What has happened to us all, when serious papers can start raving about “Prime Minister Clegg”? Has someone put something in the water supply? Has some sulphur yellow cloud descended imperceptibly from Iceland and addled our brains? These are Lib Dems we are talking about! They say anything to anyone. They are not so much two-faced as positively polycephalous. They go around every university campus promising to abolish “Labour’s unfair tuition fees” – while dear Cleggie tells his party conference that this policy, this cardinal Lib Dem policy, would cost £12 billion and that the country can’t afford it. In the north of England you will find plenty of Lib Dem literature extolling their “mansion tax”, a proposal on which they remain deafeningly silent in places like Richmond and Kingston, where it would mean a vast new tax on people who happen to live in overvalued houses.
Everybody treats Vince Cable as a semi-holy Mahatma Gandhi of British politics, because he is supposed in some way to have anticipated the financial crisis. Actually his most notable recommendation before the crisis was that Britain should join the euro – a move that would gravely have worsened our current position by leaving us in a Greek-style straitjacket.
What crouton of substance did Clegg offer last Thursday, in the opaque minestrone of waffle? He wants to get rid of Trident. Great! So Lib Dem foreign policy means voluntarily resigning from the UN Security Council, abandoning all pretensions to world influence, and sub-contracting our nuclear deterrent to France! They are a bunch of euro-loving road-hump fetishists who are attempting like some defective vacuum cleaner to suck and blow at the same time; and the worst of it is that if you do vote Lib Dem in the demented belief that there could ever be such a thing as a Lib Dem government, you won’t get Prime Minister Clegg. You’ll get Prime Minister Gordon Brown, for five more holepunch-hurling years, because the Lib Dems almost always vote with Labour, and in my years in Parliament I can’t remember a single moment when they opposed a Labour measure to expand state spending or state control.