Politics Gets Desperate: The Floods, Scottish Independence, and Nick Clegg

Jack Wharton dissects a bizarre fortnight in UK politics

It’s been a strange couple of weeks in the world of Westminster. Whilst the Prime Minster’s been away, falling over himself to be seen pointing aimlessly at obscure pieces of submerged English countryside, the children have truly come out to play.

Nick Clegg has tried to prove his relevance by giving an interview to the BBC in which he outlined exactly how few principles he has… Sorry, I mean ‘how he would be willing to share power with Labour.’ His new policy of ‘equidistance’ is truly idiotic.

I used to pity Nick Clegg. Then I disremembered. Now I loathe him. Anyone who can support an economic policy in one parliament, and then its antithesis in the next, is surely a destructive force in public life. The perception, if not the reality in this case, that politicians’ beliefs are interchangeable, particularly if required for electoral calculus, is the major driving force of voter apathy.

The Daily Mail compared Clegg to a harlot, hitching his skirt to an assortment of passing gentlemen. I think this is profoundly unfair. Unlike prostitutes, I’m yet to be convinced that there is use for Nick Clegg.

Not one to cede the limelight, and certainly not to as pathetic a creature as the Deputy Prime Minister, up stepped George Osborne next. By denying the Scottish the option of a ‘sterling zone’ currency union upon separation, the Chancellor planted a bullet firmly in the head of the SNP’s case for independence. And whilst not normally known for his smugness, Osborne didn’t seem too upset with himself for shooting Salmond’s fox.

The political reaction to this speech from the Nationalists was nothing short of extraordinary. Denial: it’s not just a river in Egypt; it’s the official currency policy of the people wishing to tear apart our three hundred-year-old Union.

Salmond’s dream of his very own personal fiefdom (also known as an independent Scotland) is now dead, for two reasons he seems yet not to comprehend. The first is a matter of practicality: the SNP have no credible plan to adopt someone else’s currency post-independence, nor the will or realistic ability to create their own.

Secondly and perhaps more importantly, the argument for separation, as established by the SNP, was murdered intellectually last week. The perpetrator: not an advancing army intent on preserving a United Kingdom, but a humble speech, and let’s be frank, a pretty poor one at that.

The mere idea that the Chancellor of the United Kingdom wields the power – with words alone – to deal the SNP’s case for independence such a devastating blow, demonstrates the extent to which the case is pure fallacy. Far from independence, it is a mirage predicated upon dependence, with all the attributes of a truly free nation- state laid at the mercy of soon-to-be foreign powers.

Not content, Nicola Sturgeon turned this week into a three-ring circus by having a barney with Gordon Brown over the state pension. As it happens, I had to agree with Scotland’s Deputy First Minster; Gordon Brown is economically illiterate. But by questioning his character, rather than the content of his argument, Sturgeon shot herself in the foot.

If Gordon Brown is so economically incapable, why could he not be despatched by a swift swipe of the SNP’s manifesto for independence? If the argument were so watertight, surely someone as inept as the former Chancellor and Prime Minister would be incapable of doing it serious damage?

But like I said, it’s been a strange couple of weeks in Westminster. Somewhere between Clegg and Salmond, British politics got real desperate.

Despite its farcical nature, though, it hasn’t been a wholly insignificant week.  Scottish independence, or any hope for it, is now dead. Finished. Another thing finished is Nick Clegg. The LibDems will be lost as a functioning Parliamentary Party at the General Election. Far from holding the balance of power, Clegg will be suffering the scorn of an electorate that punishes duplicity.


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