Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Economist on Nick Clegg

From the new Economist:
Mr Clegg influences politics in two ways that depend little on his party’s electoral showing, however. If the next election yields a hung parliament, the Lib Dems may enter government in coalition with either of the big parties. Even if they lose MPs (and many of their southern ones are vulnerable to the Tories), they need only hang on to third place for Mr Clegg to remain kingmaker-in-waiting.
This consideration doubtless plays a part in the government’s hints that it is pondering a referendum on a “fairer” voting system. The Lib Dems crave full-blown proportional representation but may decide the best chance of any reform lies with Labour.
Mr Clegg can also shift the political debate in his direction. His campaign on behalf of veteran Gurkhas, the Nepalese soldiers who serve Britain, forced a government u-turn in April. The decision of some Lib Dems to monitor police conduct during the G20 protests was seen as pretentious by many, but it was vindicated by events. Mr Clegg was also the first party leader to call for the resignation of Michael Martin, the former speaker of the House of Commons, who duly stood down in June.
His outrider status may prove as influential on matters of tax and spend. He has named government schemes he wants scrapped (baby bonds) or shrunk (the nuclear deterrent). The fiscal crisis may yet force the two big parties to be as specific.

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