Matthew Norman: Now Clegg must move in for the kill

With this election, ignorance truly is bliss. Not only does nobody have a clue how it will evolve, but for once no one even pretends to have a clue. And it’s wonderful. The combat sport of politics has become hugely exciting, and that’s change we can all believe in.

More profound change now seems inevitable. In fact it has already begun. Pick your cliché at will, but whether it’s closing stable doors after an equine escape bid or reinserting stoppers in genie-free bottles, there can be no going back however things pan out on and after May. For me at least, the transformational moment came not with the first TV debate last Thursday – perfect catalyst though it was – but a day later, when a poll first established how Labour could win the most seats with the lowest share of the vote, and so form a government. Even this dozy old land, you felt, would no longer tolerate an electoral system of such self-satirising derangement that it might have flowed from the pen of Joseph Heller.

For David Cameron, the Catch 22 is surreal enough to qualify as a Catch 44. He is the party leader who faces the prospect of coming first in the popular vote, second in seats, and nowhere when it comes to the distribution of power. And yet, terrified of a centre-left alliance locking the Conservatives out for generations, he is the only party leader pledged to protect the very system that threatens to ruin him. There can’t have been a paradox like it since Prisoners of Bernard Matthews For Justice petitioned Lambeth Palace to re-schedule Christmas for early October. For a man promoting himself as an agent of change, this is not good. Change By Keeping The Old Crap That Drove us To This Desperate Need For Change … it’s not a brilliant slogan, is it? Fighting For The Great Ignored By Being Ignored isn’t great either.

One man no one is ignoring is Nick Clegg, whom I’d like to unearth as my protégé at Westminster School 30 years ago. Being a few years older, I don’t think I ever actually met him. But I didn’t get where I am today by treating a passing bandwagon as one of The Great Ignored, so I’m putting it about that: a) 13-year-old Nick was placed in the boarding house of which, briefly and inexplicably, I was head; b) he was my toast fag (why let Louis Theroux have all the fun?); c) I beat him once for burning the Mother’s Pride; d) he sobbed his heart out in Dutch with a heavy Russian accent; and e) this act of character-building brutality that made him the man he is today.

More at The Independent

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