Daniel Korski

Nick Clegg’s self-defeating Scargillian rhetoric

Nick Clegg's self-defeating Scargillian rhetoric
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The transformation of Nick Clegg from moderate Europeanist to a populist continues apace. The Lib Dem leader is very serious about capturing the anti-politics mood among the electorate - no easy feat for some who looks as Establishment as the rest.

Though he will likely be pleased with today's Observer interview, I wonder whether he will, in retrospect, feel comfortable with his view that a small Tory majority would somehow make a Cameron government illegitimate and that Britain could be plunged into "Greek-style unrest" if cuts were introduced.

Where to begin? The electoral system works the way it does. It has many inbuilt problems - particularly for the Tories - but until it is reformed it produces lawful and legitimate governments. The idea that a small majority is in some way not a mandate is preposterous. Of course, any Tory government with a small majority would have to think carefully about adopting a George W Bush-style "govern-like-you-got-a-landslide" strategy. The odds are that a Prime Minister Cameron would want to do business with the Lib Dem leader.

Then there is the talking up of the risks of social unrest. I struggle to see any signs that Britons will take to the streets in a counter-cultural, shop-looting, stone-throwing ways, as has been the case in Greece.

I can't spot the equivalent of the Communist agitators who have riled the Greek crowds. I don't see an English tradition of political violence, which would catalyse any kind of on-going, geographically-spread protest. More than a million people protested against the Iraq War - and there was no such violence. In the past, anti-capitalist protests have ocassionally led to violence and police over-reaction - but, again, a comparison to Greece's predicament is overblown.

Finally, I don't see the Tories proposing the kind of slash-and-burn policies that would create the equivalent of the Poll Tax riots. Would people really take to the streets if Civil Service posts were left unfilled, as the Conservatives plan? Who would protest - the managers, the colleagues left in the remaining jobs, the people who have retired or those who cannot now apply for the vacancies?  This would make for an odd protest slogan: "What do we want? Vacancies filled!"

The Lib Dem leader's Scargillian rhetoric is simply not credible and may do damage to the reputation for calm, plain-speaking he and Vince Cable have sought to build up