In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

What does Nick Clegg stand for?

Posted by seumasach on April 25, 2010

Cailean Bochanan
25th April, 2010
I had assumed the British general election would be a non-event, another exercise in  political hegemony by the British elite, past masters in that particular science. However, the emergence of Nick Clegg as a leading contender has led me to take a closer look: something is happening and that itself in the context of the sclerotic entity that is Great Britain is almost unbelievable. The ritual changing of Her Majesty’s guard has been disrupted in some unforeseen way and we face the cataclysmic possibility of people voting en masse for a third party, one that isn’t either New Labour or Conservative. We have movement, possible signs of life. What can it mean?
The ripples have even spread across the Atlantic and no less a figure than Justin Raimondo, talented lead writer of the excellent antiwar.com website, has taken note and hailed the arrival of Clegg on the British scene. He compares Clegg  to the Obama of 2008 but holds out for brighter prospects than with the Great Charlatan and Deceiver. Essentially he sees in Clegg the man to break the mold of what he sees as British subservience to Washington, the long standing Atlanticist consensus. Admittedly he has his doubts too, conceding that
“Clegg is far from perfect on the Afghanistan issue, and there is always the chance that his protests to the effect that he is indeed an Atlanticist may turn out to be all too true.”
Raimondo is right to compare Clegg to Obama and right also in his fleeting doubts as to whether he represents a decisive change in direction for British politics. As with Obama one has to read the small print, in this case provided in the form of the Liberal Democrats electoral programme wherein are encrypted its true intentions.
One appeal of the Lib-Dems is that they are pro-European in a context in which virtually everyone else is viscerally anti-European. Their choice of words, however, seems to be a coded way of telling us their policy is indistinguishable from that of New Labour. They echo exactly Blair in calling for Britain to be “at the heart of Europe” and Brown in calling for euro membership “when the conditions are right” which they aren’t and presumably never will be. We already know what this means in practice. It means Britain continuing to use its influence, to destabilise Europe  and subordinate it to the Atlanticist, NATO agenda. It also means continuing City of London hedge fund attacks on the Eurozone, for the benefit of the US dollar and pound sterling, allowing these currencies, which on the basis of purely economic criteria would be virtually worthless, to continue to be exchangeable on the world market and to cover exorbitant trade deficits. London plays an absolutely critical role on behalf of anglo-american interests here showing that the special relationship is more about a kind of division of labour than the absolute sudordination of London to Washington  allowing Britain to continue to hit above its weight in the world as well as to live beyond its means.
Talking about living beyond our means the LD manifesto calls for a push
“for a renewed international effort on debt and supports 100 per cent cancellation of the unpayable debts of the world’s poorest countries”:
but this turned out not to be a somewhat optimistic goal for the world’s leading debtors,Britain and the USA, but a reference to third world countries which for some reason Clegg thinks depend on our largesse.
Like Obama, Clegg likes to point out that the Cold War is over. The Cold War against the Soviet Union is certainly over given that the latter no longer exists, but the cold war against Russia is ongoing. Clegg, like Obama, claims an opportunity to cut nuclear weapons, even appearing to flirt with unilateral disarmament. He rejects “like-for-like replacement of Trident claiming Britain “is better served by alternatives”. What are these alternatives? There is no indication in the manifesto but a local Lib Dem leaflet favours a submarine based anti-missile shield. This ties in perfectly with Obama’s project and puts us on course for confrontation with Russia.
The manifesto makes great play of “new threats” of an undetermined nature.  This is rich coming from the heart of NATO, an alliance which is openly threatening all and sundry. (Of course, none of Clegg’s pieties go as far as suggesting disengagement from that permanent, institutionalised threat to peace.)
What are these “threats”. Perchance Iran? The Lib Dems support
“action by the international community to stop Iran obtaining nuclear weapons”.
So Clegg thinks Iran aims to obtain nuclear weapons. His intelligence obviously comes from neo-con think tanks rather than the IAEA? But Clegg doesn’t support miliary action against Iran: only sanctions, the first step to military action as we saw in the case of Iraq.
Apart from Iran we are offered only these  vagaries as a sort of post-modern rehash of the war on terror:
“The threats of tomorrow are likely to be driven by failed states, mass migration, climate change and regional instability.”
Like his US counterpart Clegg is a great one for the “green agenda”. Appropriately, since the green agenda is really a neo-Malthusian one, the manifesto hints subtily that there are too many of us.
“Humans are living beyond the ability of the planet  to support life”.
To be fair, there is nothing so overt as a call for a British population of only 18 million as made by Brown’s green advisers.
“Regional instability”, I would have thought, is a particular speciality of ours. If Clegg was saying that he is going to stop stirring things up in Tibet, Europe, the Caucuses, the South Atlantic, Zimbabwe etc., that really would be change!
On Afghanistan Clegg  is, as Raimondo notes, “far from perfect”. His policy is exactly the same as Obama’s. Foolishly, the Lib Dems seem to be holding out for some kind of military victory enabling withdrawal. Clegg has nailed his colours to a lost cause, that of NATO  and this delusional stuff is the consequence. Afghanistan is where empires go down and the anglo-american elite is unanimous in deciding to go down precisely there.
On the “home front” Clegg like Obama wants to reform the City. The City, however, like Wall street, has no intention of being reformed. Reforming the city isn’t a reform, it’s revolution: is Clegg preparing a revolution? I doubt it. He has to appear to do something since people can see their futures being crushed by the City. The most we can say is that the nefarious role of the City is in the open and all politicians have to pay lip service to curbing them.
All the signs are that the Lib Dems are preparing for a “progressive alliance” with New Labour and Clegg has not ruled out serving in government under Gordon Brown. That in itself is enough to give the lie to any intention to challenge City power. Such a scenario would see the Lib Dems taking up the old role of the Labour Left in giving credibility and cover to the realists as they continue to enact the City agenda, and is to be feared.
In conclusion, Clegg offers change, but change a la Obama.(Plus ca change…..) He represents an update of atlanticist thinking which has fallen behind on this  side of the Atlantic since the election in the US of the greener, hipper, pseudo-charismatic conman, Barak Obama of Goldman.

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