I can smell blood in the water, and it ain’t Nick Clegg’s.
The debate and the Lib Dem surge it provoked have thrown this election campaign wide open, and it’s scaring the Fourth Estate shitless. I can’t blame them; they’ve been witness to an event which aptly demonstrated their own irrelevancy.
A Liberal Democrat was allowed to speak – unmediated – on equal terms with his rivals directly to the public, and the public liked what they saw. They didn’t need pundits or commentators to view events and decide what to think on their behalf (although various papers did try to sell conclusions totally at odds with the evidence; despite what the Mirror thought, Brown was not the winner). The journalists are used to setting the narrative, creating the structure of events as much as reporting them, and the story they wanted, expected, to tell us was of Dave, the compassionate Conservative, brushing Brown aside on his inevitable ascent into power.
But that hasn’t happened, and the papers are crapping themselves.
The current smear stories are laughable; one is an out-of-context quote from 8 years ago, the other is a non-story: Clegg received money from donations into his personal account, the money was declared with the relevant authorities, and the donors are satisfied that their money was used for the intended purpose. The worst case scenario you could claim, I suppose, is that he pocketed it. That would be a pretty serious allegation, and one the Telegraph is studious to avoid; likely because such an allegation would probably attract a libel suit that they would almost certainly lose.
If anybody had any real dirt on Clegg, they would have used it by now. Toppling a Lib Dem leader makes a pretty good story even when there isn’t an election. No, this latest behaviour just reeks of desperation. If this is really the worst they could dig up, you have to wonder what weak stuff they didn’t print.
They’re throwing whatever they can at Clegg to try and recapture their narrative for this election; to try and spin the Lib Dem surge as a temporary blip, a blip that will be corrected back to story we’re supposed to be reading, the story of the triumphal coronation procession of David Cameron, finally taking his rightful place behind the famous black door of Number 10.
I think this election can be different; we finally have a chance here to smash two-party politics that we haven’t had in decades. Power doesn’t have to shift from Labour to Conservative and Conservative to Labour as sure as the swing of a pendulum; we can vote for something different. We can have something different. Words can’t quite express how happy I am that in my first General Election the choice isn’t just between the lesser of two evils.