Buxton Festival – Nick Clegg ‘Between the Extremes’

We have a right to change our minds, it is a fundamental right of any democracy, even one as flawed and as inadequate as ours, so Nick Clegg told a full Buxton Opera house.

He was talking about the referendum of course, and berated the Tory decision to hold it with no hurdles other than a winner takes all outcome.

It was a tragedy that the older generation had been responsible for the size of the leave vote, who had little long term stake in the countries future, while the younger generation, who have most to lose voted to remain. By a narrow margin of 52 to 48% their future interests have been compromised and ignored.

When asked if he felt called to led a Macron style political movement to take the centre ground of British politics, he pointed out that having been recently rejected by the electorate of Sheffield Hallam this was hardly a good base from which to launch a new political party. He also stressed that the first past the post system did not encourage the formation of new political parties.

He used the example of UKIP, who in 2015 gained almost 4 million votes across the UK but with the poor reward of only one MP, namely Douglas Carswell. A very poor return indeed. We need electoral reform to deliver a fairer parliamentary representation.

Of course such reform would almost certainly lead to coalition politics. It was clear that Clegg had no regrets about going into coalition with Cameron. Pressure was put on him by officials from the Bank of England, the Treasury, and the Civil Service to act in the best interests of the country, as there was a real fear that when the markets opened after the weekend following the election there was the possibility of financial meltdown.

The sadness is that the opportunities that coalition offered the country were squandered by the Tories, who saw it as a chance to destroy the Liberal Democrats as a political force, and not work for a realignment of the political centre.

The political future is grim and uncertain in this country. We appear to be stumbling to a cliff edge exit from the EU, and out into the brutal world of WTO tariffs and hoping that Trump and others will do a free trade deal with us.

Perhaps we will only realise the magnitude of the error that we have made when it is too late. But we have a right to change our minds. Its called democracy.

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