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Transitioning into the New Year, it not only means an indulgence of alcohol and celebrations, but also the release of the New Year’s honours list. Individuals are rewarded for their services to the community, whether it be through considerable acts of kindness, recognition of sporting achievements, or actions taken in public office.
The latter, it seems, tends to provoke the most speculation and comment on how and why individuals are rewarded with recognition for seemingly serving their community. One that raised eyebrows seems to be the knighthood of the former Liberal Democrat leader, and Deputy Prime Minister during the 2010-15 coalition Government, Nick Clegg. Initially encapsulated by the hype of `Cleggmania` during the 2010 general election, he was seen as having the potential to finally break the mould of two-party politics in Britain. Mainly through promoting a Liberal voice, and an alternative to the tired Labour government and Thatcher-like Conservative party.
What was to ensue was Clegg signing away any hope of a progressive Liberal alternative, and instead propelling the impetus of austerity measures deployed to compensate for the consequences of the 2008 financial crash. It didn’t end there. The infamous U-turn on the issue of tuition fees, by raising them to an unprecedented level, was seen by students across the U.K as a betrayal. This meant that students from disadvantaged backgrounds now have to weigh up the pros and cons of actually going on to higher education. Thus, the question I am eluding to here is this- do his actions merit a knighthood in the eyes of the monarchy?
Clegg has sought to defend his record in office through his recent publications, eluding to the premise that the influence of the Lib Dems kept the Tories from averting to the Right-wing influence of its backbenchers. There is much doubt the Tories would have implemented equal rights for same-sex marriage into legislation given the traditional values of the Conservatives. Moreover, Clegg and the persistence of the Lib Dems also ensured that free school lunches would be provided for the poorest children in society, which is something the then Education secretary, Michael Gove, was reluctant to employ given his preference for establishing academies.
Some may also argue that Clegg has tried to redeem himself of late. He has voiced reasons why the public should have a final say on the possible deal the fractured May government will try to deliver on, potentially stopping Brexit from actually happening. Consequently, Clegg has provided a voice of reason and hope for the 16 million who voted to remain. He aims to ensure that a fair compromise is reached, instead of following the dark lead of a Tory government that is unsure how long its tenure will last. But let us not forget Clegg’s contribution to the current state of affairs.
Owen Jones of the Guardian lambasted the decision for Clegg to be granted a knighthood, implying that Clegg along with former chancellor George Osbourne are “architects of our crisis-stricken nation” and that this ultimately consolidated his position amongst the British establishment. Is the knighthood of Clegg symbolic of the British elite, rewarding those that have pushed forward the dogma of neo-liberal ideology? It seems that Clegg is merely being rewarded for his services in ensuring the establishment and economy retain their status in the EU. The final question to consider is who the economy favours. Is it the British elite that are in the pockets of big business (the establishment), or those left behind that feel their voices are still being ignored?