Monday, September 15, 2008

Wally of the Week: Nick Clegg


You really couldn’t make it up.

Free market capitalism is more unpopular- and more discredited - than at any time since the 1930s. Even the right-wing neo-conservative adminstration in the US is intervening in the economy and nationalising mortgage providers. Yet it is at this very moment - when the US and British stock markets are in freefall after the collapse of Lehman Bros, the shock sale of Merrill Lynch, and the revelation that the world’s largest insurance company may have to raise $40bn- the Liberal Democrat leader wants his party to ditch social democracy and embrace 'the free market'.

At the last election, the Lib Dems fought on the progressive economic policies of of renationalising the railways and reintroducing a top rate of income tax on high earners. These policies, despite being very popular with the electorate, have now been dropped. Instead, Clegg, the son of a banker and Orange Book-er (memorably- and accurately- labelled ‘Nick Cleggeron’ by Charlie Marks) talks the language of neo-Thatcherism: of the need of the state to 'back off', the necessity of radical public service reforms, of swingeing cuts in public spending and getting government out of peoples lives.

It's not only poor policy- it's also poor politics. The Lib Dems could have reaped the electoral benefit by putting forward pro-mixed economy, social democratic policies-which neither the Labour Party or the Conservatives- both in hock to big business and global capital seem incapable of doing.

There are some good, principled people in the Liberal Democrats. They deserve much better than their current wallyish leader.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

The word 'wally' is far too polite for Clegg. He's sold out to capital and betrayed his party.

robin carmody said...

Wholly agreed.

The Lib Dems had, under Menzies Campbell, the potential to be the party - the *only* party - for the unrepresented millions (who don't live in the M25 corridor and don't watch Sky One, so are irrelevant to LabCon and will be for as long as first-past-the-post remains) who loathe celebification (of everything, but especially of politics) and want proper politics back, preferably of a social democratic kind.

The removal of Campbell was proof positive of what happens to anyone in this country who doesn't want complete neoliberal control. I wouldn't be surprised if his sacking was instigated by the CIA or a similar body - its timing in the week when Elvis Presley's "A Big Hunk O'Love", which was originally in the charts at the time of the Eisenhower visit of August 1959, the specific moment to which many of our present ills can be traced back, was highly suspicious.

There has never been a time when the political elite has been as distanced from the people it purports to represent as it is today. Even the right-wing press is sometimes - in its instant rhetoric if not its thought-out theories, such as it has any - way to the left of all the big parties when it comes to taxation.

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Nick said...

You should know by now, Neil, that whenever the Lib Dem Party begins to look like a credible party of government (or even like it might just become a little more popular with the thinking section of the electorate), it shoots itself in the foot. Though this time it looks as though Clegg's aiming a little higher. As always they're a lost cause.

Davros said...

Nothing says "this is a lurch to the right" better than an official denial of "a lurch to the right".
Of course, no politician, insulated from reality as they all are, from birth in most cases, will ever be able to grasp the fact that we lesser mortals can see right through their pointless phoney word-games.
Now there is no political party remaining in the UK which even pretends to aspire to honesty and fairness.

neil craig said...

As someone who believes the evidence irrefutable that the fre market is better at creating wealth than politicians (I am firmly convinced that North Korea is poorere than the South, that Singapore is richer than Burma & that Ireland is richer than GB) I welcome this apparent change.

I am convinced that Cklegg would not have done it without strong evidence from focus groups that the British people want it.

On the other hand having been expelled from the party a couple of years ago on the grounds that encouraging growth by lower taxes was "illiberal & incompatible with party membership" I can assure you that the chances of the LudDims actually keeping this promise is no greater than of them keeping their manifesto promise of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

If it is possible to lead the party while supporting Nazis in the practice of genocide but not to support the principles on which liberalism was founded you need not fear them keeping their promises.

David Lindsay said...

As the party alike of decadent economic libertinism as of decadent social libertinism, they are the true children of Roy Jenkins.

As the party alike of decadent social libertinism as of decadent economic libertinism, the Tories are the true children of Margaret Thatcher.

And as both, New Labour are the true children of Tony Blair.

What's that you say? That makes them all exactly the same...?

Neil Clark said...

robin: "There has never been a time when the political elite has been as distanced from the people it purports to represent as it is today"
I couldn't agree more.


ematejoca: Many thanks for your kind words. A 'wally' is an old English name for someone who has behaved in a silly/daft way- popularised by the 1980s comedy series Only Fools and Horses.

ps congratulations on your excellent blog which I really enjoy!

Nick- yup, it certainly looks as if they have a death wish.

davros- absolutely.

neil thanks for your post. But would you not also concede that Norway (mixed economy) is richer than Britain, and what about Austria too? The economies that work best are the mixed economies- not the North Koreas of this world, and not the US/Britains of this world either.

Charlie Marks said...

Neil, thanks for reminding me of the Nick Cleggeron thing. I think the name was originally David Cleggeron, but your modification works well - and I'm sure will be much used in time! Here's another one, this time for Labour's foreign secretary: David Miliron. Or is that David Camerband?

Neil Craig might be interested to know that for many years North Korea outperformed South Korea - the opposite of today's stark contrast. Consequently the South was in effect subsidised to bring it up to the same level. In recent years, of course, North Korea has suffered from the collapse of the Soviet Union, the loss of the Comecon trading bloc, and a dogmatic isolation. Let me ask you though, which people are richer today - the Cubans or the Haitians? And also, I'm interested to know what he means by the Liberals "supporting Nazis in the practice of genocide" - is this a reference to leaders past or present?

neil craig said...

Neil I concede both Norway & Austria are doing well. In Norway's case I fully appreciate any nation which cuts 700km of tunnels at less than the cost of Crossrail & allows people to build modular houses without spending years on paperwork. However the fact that Norway has oil is a pretty obvious reason for its wealth. I don't know about Austria though I suspect they are doing well because they are part of Germany's economy but with less regulation. In any case 1 1/2 outliers is not disproof of a statistical trend.

Charlie, North Korea was where most of the country's industry was concentrated before the break. While I do not doubt that they produced figures showing how well they were doing the current position casts doubt on them. The South is now the world's 16th economy & the North is starving. Comparison between Cuba & Haiti is valid if you remember that when Castro came to power Cuba was wealthy by Latin American standards (though not the USA's) & Haiti was dirt poor. Haiti is still dirt poor but so is Cuba now, even though the latter has an infinitely better standard of health care, education, policing & honesty in its leaders. I do not doubt that Castro's intentions were good - which makes the failure of the government central planning he used all the more bitter.

While there are no absolute rules the supriority of free enterprise at creating wealth & generally the more free the more succesful, is statistically undeniable. Some socialists have retreated into the Green agenda of saying that we should be against wealth creation, some merely ignore the facts. Both thereby betray the Marxist idea of socialism as being scientific. There are very many valid criticism of the present set up (see under) but they are not valid unless they present a real better alternative.

The remark about Nazis was a reference to the LibDem's enthusiasm for Franjo Tudjman, Alia Izetbegovic, "Snake" Thaci & anybody else publicly committed to the genocide of Serbs & their unfortunately successful demand that we participate in that programme.

Charlie Marks said...

Neil Craig - the massive inequalities that persist under turbocapitalism mean that not everyone is wealthy and free, but a minority. My reference to Cuba & Haiti was meant to get you to think about what happened after Hurricaine Ike. Haiti, occupied by the UN and the victim of the neoliberal policies you say make people so wealthy and free, had many fatalities and very little help for those who survived. Not so in Cuba where tens of thousands were evacuated before the storm hit.