Was Clegg a one hit wonder?


Has the shine worn off the Lib Dems’ golden boy? — Photo by The Prime Minister’s Office (Crown Copyright)

The X Factor – some would call it a money making machine, transforming your everyday waiter, shop assistant, pen pusher into the next superstar. Or in many cases simply gives your Average Joe a five minutes in the limelight for several weeks of each year, before the next batch of hopefuls embark on the same adventure. Yet with more people voting on this primetime show each week than bothering to vote for the possible leader of the country, it is clear something is not right.

So what do you get when politics meets primetime television? Well, Nick Clegg. And now the dust has settled, Number Ten has been emptied and refilled with the Cameron family, and the X Factor has once again resumed its dominance as Saturday night entertainment, one question has to be asked. Where is Nick Clegg now?

For someone who took the spotlight more than any other Liberal Democrat leader in this years election, and who the country looked to when a coalition needed to be created, it is confusing as to why he appears to have stepped into the wings as David Cameron takes centre stage for his audience, the British people. Where’s the adoring crowd that looked to Nick Clegg all those months ago? Was it all just one big show?

April 15, 2010 saw the first ever live election leader debates between the three leaders of Britain’s biggest political parties, the largest platform open to a general election ever. The first of these attracted  ten million prospective voters, and many were surprised that while David Cameron and Gordon Brown debated between themselves over the night, each hoping to out-perform the other, the dark horse of the competition, one Nick Clegg, leader of the Democrats, stood to the side and presented himself as a fine and respectable candidate, not wanting to become embroiled in the petty arguing of his opponents. Previously seen to be, by many, as the less likely of the three to successfully assume office at , this ninety minute broadcast seemed to catapult this somewhat unknown politician into the public eye like never before. This new medium of debate showed prospective voters something they would not have been able to read in their morning newspaper, and many saw Clegg as no longer the underdog of the campaign. Instant polling after the first debate showed Nick Clegg as the winner, with the Times giving this Lib Dem leader an astonishing 61% of the vote. From this many saw 2010 as the most exciting and unpredictable election the country had seen in years.

Yet despite Clegg’s growing popularity, and even though he obtained a higher percentage of votes (albeit marginally) than before, the Liberal Democrats lost five seats. One can only wonder what went wrong for this promising candidate who seemed to be an ideal leader for many, particularly students, and gave his party their first real power surge in an election in years. Yet now it appears David Cameron has somehow taking sole leadership of this coalition, and Clegg is all too happy to go along with principles he previously debated against.

The promises, the vows made by Clegg, for if he was to become the leader of this country, appear to have vanished into the background of a stronger candidate. Support for Lib Dems has recently fallen to a mere 12%, a large drop from their confident backing after their appearance on primetime television. Reality seems to have hit home for politics. Strong words recently from Ed Miliband have branded Nick Clegg “a betrayal of the Liberal tradition”.

Going on to claim that many Lib Dem’s are unhappy with Clegg’s willingness to concede with Cameron over various issues. It seems that this once popular candidate, with strong words and promises to take his party to the furthest frontier in politics that they have been in years, has stepped out of the limelight and allowed his former opponent to take centre stage.

Bringing politics into this theatre of television created an interesting, innovative candidate, but it appears Clegg has allowed himself and his party to concede to a Conservative movement, to sell out the Liberal Democrat principles just so they, or more accurately he, could be part of this disappointing performance.

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