28 May 2014 at 13:48
I won’t have a word said about Lord Oakshott, I want the whole grisly, rat infested library. It has been an open secret that every piece of anti Clegg tittle tattle and every poisonous off the record briefing has resulted in trail of gastropodian slime leading to the good lord. The question that senior LibDems will be pondering is whether he was on a frolic of his own or whether he was doing his good friend Vince Cable’s bidding. Or maybe is was simply a case of ‘who will rid me of this meddlesome leader?’ St Vincent is a canny operator and fearsomely ambitious. His fingerprints won’t be found on any assassin’s knife. But knowing what he knew why did he not distance himself from his friend much earlier? Yesterday from a hotel room in China our minister at the minibar denounced his friend. And today the good lord was forced to resign. Once Cable love has been withdrawn darkness descends. And we still don’t know whether Paddy Ashdown’s promise to remove his head and testicles is still active. Perhaps that is why Oakshott is taking indefinite leave from the Lords. The thought of Ashdown with eyes like slit trenches laying in wait with castration shears in a Lords loo maybe a risk too far.
The serious question for the Clegg camp is will this put and end to the the uncertainty hovering over his leadership? One of the problems of the LibDem modus operandi is that they are a democracy. And in politics democracy is so precious it is wise to ration it. Each branch discusses things, votes on things and agonises about everything. As the Quakers crave silent contemplation the Libdem’s crave noise. Go to a branch meeting and there is hardly a sleeve without a heart on it. And the leadership dare not try and close down leadership discussions as it would be like poking them with a very sharp stick. Angry councillors and MEPs will want their say. They will tell the leadership that the message has to be clearer and blunter. They will want more clear yellow water with the Tories. There of course will be leaks. There will be off the record briefings. And as the political meerkats sniff the air for the main chance Clegg will survive, wounded and personally hurt and rather bewildered. Think Menzies Campbell without the funeral. The headlines in the broadsheets will be that Clegg is on probation. The red tops will be less kind, Cleggless, ‘not a Clegg to stand on’ and any other cliche they can dream up. The poor fellow will be a deadman walking or rather limping towards the dream of another coalition. The trouble is that Tory backbenchers could scupper that unless he agreed to an in/out referendum in 2017. I would not bet my pension on that.
I know politics can be predictably brutal, but I do think Clegg has been treated despicably by his party. At the end of the day he is a decent guy trying to do right for his country and his party. The two are not always the same. But if you can’t ride two horses at once you really shouldn’t be in the circus. At least Clegg has tried. But the Coalition will go on. It has to. The economic news will only get better. It is their only life raft.
And what of Cable? He has flown dangerously close to the sun and his leadership wings have been severely singed. He will forever be viewed with with deep suspicion. His halo has been severely dented. From being a saint to a sinner is an easy transition. He has been Oakshott in the foot. I wonder what the future holds for him. Perhaps he will have time to appear on Strictly Come Dancing after all.