If his 2015 manifesto is going to feature a load of pledges he can’t stick to, shouldn’t Nick Clegg at least have some fun with it?

If it’s grown-up to ignore what you said to get elected, why have a campaign at all?

Share

The Liberal Democrats have announced promises for the next election, starting with a mansion tax and pensions, but as no one can possibly believe them after last time, they might as well have a laugh, with policies such as the abolition of gravity and replacing buses with pterodactyls.

Nick Clegg could promise that Vince Cable will learn to talk to wasps, that by 2017 everywhere you go will be downhill, criminals will be given gallstones until they learn to be good, and on the soul of his grandmother he pledges that every pensioner will be given a panda, paid for by selling Margate to Brazil.

The problem Clegg has is that once you’ve broken your word so blatantly, you can’t expect to be trusted next time. Serial adulterers face the same dilemma, but at least they usually display some self-awareness. The Lib Dems’ best chance might be to start their next broadcast with Clegg saying: “Listen to me honeypies. I’ve changed. I know I’ve been bad, but I was in a dark place when I trebled them fees, sweethearts. I was confused between trebling and abolishing, you got to believe me, I wouldn’t hurt you, it will be different this time, you know that.”

Then he could announce that, if elected, his party will abolish tuition fees, which is an even more impressive pledge than last time, because this time they’re three times as much, so will take even more abolishing.

Apparently Danny Alexander says his party has worked out the banding of properties for the mansion tax, and a “senior Liberal Democrat” has promised that “we’ll reduce the deficit with a more equal distribution” of something or other, but they’d be better off spending their time learning to play the piccolo or building a canoe.

It’s like a junkie telling you how this time the £200 he wants off you really will be paid back on Thursday. The carefully costed details don’t determine your decision so much as how last week he robbed your kids’ teddies and sold them for £12.

To be fair it doesn’t do the Lib Dems justice to judge them on the famous lie about tuition fees, as they told plenty of other lies as well. For example, during the election campaign they derided the Conservatives for secretly planning to put up VAT, despite saying, “We have absolutely no plans to raise VAT.” This turned out to be entirely accurate, except that the Liberal Democrats joined them in the coalition, and then supported them putting up VAT.

The excuse for this was that in government “we have to be grown up”. Because when you’re grown up you do the opposite of what you promised. Presumably, Clegg tells his wife: “I’ve got good news dear, I spent that night away at the G20 summit with a pair of hookers, so you don’t have to worry about me being childish like those people who keep their wedding promise.”

In any case, if the grown-up way is to ignore everything you said to get elected, why bother having an election campaign at all? For the televised debates at the next election, Clegg might as well bring in a guinea-pig, and when he’s asked about his plans for defence, he can ask David Dimbleby, “Would you like to stroke Oscar?”

The explanation he offers for this behaviour is that his party didn’t win the election, so he had no choice but to compromise. This might make sense, if he’d said, “Although we don’t agree with raising VAT or trebling tuition fees, as part of the coalition we’re forced to go along with it, in return for looking grown-up.” 

But when they backed these measures that they’d screamed against a few weeks earlier, they did it with chilling enthusiasm, raging against anyone who objected, with a transformation so sudden and complete that if Clegg was an athlete everyone would have muttered that he must be on steroids.

Several commentators suggested this wouldn’t affect him at the election, as “people will have forgotten about it by then”. I suppose it’s possible some people will forget why they’re 27 grand in debt. They might think, “I’ve got to spend 20 years repaying my loan, and can’t for the life of me remember what I borrowed it for. Maybe I bought a solid gold lawn mower and lost it on the way home. Still, whatever it is there’s no reason not to vote Liberal Democrat again.”

Nick Clegg might protest that he did at least apologise, so instead of a manifesto, he could produce a list of measures he’s planning to apologise for having done the opposite of. But even the apology wasn’t for breaking the promises, it was for making them in the first place. To have any chance at the next election, even of saving his own seat in Sheffield, he’ll need to go much much further than that.

So instead of wasting effort compiling more promises, his one chance of saving his seat in Sheffield might be a collaboration with local heroes the Arctic Monkeys, in which he sings: “Oh what a scummy man, you can see it in my eyes yeah that I’ve got a nasty plan, I’d go into coalition with the bloody Taliban for a place in the cabinet. And you’ve seen me with Osborne and Hague, there ain’t no promise on which I won’t renege, students do better to vote for the plague ‘cos I’m a scumbag don’t you know.”

Twitter: @mrmarksteel

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US  

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Robert Fisk
 

Next they'll say an independent Scotland can't use British clouds...

Mark Steel
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape