United Kingdom: A new face in British politics

With the help of voters aching for change, Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, is challenging the usual trajectory of British politics.

Just as Barack Obama “popped onto the scene and altered the entire trajectory of established politics,” said Andrew Sullivan in the London Sunday Times, Nick Clegg, the leader of Britain’s Liberal Democratic Party, is “poised to make political history.” For decades, Britain has swung between the left-wing Labor Party and the right-wing Conservatives. But polls ahead of the May 6 election show Clegg running neck-and-neck with Conservative leader David Cameron, and leading over Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Labor. Voters clearly want change. They are furious at incumbents, many of who were found last year to be outrageously padding their expense accounts, and they’re upset over the recession and the national debt. So Britain was primed to fall for Clegg, a good-looking 43-year-old who handily won the first two of the nation’s inaugural televised national election debates. It’s not that his policies are so different—Liberal Democrats are a mishmash of Right and Left, supporting civil liberties on the one hand and a greater role for the EU on the other—but his presentation is. He knows “how to be the most faux-sincere of the lot—and in an age of discontent, the freshest face wins.”

Clegg is not likely to win outright, said Jonathan Oliver, also in the Sunday Times. With three main players in the race, it’s likely that for the first time in nearly 40 years, we’ll end up with a hung Parliament, where no single party has a majority of seats. Under that scenario, Clegg would be in the position of “kingmaker”—whichever party he chooses to support would be the party that governs, and he is already hinting at exacting a high price. Clegg “can’t abide” Brown, so he won’t join a coalition with Labor unless the party boots Brown as prime minister. And he says he won’t join with the Conservatives unless they agree to reform the electoral rules, which heavily favor the two main parties. But it’s not over yet. Cameron is still “fighting to keep alive hopes of an outright Tory victory.” Just a few weeks ago, remember, Cameron enjoyed a comfortable lead, and he was the golden boy of the moment. A lot can happen in the next two weeks.

Let’s hope so, because a Clegg victory would be a “nightmare scenario,” said Trevor Kavanagh in the London Sun. Clegg is practically a “double agent” who is ready to sell us out to the EU. He’s only one-quarter English—his mother is Dutch and his father half-Russian, plus he has a Spanish wife—and he was educated at the College of Europe in Belgium. That makes him “a purebred European aristocrat working for the other side.” Clegg virtually oozes contempt for the British. He once said that we have “a misplaced sense of superiority, sustained by delusions of grandeur and a tenacious obsession with the last war.” He apparently wants to civilize us “grubby savages” by subsuming our country into “stylish Europe.”

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