openDemocracyUK

The Lib Dems are talking the talk

The Lib Dem leaders are starting to make sense in the face of the coming UK election
Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
16 March 2010

I just listened to Nick Clegg on the BBC's World at One. I felt he was trying to be honest about the financial crisis the UK is facing. I don't understand what the deficit is we are all supposed to halve, who it is owed to, what it was spent on. I have a feeling that Labour's plans are not as Neil Kinnock put it in a letter to the Guardian, well "measured" and the Tories, I feel, are positioning not levelling.

This follows what I thought was a clear performance by Clegg on the Today programme on Saturday. One point struck me in particular. The Lib Dems are often very nervous and possessive about their liberalism and a strange kind of 'we are THE ONLY pluralists' is the result!

But this time Clegg focussed on the end of "the duopoly". He said that whereas in 1951 only 2 per cent didn't vote for the two main parties, now nearly 40 per cent do not. Nationalists and Greens seem to be included in this. He positioned himself as part of something wider and more open than being THE ONLY third party. This is a tremendously important development, potentially, and very welcome.

And while I'm into praising them, Chris Huhne was excellent on Newsnight on Friday. He got the alarmist, don't we need party leaders to be dictators line, at the prospect of Clegg and Co having to take the result of any negotiation over the future of a hung parliament to their colleagues and even - horror - a special partty conference. Huhne was rubust, "surprised at their surprise". This is how parties behave in countries better governed than our own!

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