Former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg – and the man whose picture students are probably still using to play darts – seems to be recovering his political career.
You see, he keeps making intelligent comments about Brexit.
So writes The Independent before quoting this:
This does touch on a serious – but rarely thoughtfully debated – point for the Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg still has the oratorical televisual skills which served him so well in the first TV debate in 2010. He was a massive membership recruiter with his post-2015 election resignation speech and is extremely popular with new members (who are now nearly half the party’s total membership). He also can attract media interest in a way very few in the party can match let alone exceed, and (mostly) uses his regular monthly newspaper column in a regional paper – something I think no other Liberal Democrat MP has outside of their own local papers – to promote the party. His own social media channels are also the largest in the party (three times the followers of Tim Farron on Twitter, for example).
And yet… Who became a cultural reference point for screwing up and apologising? Who was the most unpopular Liberal Democrat leader of all time in the opinion polls? Who led the party to its worst ever general election result?
The extent to which Nick Clegg is an asset for the party rarely gets discussed within the party at a level beyond the knee-jerk ‘he’s great and the voters got it wrong’ or ‘he’s awful and no-one likes him’.
Both in their own extremes (and I really barely exaggerate in presenting them so starkly*) are misguided.
You don’t win elections by blaming voters any more than a wise shipbuilder blames the water when they sink. Nor is the popularity of Nick Clegg with many members and even voters non-existent. And with just 8 MPs the party is hardly in a sensible position to spurn the publicity he can bring.
The better that Nick Clegg’s rehabilitation goes, the better off the party will be.
* Is it bad of me to predict that you’ll find on social media reactions to this post which exactly fit my descriptions, perhaps even from people who have rushed to comment before reading to the end…?