As Nick Clegg stands in front of his en suite bathroom mirror brushing his teeth and washing his face he looks into the mirror and sighs. Just a few hours ago he had announced to the world that he had in fact found the cure to the common cold. It was the scientific breakthrough of the century. He thought that millions of people would rejoice. He thought the backlash of student fees would evaporate. His joy however was short-lived.
After his announcement though things started to go swiftly pear-shaped. GlaxoSmithKline issued a Press Release saying that this news would result in 1000s of job loses and a rather large dent in the UK Pharmaceutical industry. Job losses are never a good thing and Nick winced. He waited though for the six-o-clock news and expected a big back-slap via the tones of Sophie Raworth, Hew Edwards or George Alagiah. He was however to be disappointed.
‘Nick Clegg tries to use common cold cure for political advantage according to Ed Miliband’ comes out of the mouth of Sophie as the news gets underway. He sits up as a spot of tomato ketchup that he was dipping in chips in falls down his shirt and tie. Next up he hears Nick Robinson saying, ‘here in Westminster the knifes are out as Nick Clegg steps outside the coalition agreement much to the chagrin of several Tory ministers and backbenchers’ and Clegg can’t believe it as the third headline is a clip of a VT VoxPop saying ‘Why has Clegg done this? Doesn’t he realise that we the public don’t want no cure? We like the free days off from work’. Clegg slumps back in his armchair not believing what he is hearing, either in terms of content or in terms of the quality of the English language coming from the VoxPoper.
It is at this point that Clegg notices the tomato ketchup stain and tries to mop it up with a fish finger. Instead of flipping over to channel four and catching an old episode of The Simpsons Clegg decides to stick with the news. Ed Miliband is saying that by finding a cure to the common cold Nick Clegg is trying to destroy the NHS. Without common cold patients littering doctors waiting rooms up and down the country some of these surgeries will be closed or sold off to Tory housing developers to build new blocks of flats that will not be affordable therefore pricing good honest folk out of housing and making them move to ghetto type slums on the edges of the Scottish moors. By doing this he has also condemned 1000s of people to redundancy and inflicted serious harm on one of our biggest industries.
The boom mic over Ed Miliband’s head picks up a pinging sound. It is his button on his trousers flying across the room. Talk about a stretch there from the leader of the opposition. Nick Clegg can hardly believe his ears. He was sure the cure to the common cold was a good thing but it seems to may not have been gauging the temperature of the nation quite right. He then misses his mouth with a spoon full of peas and a couple roll down the back of the armchair. He turns to fetch them using the five second rule but before he does so the voice of Nick Robinson pipes up.
‘Around these halls the name of Nick Clegg is being met with a mixture of disgust and pity’ explodes the BBC Political guru. ‘As one cabinet minister said to me today, there is no point backing Clegg when all he does is think of himself. The Conservative Party has always been pro-job and pro-industry but if Clegg wants to kill off jobs and a whole industry in one foul swoop then what can we say or do? He is making a rod for his own back’.
Clegg sits there aghast. He remembers the peas and goes to fetch them but they have too much fluff on so he put them to the other side of the plate to ensure he doesn’t eat them. He knew the third headline was about what the general public thought and he hoped it would be positive but he feared. He heard the same woman going on about days off work again but the other interviews were with GlaxoSmithKline employees and a doctor who is worried about the future of his surgery and the NHS as a whole.
By finding the cure to the common cold he thought people would focus on the billions saved by people having less sick days, the faster and stronger output from British industries, the money saved by the consumer buying cold relief placebos and the general feeling of being a healthier nation and a healthier planet but as always Nick Clegg was wrong. Whatever he did was wrong.
Ever since the trio of the Labour Party, the Conservative Party and the media realised that the Liberal Democrats a) existed and b) had a leader following the first Prime Minister Debates on the telly in 2010 things have started to go downhill for Clegg. The old guard were not amused at having a seemingly legitimate pretender to the throne. They had grown comfortable with two-party politics and enjoyed the state of passing control back and forth between them like a two-player pass the parcel. Having three people playing seemed rather unfair and limited their opportunities to win a prize or control the media agenda.
When the electorate couldn’t make its mind up it fell to Clegg to make a decision. He made one and the public were not happy. The politicians were not happy. ‘How can Nick Clegg and those insignificant Liberal Democrats have such power?’ exclaimed some unknown MP (probably). The country politically had moved on. The old boys club had been moved on to pastures new. There was a new kid and party in town but that only led to people fearing the unknown. People like familiarity. Having a new kid on the block scares people. They might hate Labour and hate the Tories but at least they knew them. They knew what they hated. With Clegg and his lot people just hated but they weren’t sure why.
Fast forward the best part of two years and here we are. The common cold cured but the person who cured it was so unpopular with Joe Public that they decided they didn’t want the cure and that it is a bad thing. As Ed Balls talks to Adam Boulton and sneezes over the camera he quickly says that colds are good for Britain and that he was happy to be infected and be infectious because that is part of what makes Britain great. Clegg can’t believe he turned to Sky News instead of going out for a walk.
After an evening where he just couldn’t settle Clegg looked at the social media world and knew that was a mistake. He was being called everything under the sun and knew deep down he didn’t deserve it. As he put the toothbrush back into the glass on his wash basin he sighed and looked at the mirror and said, ‘next you’ll be telling me that if I ensure competition in the NHS only benefits the NHS and the level of patient care instead of lining the pockets of private companies and individuals that no-one will like that either and claim that I’m either not doing enough or I acted to late. Heck I bet they’ll be those that say even if I killed the whole NHS Bill and did exactly what Labour say they want (but deep down they really don’t) and what the public want that I didn’t act fast enough and am still a loser who they hate’.
Nick Clegg shook his head in despair and walked back into the martial bedroom and lay awake in bed thinking about what could have been but sadly for him he mostly thought about what it is. He had discovered something that scientists had been striving for for centuries but yet because it was he who discovered the cure to the common cold no-one cared for it.
With that he rolled over and tried to fall asleep safe in the knowledge that he could do wonders but it wouldn’t be enough. In politics just like in the country the electorate were comfortable – if not exactly happy – with the status quo. With him and his party coming in and actually changing the way the country is run it has knocked more than a few noses out of joint and people weren’t happy. They thought that he could do everything and that he was Superman but alas he was just one man and change takes time certainly when you hold but 8.8% of MPs.
His last thought before he fled to the land of bedfordshire for the night was ‘people don’t like change but we are here to stay and one day they’ll appreciate what we are doing and one day we’ll get the credit for helping this country get back on its feet after the financial troubles of the late part of the last decade’. As that thought breezed through his mind he fell asleep and knew that whatever he faced the next day he’d do with the inner-belief that in the long-term he was making changes to the government and to the governance of this country that would make it a more liberal and more prosperous place to live for everyone – and not just one class of people.