Scapegoating Nick Clegg is the lowest form of populism

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Owen JonesMy ire was particularly roused yesterday by Owen Jones’s latest attack on Nick Clegg. Now, regular readers of this blog may be aware that Nick Clegg is not exactly my favourite person, I actually agree that Clegg is populist with little in the way of actual principles, and that this latest capitulation to crack down on virtually non-existent use of the UK welfare system by EU migrants is an apt if depressing example of this. But Jones’s analysis has one fatal flaw: he’s a member of the Labour Party.

You don’t have to agree with Martin Shapland’s equally flawed analysis that the fact that Labour have equally let down EU migrants and indeed the UK electorate that that somehow makes the Lib Dems’ own actions more acceptable to agree that Owen Jones and his cohorts are in no position to criticise.

If Clegg’s “scapegoating” of EU migrants (which is to ignore the fact that the Lib Dem position is far less coherent than simple scapegoating) is “unforgiveable”, then what does that make Yvette Cooper’s claim that the coalition are playing catch up behind Labour on this issue? Indeed, so behind the coalition were Labour on Tuesday that they set one of their lead attack dogs to smear Laszlo Andor, an EU commissioner who had the unmitigated gall to criticise the UK for adopting such a policy, wrongly claiming he was a fascist.

This isn’t the first time, and won’t be the last, that Clegg’s team has concluded that with Labour and the Tories united on an issue they might as well go along with it for fear of being singled out. It was the same reasoning that made Clegg so keen to not come out against the snooper’s charter. Clegg isn’t a liberal, although he wore that mask for a while, and his mission is to be seen to be in the centre of politics between Labour and the Tories, no matter where that centre happens to be (he’s only sticking with the party’s pro-EU stance because he knows that dropping it would lead to a split the party would not survive from). He’s pretty despicable. But does anyone really believe that is more despicable than the party leaders he is slavishly following? Miliband could have caused a split within the coalition by adopting a pro-migrant, and fact-based stance on immigration. Leaving aside his ethical and moral responsibilities, he had a responsibility to do so as the leader of the official opposition. Cringing in fear of how Lynton Crosby would respond, he chose not to.

I’m not suggesting the Lib Dems should be let off the hook, merely that they are irrelevant. Even if every single Lib Dem voted against these measures, the combined Labour-Conservative hegemony would get it through parliament. If Owen Jones truly had the principles he has pinned his professional career to, he would have chosen to lay into who is possibly the next prime minister for his cowardly stance, rather than the leader of a declining third party. Does anyone else see the irony in choosing to pull his punches on Miliband and ramp up the rhetoric on Clegg in an article denouncing the political practice of scapegoating? This is black propaganda indeed.

10 thoughts on “Scapegoating Nick Clegg is the lowest form of populism

  1. I get the impression that Clegg actually genuinely cares about Europe, and that it’s one of the few issues that truly motivates him in politics. Why do you think otherwise?

  2. @Ralph Wiggum
    Because I could have said that about half dozen “principled” positions he adopted before entering government which he has since casually cast aside; and this attack on migrants is in opposition to freedom of movement, which is a core aspect of the European Union.

    Either way, as I wrote above we are unlikely to see who’s right either way, because he wouldn’t dare reverse the party’s position; it would tear them apart.

  3. You’ve missed the point of my blog somewhat Graham – I’m not saying Lib Dem let downs are any better or worse than Labour’s (I did after all fight tooth and claw against the Tuition Fees U-turn) I’m making the point that if anyone is a position to criticise, its not the left and Labour

    Calling Clegg a Tory Collaborator for having the same view on migrant benefits as Miliband in January is a bit much, saying Clegg U-turned on Iraq was cognitive disconnect of the highest order, but I don’t say that these things make Clegg’s views or actions better or worse (although I do point out it is Clegg who closed Yarls Wood Child Detention centre)

    I’m just making the same point you have here – Scapegoating Nick Clegg is indeed the lowest form of populism

    There’s a case for saying Habitual Residence terms for claiming benefits should be lengthened (Currently 3 months compared to Spain’s 12 – and no delay for in work benefits) but I’ve been rather uncomfortable with Lib Dem immigration policy for about 5 years now.

  4. I get the impression that Nick Clegg (and indeed the whole Liberal Democrat “party”) would sell their soul for the chance to hand round the hobnobs at Cabinet meetings and prop up an evil unelected Junta which is killing people by misguided austerity policies. I never realised that when people said they entered politics to make a difference it meant helping the Tories to shut Sure Start Centres, Libraries, Hospitals, Remploy Factories…

    By the way, before you start, I am not a Labour supporter. One of the reasons you lot have been able to get away with it for so long is because Ed Mliband is about as much use as a string of spaghetti in a hgh wnd.

  5. …I’m not suggesting the Lib Dems should be let off the hook, merely that they are irrelevant…

    You cannot call LibDems irrelevant when they are the reason that this government is in power (they are supporting the actions of an extreme right wing party and will be irrelevant at the next election though)

    Additionally you seem to confuse individual actions and opinions with those of party affiliation, your lumping together of Owen Jones and the Labour party-line is a good example of your error. Mr Jones has spoken on regular occasions about the faults within the Labour party and how he believes they should be changed from within, in no way does him being a member mean that he condones everything that the Labour leadership says or does.

    It seems to me that you are attempting (and failing, epically) to attack someone who has not condoned the thing you are attacking them for, this makes you just as irrelevant as the LibDems you mentioned.

  6. I think you might be confusing “scapegoating” with “rightly despising”.

    Liberal Democrats seem to be more guilty of tedious partisan posturing than just about any other party right now. Maybe it’s more obvious when they do it because they’re doing it to a party that they are competing with for voters, rather than because of some major ideological difference.

  7. Clegg is a token yellow tory liar who deserves as much stick as the public (which he lied to, Owen Jones included)wants to give, the lib dems are finished at the next election, maybe have some principles next time (if there is a next time in the next 80 odd years)

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