On those occasions when I steeled myself to watch his debates with Huhne at any length, it was possible to note an unwillingness to come out of his corner and fight when Huhne was sticking him like a pig: instead Clegg made do with the sort of ‘I’ve just sucked a lemon’ face a humourless feminist Cabinet Minister (the choice of which to imagine is yours, dear reader!) might have when finding the unexpected gift of a particularly obvious sex toy in their Christmas stocking. Here was a man who may well be too nice to enjoy mixing it with the big boys whom he may well find shoving him out of the way as they grope for one another’s political throats.
At other times he seemed to have prepared his set pieces from The Dictionary of Political Clichés and set out a feast of the same that was so indigestible and dull as to make you wonder who was writing this guff. In addition he lacked any sense of presence which makes one think that he will fare badly in the bear pit that is the House of Commons. Having only been in Parliament for two years will, one suspects, prove also to be a severe disadvantage
Thus it came as no surprise that he had only just shaded it in the leadership contest, not least when his opponent looked and sounded a whole lot sharper than Clegg and as though he wanted the job a whole lot more. Still, he has ended up with a party that seems to have lost a full 20,000 members willing to vote on the leadership compared with the election for Ming Campbell and one that is, beyond the skill of the spinners, riven from top to toe or rather from left to right, a party that has taken a real beating in the polls.
It is early days yet and making predictions is the stuff of fools, yet I reckon Clegg is far too wet for these days when a declining Labour Government is faced by a Tory Party hungry for power. He stands every chance of being run over by Cameron’s Tanks as they seek a place to park on the lawns of No. 10 Downing Street. If the electorate decides that Labour must be got out come what may, then the Lib ‘Dems’ will find that, in England and Wales, at least, there are bitter weeds.
A couple of offerings in The Sunday Times (Rosie Millard and Simon Jenkins) will make bad reading for Clegg as he sips on the old soya juice cocktail this Christmas. Jenkins in particular will have Liberal ‘Democrats’ choking on their cornflakes. His piece seems to me to hit the nail neatly on the head, a nail which may yet prove to have been the first of many such in Clegg’s coffin.