There are many reasons to be cheerful as a LibDem supporter:
*Sure Start protected, social care fund of £2million, income allowance up by over a grand next year with a promise to reach the manifesto pledge of £10,000 by the time of the first ever fixed-term parliament, referendum on voting reform, museum charges still free, end of ID cards, end of the DNA database, scrapping of Section 44, increase in Child Tax Credits and available to more families by 2012.....
Then there's the shadow. The dark, thick, acrid smoke covering all the good news, turning it inside out like the toxic fog that does for the chrous-line Simpsons. The scare-story in today's Guardian today - I assume the headline "LIBDEMS REALISED THERE WOULD BE A HUNG PARLIAMENT AND ACTED ACCORDINGLY" was considered too pedantic - nevertheless taps into the problems right at the heart of our Party and its role within the Coalition.
Clegg has delivered exactly what all activists and Councillors and voters wanted; LibDems in Government, giving the Conservatives a liberal accent on civil liberties and tax. But it's the shadow, the darkness, the storm...
A few days ago, whilst returning on train from Manchester, I struck up conversations with students coming home from the NUS march in central London. All 5 of them - two each from Manchester and Salford, two from UCLan - agreed with despondency and regret that the march had largely been a disaster. As one said; "It was a great march, until we came out from a 20 minute break in Costa to find all Hell had broken loose." Another said "We picked up stragglers who just wanted to start a fight, we won't be on the middle pages never mind the front page."
But any ire focused at the SWP and pick-n-mix anarchists ruining the march was nothing compared to what they had in store towards Nick Clegg. Not Liberal Democrats generally, I noticed (talking with them as a 'supporter', assuming telling them how I was a committed activist and former Councillor would colour the debate somewhat). Specifically Nick Clegg. One told me;
Clegg came to every Uni, day after day, telling us 'Vote for me and I will help abolish tuition fees. My vote was to him on that one promise, and now that promise is broken. I feel betrayed.
All I can see now is Nick Clegg lying about tuition fees and a left wing Labour leader wanting them scrapped. That's it for me, and all our branch (of the NUS) feel the same. Labour will get thousands more student votes now and it's all because Labour are taking the right words on scrapping fees, that's just what we want
A few days later, a mate of mine talking on this issue said;
Clegg just comes across like Phil Woolas, lying to get elected. What's the difference? He should be done for fraud
Each and every attack on Clegg - their voice hoarse, their hearts deflated, their LibDem support utterly compromised - rang in my ears like church bells. Although I don't believe "Clegg = Woolas" (whilst Phil knew his election material to be untrue, Clegg had no notion of the election result until it happened), the substantive point still stands. The one policy which was our magnet for support has become repellent, abhorrent.
Partly due to bad PR, implementation of the Browne Report has tainted our Party as dream-stealers. The proposals for tuition fees deal with the unholy mess handed to us by Labour. Increasing the pay-back salary to £21k and rightly dismissing the grossly unfair Graduation Tax is amongst the better of very limited options. It's not right, it's not pretty, but here is where we find ourselves...
...I just have to blame Clegg for getting us here. During our Leadership Election - "Calamity Clegg", remember that? - I voted for Chris Huhne as my first preference and spoke against Nick at every opportunity. At the time, he did not convince me. I didn't like him at the time and I don't trust him now. His leadership has become toxic. "Word Association" with Liberal Democrat buzzwords comes up negatively everytime. We're achieving too much good whilst in Government to have the tuition fees mess drag us out of office.
I support all those LibDems - such as my Presidential preference Tim Farron - who won't just abstain but vote against the fee proposals. This is the kind of progressive and independent matter of conscious actions I would expect from anyone on the LibDem backbenches. Such matters of principle clearly shut down when Clegg's ministerial car opened.
For the good of the Party - maybe even for our survival as a Party in the longterm - Nick Clegg must stand down. I had no idea of the strength of opposition to him, the manner in which his personal standing is dragging the whole party in the mud. To get anywhere near the standing before the election, his actions now have to ensure elections later are not ballot-box killing fields.
I want the Party to remain in the Coalition, doing all it can for the people of Britain in the aftermath of Labour's disastrous economic illiteracy. To do anything in this regard, the one man whose role is causing dense fog to cloud all other considerations of our Party must to the honourable and right thing.
Nick Clegg must resign as Leader as soon as possible.