Sometimes I almost feel sorry for Nick Clegg. Week after week in the Commons Chamber he has to pretend not to notice or care when MPs ostentatiously walk out as soon as he starts talking or jeer or heckle or yawn. Watching can sometimes be excruciating, like observing an amateur comic dying on stage. But then he spoils it by being pompous in a self-important sixth form way, and my sympathy evaporates. The pomposity is probably a necessary protective device, but it doesn't come across well, at least not to those of us in the same room as him.
Clegg doesn't seem to have done much to lift Lib Dem fortunes since the end of the Ming dynasty, if you look at overall levels of Lib Dem support in the opinion polls, but I wonder - has he actually won any new support for his party? Are there any people out there who weren't Lib Dem before, but have been won over by his leadership? Has he inspired younger people,* or attracted any new voters as he's steered his party on a rightwards course? Genuine question. After all, even if his party has remained roughly static in the polls, it could be that he's lost some (not very bright) people to Cameron's cuddly Conservatives, and some have come back to Labour in these almost post-Iraq days, but if this is the case (and logic would dictate that it is), has he compensated for that elsewhere?
*Out on the campaign trail on June 4th (polling day) I came across a couple of young canvassers who were lost in Lawrence Hill. Before telling them what road they were on, I asked what party they belonged to. Lib Dems, they said, 'so at least we're ideological allies'. No. We're not. Comes back to the old individualism -v- collectivism argument at a national level, but at a local level I've not come across a single Lib Dem with an ideological bone in their body. We won the ward over the Lib Dems by 9 votes. If we'd lost by 9 I'd have been kicking myself for telling them where they were!