First, let me say that I’ve been a Liberal Democrat supporter for a long time. I’m one of those self-righteous ones that saw the first televised leaders’ debate as a confirmation of what I’d always believed anyway, the Lib Dems are worth listening to.
What amazes me about the fallout from the debates is how ready people are to claim Nick Clegg was only successful because he’s a better debater/better looking/not Gordon Brown. There’s an element of this of course. His personal charisma helps on TV. However, as I see it, this is doing the British people no justice at all. Are we all so stupid and easily swayed by the media that we’d actually vote for someone because they were better than the other two over an hour and a half debate? I know we live in a reality TV world, but I don’t think this is the whole story.
I think people have been looking for an alternative for a long time. The loss of faith in New Labour and absolute lack of support for Gordon Brown needs no explanation. But the assumption that this would mean an easy victory for David Cameron and the Conservatives was always flawed. We still haven’t forgiven the Tories for the eighties. Many of us cannot stomach the idea of a Conservative government ever again. David Cameron may have moved them towards the already crowded centre ground, but they’re still Tories. A lot of people might have lost faith in Labour but they’d sooner have their finger nails removed with pliers than vote Tory.
And so everyone lost faith in politics. Yes, there were lots of reasons. Politicians lie, as the expenses scandal proved. Politics isn’t a thrill a minute. But, to me, the major issue was that no one saw a party they wanted to vote for. A vote for the Lib Dems seemed like a waste and besides, the papers only ever patronised them and their policies were never examined. Then the debate came along and we finally saw the Lib Dems for what they are: sensible and different. Not a pair of sandals or bowl of lentils in sight. They might have flaws, but there isn’t a party that doesn’t. They are a viable alternative.
Nick Clegg isn’t God. Nor is he even President Obama, despite they way some people are talking. He’s not even that brilliant at debating, just better than the other two. He’s no political outsider riding in to save the nation. He’s just another well-educated politician. The point is the excitement about the Lib Dems is justified by far more than the cut of Nick’s suit or his haircut. It is patronising towards the party and its supporters to claim that it’s all about media hype. Despite the best efforts of the media to tear their manifesto apart in the name of ‘scrutiny’, the policies are holding their own. All that’s happened is that people have finally noticed them and taken them seriously.
And they deserve taking seriously. The drive towards electoral reform, the review of the Trident nuclear system, the economic proposals that might not be perfect but are better than the other two. A sensible and not hysterical approach to the Euro. A lot of fuss was made about Nick Clegg’s lack of patriotism when he wrote an article which basically said Britain needed to get over itself. We’re not the country we used to be. And he’s right.
To me, Britain’s greatest quality these days, and the reason I’m still proud to be British and to live on this island is our liberalism. Our tolerance, openness and equality set us apart from nearly all other countries. The major party that best represents the mindset of those of us who aren’t likely to vote for the BNP or UKIP is the Lib Dems. We’ve finally realised their way of thinking is more relevent to ours than the outdated ideologies of Labour and the Tories. Yes it took a glossy TV debate, but this is so much more than Pop Idol politics. Whoever the Lib Dems have to work with in our flawed political system, an increase in their influence can only be a positve thing. They will change the system for the better.
And on a final note, Nick Clegg on gay marriage: “I support gay marriage. Love is the same, straight or gay, so the civil institution should be the same, too. All couples should be able to make that commitment to one another.” (Pink News, 17 Feb 2010.)
Makes sense to me. I agree with Nick!