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.