April 2010, we had a Ash Cloud threatening apocalyptic chaos to peoples travel plans and Gordon Brown had just called an election. Despite the lingering cloud, the sun was well and truly shining for the Liberal Democrats.
The proverbial parliamentary also rans, never were, now held the balance of power. Led by their charismatic leader Nick Clegg, it seemed as if the party had planted itself in the nations conscience and had become serious contenders to break the Labour Conservative monopoly.
Despite an electoral system in favour of the two main parties. The Lib Dems had reasons to be cheerful. Polls were predicting massive gains for the Liberals. Clegg’s popularity was sky high. Even a botched hatchet job by the Daily Mail and the trail of right wing press couldn’t usurp Clegg and his parties march to the top.
The parties election broadcast was a polished affair. It featured Brain Eno’s An Ending. It featured the messiah Clegg walking through a mass of broken promises. Little did the Lib Dems and Nick Clegg then know that they would end up ruing said video.
If you type in Lib Dems into Youtube the first suggestion that turns up is “Lib Dems Broken Promises.” The comments section once awash with eulogies to the “principled” party are now full of venom and accusations of “selling out.”
But the one image from the broadcast that will haunt Clegg and the Lib Dems will be this;
Both Tories and Labour have gained a lot of capital from circulating images of Nick Clegg with a signed pledge on tuition fees and this will no doubt be just as haunting to Lib Dem strategists.
As it so happened the Lib Dems lost seats instead of actually making any gains, although many Lib Dems will be quick to point out that the party had indeed increased the number of votes it got by a million. Nick Clegg has gone from messiah to a mess and is now as popular as pork at a Muslim wedding. Remember the #Iagreewithnick, it seems like a long time ago now but it must seem a life time ago for Liberal Democrats.
Vince Cable enjoyed loveable grandpa status before the election having got the better of Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling and George Osborne on several occasions.
But is now treated as a pariah by students over his handling of tuition fees. Ridiculed by the press for his ostentatious boasting to two undercover female reporters from the Daily Telegraph about how he was going to wage war on Rupert Murdoch’s empire.
The vote on AV lost, a derisory showing at the last local elections and with cuts now beginning to bite, the Lib Dems find themselves on a slippery steep slope. Only time will tell, three and half years down the line to be exact whether the cost of being in government is terminal for the Lib Dems.
Until then here is a reminder of the halcyon days for the Liberal Democrats fueled by Clegg-mania. They’ll be hoping that it isn’t a case of being “An Ending”. Enjoy.