Take the 2011 Brighton conference. Nick Clegg worked himself up into an almighty lather as he introduced Mister Strawman – the simple 1/0 binary choice of being in coalition and not being in coalition:
I know that there are some in the party – some in this hall even – who, faced with several more years of spending restraint, would rather turn back than press on. Break our deal with the Conservatives, give up on the Coalition, and present ourselves to the electorate in 2015 as a party unchanged. It’s an alluring prospect in some ways. Gone would be the difficult choices, the hard decisions, the necessary compromises. And gone too would be the vitriol and abuse, from Right and Left, as we work every day to keep this Government anchored in the centre ground.
But conference, I tell you this. The choice between the party we were, and the party we are becoming, is a false one. The past is gone and it isn’t coming back. If voters want a party of opposition – a “stop the world I want to get off” party – they’ve got plenty of options, but we are not one of them. There’s a better, more meaningful future waiting for us. Not as the third party, but as one of three parties of government.
The Cleggster invested at least the equivalent of a 2lb bagful of sugar in energy into imbuing those words with the strongest rhetorical force at his disposal. So, all eyes were on the Mister Strawman 1/0 binary choice between being in coalition and not being in coalition. The Cleggster spiel places the blinkers on the audience so that the third choice, staying in coalition but ceasing the string of misjudgments at the leadership level, is effectively hidden from view.
So, we look forward to Mister Strawman’s appearance this year. We can only wait to hear what guise Mister Strawman will take. Could it be the guise of “we cannot be in government and make “immature” statements about national security”?
We can only wait and see.