by Katharine Wall As I came down the stairs this morning, I found a letter on the doormat – ‘a personal message from Nick Clegg.’ Excitedly I opened the envelope, eager to see what our leader had to say. In this flurry of anticipation I realised, with dismay, that all had been somewhat quiet on the Lib Dem front. Back in December with the election of a young, energetic, ‘charismatic’ gentleman from Sheffield via Cambridge– a ‘true man of the people’ – all was hope and expectation was high. In the form of Vince Cable, the right honourable gentlemen had a tough act to follow. In a political game which is becoming more about sound-bites, personality, and one’s ability to banter in the House, Clegg’s somewhat earnest arrival on the floor of the Commons marked a shift in style. His sober approach to Prime Ministers Questions over the last few weeks has compounded this image: Northern Rock, Soldiers in Iraq, condemnation of the ‘Surveillance State.’  The earnest approach is not the flaw in Clegg’s game plan, however. In his first major speech as leader he said ‘we are the only radical force in British Politics. We must be the champions of new ideas.’ It is time the leader of the Liberal Democrats followed his own advice. A radical before, detailing progressive ideas for the integration of the EU into the UN in his contribution to the Orange Book; creating the most practical and ideologically sound immigration policy this country has seen for decades as Home Affairs spokesman; and consistently advocating liberal values in the face of opposition. It is time Mr Clegg returned to his principles and gained the confidence to apply them.At a time when the Government and the Opposition are falling apart over scandal, corruption and failure to deliver, the chance to push forward a Liberal Democratic agenda has never been greater.
The chance to save our civil liberties from erosion, the chance to ensure fair equality of opportunity for all, which means a good education for every child, decent healthcare for all, and a clean environment within which to live, the chance to reinvigorate democracy in this country. The Liberal Democrats are a party who need not follow the rules of opposition, we are not constrained by the two party dynamic. Yes, leadership is important. Clegg will improve. Yes, policy must be created. There is time. What we must not forget is that a party is an ideal, a vision for society. We must have the courage to create it. Politics is more than the men who make it. It is about our dedication to a fight for change. As I read the close of his letter, I nod in agreement: ‘the target I have set is ambitious – we need to get started right away.’
Katharine Wall is the OUSU Women’s Officer.