Could there be a sadder sight today than Nick Clegg, intervening on behalf of his now tiny ‘minor party’ in the Queen’s Speech debate? The Lib Dem leader is responding to this afternoon, his first intervention since the general election, and plans to use his slot to complain that the Tories are already turning their backs on the ‘clear thread of liberalism’ that his party installed in the government. He will say:
‘So it is dispiriting – if pretty unsurprising – to see how quickly, instead of building on those achievements, the new Conservative Government is turning its back on that liberal stance.’
The ex-Lib Dem leader will add that ‘my party’s parliamentary presence may be reduced in size, but our mission is clearer than ever. As we did in the Coalition government, we will fight any attempt to weaken the fundamental rights of our citizens’.
Actually, it’s not clear that the Lib Dems’ mission is clearer. Does the party become a protest group, sending out press releases and campaigning on issues that upset it? Does it try to paint the Tories as villains by revealing yet more things that it stopped them doing while in government? Or does it focus on rebuilding the party through by-elections, local councils and an approach to politics which means it can say one thing in one part of the country, and another elsewhere?
His intervention is also a little weakened by the fact that the Tories are not, as Clegg had believed, introducing human rights reform as part of this Queen’s Speech.
The Tories shouldn’t laugh too much at Clegg, though, as he makes his lonely intervention with his seven Lib Dem colleagues watching. Given he did enjoy a close working relationship with David Cameron, Clegg can make an intervention that provides an insight – and presumably not a particularly flattering one – into the way the Prime Minister works and his priorities which may contradict his ‘One Nation’ focus today.