Clegg Victory Would End 'Special Relationship'

Americans need to be wary about the possibility of Nick Cregg, leader of the far-left Liberal Democratic Party, taking a key role in a new British government.

Although polls in Great Britain are yielding varied results days before the May 6 general election, what seemed out of the question only two months ago is now a distinct possibility. There may be a government in which Clegg emerges as either a coalition partner with the Tory (Conservative) or Labour Parties, or very possibly, as prime minister himself.

As to why Americans should care who is in charge at No. 10 Downing Street (the prime minister’s official residence), one only has to look at Clegg’s public statements calling for a radical shift in foreign policy.

The “special relationship” with the U.S. is over, Clegg says, and British leaders need to end what he considers a “slavish” devotion to America.

Clegg also insists that Britain should consider “not having a continuous at-sea deterrent.” During his polished performance in the second televised debate last month, the Lib-Dem leader came under fire from one of his opponents, Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, for his proposal to replace their country’s submarine-based nuclear missiles with a cheaper system.

“Get real” was Brown’s response to Clegg regarding a replacement of the current deterrent system.”

In a recent address to the Foreign Policy Association, Clegg warned against “saber-rattling” over whether Iran has nuclear weapons—taking a strikingly different tact from other world leaders such as French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who are indeed concerned about the prospect of a nuclear Iran.

In moving away from the “special relationship” with the U.S., where would a “Prime Minister Clegg” head? To Europe, of course. The former European Parliament member is the most pro-Europe of the three party leaders. Clegg’s own party platform states, “It is in Britain’s long-term interest to be part of the Euro”—although he insisted that the UK should accept the Euro only when economic conditions have improved and after a national plebiscite.

With his calls for reversal from a nuclear deterrent, putting Iran on the backburner, and ending a “slavish” devotion to America, Nick Clegg would likely move relations between the U.S. and the UK to the coldest they have been since the Suez crisis of 1957. Even if he manages a plurality next week and plays kingmaker, Clegg will no doubt have an influence in any government he helps brings to power on these critical matters.

Even after the embattled Brown called the election last month, few took Clegg and the “Lib-Dems” seriously. Initially the “Liberal Party” (they merged with renegade Labour Party members in the 1980’s to become the Liberal Democrats), the Lib-Dems last held power in Britain in 1922. But after two stellar performances in the first-ever televised debates among leaders of the parties in Britain, no one is writing off Clegg anymore. 

“Since [Clegg’s] coup in the first engagement with [Conservative Party leader] David Cameron and Gordon Brown, when he channeled voters’ anger against politics as usual, sage political voices have warned that ‘the bubble will burst,’ or that ‘the froth will come off,’” wrote Richard Reeves in the Financial Times April 26, “Twelve days on, the bubble is intact: the froth is firmly in place.”

Noting that “the two old parties are in disarray,” Reeves mentions the much-discussed scenario of Clegg “as a possible kingmaker in a ‘hung’ parliament, one in which neither Labour nor the Tories have a majority of the 650 seats in the House of Commons May 6 and thus have to turn to the Lib-Dems to form a government. 

However, Reeves also notes, “there is a chance [Clegg] will be king.”

Americans should be closely watching what Britain does on May 6.