This misses many points: first, the Party is not a one man band; nor is the Government.
Second: if there were a different leader (‘It could have been me!’ shouts Chris Huhne) how much would really be different? The Laws book on the Coalition indicates that senior members of the Party were bent on coalition with the Tories well before the 2010 election.
Third: while we have all been driven demented by almost daily Government incompetencies, the vast majority were perpetrated by Tory ministers.
Clegg’s appearance at the Lib Dem local Government conference this weekend underlines the fact that his leadership is still alive and kicking.
Nick was there not just to deliver a short, generalised speech before speeding back to the railway station. He took and answered many questions. He also spoke to councillors about specific worries in a private session.
Battered delegates were able to let off steam, get answers and be drawn into the Leader’s confidence.
We cheered when he said: ‘People aren’t the Daily Mail. They aren’t Polly Toynbee. They’re more reasonable than that.’
We nodded ruefully when he told us: ‘We’ve got to believe in ourselves. There is a risk that you start to believe what your opponents say about you.’
We applauded him for the stance taken earlier in the week over Jeremy Hunt.
He was quizzed over the role of local authorities in the Govian chaos created by free schools and academies. He assured us that he still believed that local authorities had a strategic role and he was working on it. (Alarmingly he added that David Laws was doing the thinking: those of us who came across him as Opposition education spokesperson have cause to shudder).
He criticised banks for letting their branch network wither on the vine.
He hinted that there would be a significant government announcement in the near future about how to support housing associations to make a start in building on the numerous sites for which they already have planning permission (400,000 homes have already been given local authority go-ahead but the failed finance system has not come up with the necessary funds.)
He explained the Government thinking on internet surveillance in a way that was almost reassuring (just catching up with new technology) and announced that the concept of regional pay was dead.
He reminded us that, after the savage cuts, public expenditure would still be at 42% of GDP – higher than under Labour.
…Enough material for a good Focus here – and far better than some of the offerings from Party HQ.
President Reagan was once described as the Great Communicator. Clegg can often be in the same league.
Unfortunately the press rarely listens to his communications. And often, nor do we.
* Chris White is a Hertfordshire County Councillor and Deputy Leader (Policy) of the Liberal Democrat Group at the Local Government Association