Nick Clegg: an apology. I may have given the impression that the Liberal Democrats were a waste of space, and their crushing in the general election was a merited humiliation. Statements such as “Clegg was a fool to have gone into coalition with the Tories” and “the Lib Dems got nothing in return for ministerial posts that David Cameron didn’t want to give them” may have led the reader to believe I thought the whole business a diversion and the resumption of single-party government a welcome simplification.
If so, there has been a misunderstanding. I now realise, reading Clegg’s interview with The Independent’s Andrew Grice last week, that I agree with Nick.
For all the overheated language from the left about inequality, the record of the Coalition was surprisingly good. New figures from the Office for National Statistics last week confirmed that income inequality was unchanged in the 2010-15 period. This is something of an achievement at a time when the Government was cutting public spending, and Clegg is justified in claiming to have tried to balance the books “in the fairest possible way”.It's good that we are starting to read views like this, but there is a need to enter a couple of qualifications.
First, income inequality tends to decline when the economy is doing badly and to increase when it is doing well and employers have to compete for skilled labour.
Second, as I once blogged, the Lib Dems won't flourish in 2020 by blaming the voters for 2015.
What these figures do show is how dishonest the Labour Party was throughout the Coalition years.
But that dishonesty did not just harm the Liberal Democrats: it harmed Labour too.
It encouraged a mind-set under which Labour and other left-wing activists spoke only to themselves, became increasingly outraged and steadily distanced themselves from the sort of voters they need to win over.
The natural outcome of that process was their choice of a leader who appealed to them and few others people.
Step forward Jeremy Corbyn.