

We have not succeeded.  The changes to the Bill have failed to quell fears that the NHS is being fragmented in pursuit of market dogma.  There is no serious support or enthusiasm for the Bill within the NHS; indeed opposition among the health professions is hardening… And as the economy worsens and each week brings new “revelations” of shoddy healthcare, the Bill seems increasingly irrelevant to the real problems faced by the NHS.

When it really mattered, in the vote at the end of the Commons Report stage for example, there were only four Lib Dem rebels. But many of their backbenchers rebelled at some point, carefully choreographed no doubt, and you can bet they’ll all sa they did.

Don’t let them get away with it. Make sure the Lib Dems get the blame. For the NHS. For the damage to the economy. For student fees. And all the rest. At the ballot box. New year’s resolution.

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