Crisis, what crisis? Nick Clegg goes on the offensive
Nick Clegg will not be relinquishing the leadership of the Liberal Democratic Party anytime soon, this newspaper confidently predicts today.
Our certainty stems from the fact that every Liberal Democrat conference since the Coalition was formed has been staged amid a welter of suggestions that Mr Clegg's position was in crisis and he must surely be on the way out.
Today, as we reflect on the opening machinations of the latest Lib Dem get-together – this time in Glasgow – the background mood music is no different, nor the barbed comments and veiled threats of some from the wings of the party.
For example, Tim Farron, the party president and – some would say – obvious successor to Mr Clegg, has been so keen to heap praise on Ed Miliband that we can only assume he is already trying to nudge the party towards a coalition with Labour after the 2015 general election. Then there is Sarah Teather, who is telling us she will stand down at the next election, citing fundamental differences with Mr Clegg on welfare and immigration policy. But perhaps the most damaging has been the contribution of Lord Oakeshott to proceedings. He likened Mr Clegg to Michael Foot, who took Labour into the election of 1983 – and a heavy defeat – and then suggested that the surest way to avoid electoral catastrophe would be to remove Mr Clegg.
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But we suspect none of this hullabaloo will hurt Mr Clegg, who has developed a remarkably thick political skin in the course of the last three and a half years.
Even though the opinion polls also appear to condemn him and his party, and even though his personal rating registers, if it registers at all, somewhere below minus-50, the leader is still for leading. If you listened to what he had to say as he headed north before the weekend, you would be hard pressed to form the view that here is a man clinging onto his political career by his fingernails. Far from it. He appears in robust form. And he will need all his strength to defend controversial positions like the one he took yesterday – arguing that another coalition government would be the best outcome for the country because it would enable the Liberal Democrats to act as a restraining influence on the larger parties of the left and right.
You have to admire Mr Clegg's courage.