Nick Clegg is probably the country’s most knowledgable person on international trade, the EU and our relationship with it. Read his brilliant Brexit Challenge papers to see how true that is.
We should listen to whatever he says on Brexit because he is most often right.
However, for the former leader of a political party, he has shown a monumental amount of naivety in suggesting that people need to join Labour or the Conservatives to stop Brexit. He could not be more wrong.
You can maybe see where he gets the idea from. When he was leader of the Liberal Democrats, and, specifically, Deputy Prime Minister, the party was forever telling him in forms of motions passed by its Conference and various firestorms on the internet, that he was wrong. We sent him some pretty strong and unambiguous messages on things like the Bedroom Tax, secret courts and reforms to the social security system that disadvantaged people. Sure, we should take credit for what we stopped the Tories unleashing on the country, but we also did some stuff that we shouldn’t.
Yes, we sent him plenty messages. Sometimes he acted on what we told him, sometimes he didn’t, and sometimes he had to put a lot of effort into persuading the party to back his position.
Let’s compare and contrast with the Tories and Labour. They aren’t great about letting their members actually influence their policies. You didn’t actually see many actual votes on the issues of the day at their conferences. You didn’t see any at the Conservatives. They don’t do that sort of thing. They were shocked by the internal democracy in the Liberal Democrats and thought it very strange. Ordinary Labour members don’t get much of a chance to influence policy either. Even if they wanted to, remember that their Conference didn’t even get to discuss Brexit because they might disagree.
Also, influencing policy in a political party, even ours, takes time that we don’t have. We have a year, maximum, to stop this disaster. Labour and the Tories are too far gone down the pro Brexit path.
I would strongly suggest that membership surges for either Tories or Labour would suggest a backing for the awful cliff-edge Brexit that they are colluding to inflict on us. In fact, though, the Tory membership is tanking.
In contrast, a membership surge for the Party of Remain, who are going all out to stop Brexit and stay in the EU would be one of a number of very strong indicators that the will of the people is no longer behind leaving the EU. So, if you want to stop Brexit, put your heart and soul into persuading others that it is a terrible idea. Write to your MP so that they know how you feel. You better believe that the pro Brexit crowd are filling their inboxes so we need to do the same. Oh, and join us. After all, we are the Rebel Alliance in this context, with Vince, as he put it, as a Proud Saboteur. Remember that wonderful from his Conference speech:
We know, of course, that our call will be resented by the Brexit fundamentalists.
We will be denounced as traitors and saboteurs.
I’m half prepared for a spell in a cell with Supreme Court judges, Gina Miller, Ken Clarke, and the governors of the BBC.
But if the definition of sabotage is fighting to protect British jobs, public services, the environment and civil liberties, then I am a proud saboteur.
Political party membership alone isn’t going to stop Brexit, but if you are inclined that way, for heavens sake join the Rebel Alliance and not the Imperial forces of the establishment.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings