The Week in Review: Schlurp! The Lib Dems just imploded

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg didn't have the best of weeks
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg didn't have the best of weeks
Alex Stevenson By

Something rather grisly and unpleasant happened this week. The Liberal Democrats, a party always more susceptible to the perils of political scandal than they would like voters to believe, were forced to new lows over the Lord Rennard affair. They have turned one man's political reputation into a self-defeating battle over Nick Clegg's leadership and the future of their party. If any political party is capable of battering itself to death with its own inflatable hammer, that party is the Lib Dems.

No-one really understands how it got quite this bad. Until now the preposterously complicated internal party organisation had been treated as a source of mild amusement. Lib Dems are the kind of people who board games with complex rules. When one of them bears a grudge, the fun disappears and those rules are used to devastating effect.

That was what Clegg was forced to resort to as deep schisms developed. Wounds are being created which will probably never properly heal. The party which surprised so many with its unity of purpose as an incredibly tough general election campaign approaches suddenly finds itself riven with faction.

The Tories' threat is entirely external these days. As well as worrying about Ukip, which spent the week trying to get over the embarrassment caused by its cringingly homophobic councillor David Silvester, the party faced yet another barrage from Ed Miliband in PMQs over cost-of-living. Labour went all right-wing on benefits, too, with a big speech from new work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves in which she proved the opposition could be mean to benefit scroungers, too.

In the era of Benefits Street, which some have condemned with almost as much anger as the show has generated for its subjects, Labour tough talk seems inevitable. IDS, who is naturally refusing to be outbid, responded with some meaty remarks of his own against White Dee, Black Dee, Fungi and all the other specimens on the Channel 4 show.


The law and order theme is hard to shake off this week. The Police Federation, having had its reputation trashed by the plebgate affair, spent the week laying the groundwork for its rehabilitation. Crime figures out this week actually showed Britain is becoming a relatively well-behaved country, although sexual offences are going up. But that did not stop Labour wanting to do more, with a frankly baffling proposal to make mocking the relatives of armed service personnel a criminal offence.

This was also the week, believe it or not, when an indiscretion of sorts led to us reporting about an earnest wish emerging from Downing Street: the idea that the Conservatives could somehow escape from making as many promises at the next general election. Pledges are hard to break if they haven't been made in the first place, aren't they?

Perhaps one option Dave should consider as this year's European elections approach is a campaign song, with him as the centrepiece. He could take a leaf from Silvio Berlusconi's book, for example: this shocker was used in 2008 elections which his party won...

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