Ken Brown: "A Scottish friend tells me that Scotland now has more Giant Pandas than Tory MPs"
Twitterstorm delong: December 9, 2011

Has There Ever Been a Worse Politician than Nicholas Clegg?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden sends us to Marine Hyde, who does not think so:

Following David Cameron's Europe raspberry, how low can Nick Clegg go?: It may be months before the implications of David Cameron's Europe raspberry become clear…. Of one thing I can be absolutely sure, however, and that is that it doesn't look great for Mr Nicholas Clegg. How he and his pro-Europe party can remain in the coalition after this I do not know – and yet I feel absolutely sure that we shall discover it, in what will go down as his greatest feat of Quislingery yet. He may well be enabling the very destruction of Europe at the same time as remaining its most reedy cheerleader.

It is now clear that the tuition fees U-turn was merely the gateway drug to the big one. Clegg is now mainlining U. His story arc is like some Westminster version of Trainspotting, featuring grotesque scenes of personal degradation in pursuit of what must surely now be an ever-diminishing high. Perhaps a physicist would care to get in touch to explain whether there is a theoretical point at which a being has switch-backed on so many positions that he might simply atomise, leaving nothing but a thin coating of yellow dust and a pair of shoes he never grew into.

Of course, William Hague mentioned that Clegg had "signed up" to Cameron's tactics and decision, with the sort of dismissiveness that suggested that the foreign secretary and Cameron had just walked out of No 10 calling over their shoulder, "We're off to Brussels, yeah?" without waiting for a reply. Recent history suggests that the next term in the sequence is an extended interview with Clegg placed somewhere or other, in which the deputy prime minister begins lots of sentences with "Look", and says "If you think I'm enjoying this" quite a bit, then explains about "incredibly hard decisions" that he "believes" in, before returning to the womb-like comfort of his ministerial car and shooting up some more U on the back seat.

In this interview, Clegg will be against holding an in/out referendum on Europe, as he has been in recent weeks, despite the fact that I am right now staring at a facsimile of a Lib Dem campaign leaflet from last year in which one Nick Clegg announces: "It's time to give the British people a real referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union". As for the Tobin tax, which is being touted as a major factor in Cameron's veto, a pre-election Clegg described that as "the best" solution, with the very Lib Dem manifesto insisting Britain should "work with other countries to establish new sources of development financing, including bringing forward urgent proposals for a financial transaction tax". That went well. Again.

And yet, when outlining his position on Europe in days of yore – ie last year – Clegg was always wont to be super-clear. He was forever banging on about the folly of British standoffishness….

The Lib Dems are there, but appear to have no influence. They take bucketloads of crap and wield none of the power. It's the worst of both worlds. This relationship dynamic… has almost certainly secured the Liberal Democrats' destruction for the foreseeable. Whether their MPs will be able to fill a taxi after the next general election is a matter of debate.

Of more ghoulish fascination, though, is the next Lib Dem manifesto. What could this document possibly include? There are whole areas that in any sane universe it would be literally too embarrassing to mention, and given that these include major planks of what used to be called Liberal Democrat policy, such as Europe and education, I've genuinely no idea where they'll go with this one. Blank pages? Something nice and inclusive about fish? The mere fact of something appearing as a Liberal Democrat manifesto pledge has come to symbolise that it is terminally doomed as an idea. Perhaps the best way to eradicate poverty would be to draft up a Lib Dem manifesto commitment to perpetuating it…