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"Liar Clegg"

Tim Montgomerie

I'm inclined to agree with Patrick O'Flynn's tweet from earlier today:

Screen shot 2010-12-09 at 18.36.38 Politicians break their promises but the LibDem promise on tution fees wasn't an ordinary promise. It was used to win university seats across the country.

15850356 LibDem candidates didn't just have a commitment in a manifesto, they signed public pledges. They actively campaigned on the issue in leaflet after leaflet. Clegg looked into the camera and promised to honour his party's pledge to stop fees.

On the substance of the issue I'm glad Clegg supported Cameron on higher fees. A lot of myths have become attached to the Coalition's proposals. If I was a Tory MP I'd have voted for today's bill. I support the basic outline of the Cable/Willetts package (although I also support reduced university numbers too). But I think Clegg made a terrible mistake in agreeing to undertake such a u-turn.

Time may be on the LibDems' side. This might all be forgotten by 2015 but I doubt it. Many voters will always see Clegg as untrustworthy now.

The Tories may gain seats in the south if the LibDems continue to tank but they could lose support in Con/Lab marginals if a soft LibDem third-placed vote transfers to the Labour candidate. Ipsos-MORI reported today that in parts of the North the LibDems are down to 3%!

My other great worry is encapsulated in what I called Montgomerie's Law; This Coalition drifts leftwards or breaks down. I fear over a whisky in the 10 Downing Street lovenest tonight, David Cameron will be promising concessions to Nick Clegg in a bid to reassure his incredibly divided party.

The biggest loser is public faith in politics. The man who wooed the nation in that first election debate, promising to change politics, has made such a dramatic u-turn that he has brought politics into renewed contempt.



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