He lost his leadership and his seat but he’s still plugging away on inequality issues. Should he be brought in from the cold now?
What’s our official position on former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg? Having lost his seat in Sheffield Hallam and found himself in the wilderness has he at last atoned for his broken promise over tuition fees?
At the launch of his Commission On Inequality In Education report , he seemed sanguine that his has lost the golden ticket appendix MP.I am in the minority who thought his fateful (and fatal) decision to create the Coalition in 2010 was necessary in the national interest so soon after the 2008 crash which had all the ingredients of a proto-depression. As we know now all too well, political instability makes for great drama but has real implications for people’s livelihoods. History may reflect more kindly on that decision and his judgment.
The report launch took place in Church House , in the environs of Westminster Abbey and in the shadow of the Houses of Parliament from where he is now exiled. For Clegg the separation of Church and State would have had a bitter taste.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are still coping with the legacy of their annihilation. The impending coronation of Sir Vince Cable suggests they are moving back on to the front foot, not least with the veteran’s intervention into the Brexit debate.
His two headline statements – that the Brexiteers “ are only just beginning to understand the can of worms they opened ” and “ I’m beginning to think Brexit may never happen ” – immediately had the cut-through that bouncy predecessor Tim Farron was unable to achieve.
Sir Vince has the gravitas and respect to become the intellectual heft behind a “second referendum” campaign – a position that Tony Blair covets but can never attain. (Sadly, the former PM is an asymptomatic carrier of political pathogens – the Typhoid Mary of asymmetric uprisings.)
Ukip architect Nigel Farage contends that any backsliding will provoke the kind of backlash the likes of which the political classes have never witnessed.
However, I suspect, people were less motivated by highfalutin issues of sovereignty, the hierarchy of the courts and, yes, even control of the borders except where it fed into their own personal stories of joblessness insecurity.
As it becomes clearer that insecurity will grow as the economy shrinks and once the Polish plumbers start leaving the country, like the totemic ravens leaving the Tower, the backlash will likely come in the form of a “meh” not a mutiny.
Back of the class
Perhaps Brexit is the reason behind Nick Clegg’s melancholy. He knows that his sensible and practical nudges towards a fairer education system are but a spindly Segway on a motorway dominated by the Mad Max-style Brexit juggernaut, jack-knifing anarchically and swiping other good intentions off the road.
All the political and intellectual capital, all the reforming zeal will find itself absorbed into the greatest challenge of the century and there’ll be little left of for little things like, er, educating our children properly