Nick Clegg: the U.K.’s lesser version of Mitt Romney

This isn’t anything that concerns most of the U.S. In fact, most of the world doesn’t care about it. But, when I was in Britain, I could never figure out why the Lib Dems formed a coalition with the Tories.

The natural alliance should have been that the Lib Dems teamed up with Labour, but the general Rupert Murdoch fueled hatred of Labour’s prime minister, Gordon Brown, and the hunger for power by Rupert Murdoch fueled flunky David Cameron were so visceral, that it was obvious that as of the next election, Brown would be out.

I was at an election party in London sponsored by a media outlet controlled by Murdoch. I talked to a Cameron supporter and asked what had Gordon Brown done wrong, and got the standard answer you get from someone on the right, “Well, what has he done right?” It’s one of those answers you have to challenge, because people who give it usually don’t know why they hate something. They just know they have to hate it. It’s the response of anyone who gets their news from a Murdoch outlet.

But, other than being clumsy as a speaker and having a personality that made Richard Nixon look like Jack Kennedy, Brown had been fairly consistent about keeping Britain out of the toilet. Social services were adequate. He was given enormous credit for his response to the global banking crisis of 2008-2009. The pound was worth double the U.S. dollar. And people weren’t regularly rioting in the streets.

So I asked the Brown hater again, really, why do people hate Brown so much, because I really didn’t understand the snarling of the anti-Gordon forces. The guy didn’t give much of an answer beyond, “what has he done right,” again, so I asked, “If Tony Blair were running under the same conditions, would Labour win?” And the guy’s reluctant answer was “Yes.”

In a rational world, when the International Monetary Fund job came open with Dominique Strauss Kahn‘s rape charge, Gordon Brown should have been a strong contender to be the new director, because the guy showed he could handle a large scale financial crisis of global implication. But the Murdoch/Cameron forces made sure he wouldn’t get the job.

Anyway, back at election night in 2010, As the votes were counted, it was clear that the Conservatives made huge gains. But they didn’t have an outright win. The Lib Dems could have formed a coalition with Labour, which would have made sense, with the understanding that Brown would be out at PM. In fact, Brown agreed to that.

Nick Clegg and David Cameron

But Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, sold his soul and went with the Tories.

And now, everything the Conservatives do is the polar opposite to everything the Lib Dems stand for. One of the things that mark the essence of the Lib Dem soul was the belief in working with the European Union for the betterment of the coalition. But on Friday, Cameron rejected a EU summit pact “aimed at shoring up the foundations of the euro through a new treaty spelling out, among other things, binding caps on government spending and borrowing,” according to the Washington Post.

Britain’s economy is collapsing, the pound has narrowed in value compared with the dollar, social services are being gutted and people are rioting in the streets. And Britain is now irrelevant as a voice in Europe’s future.

We can criticize Mitt Romney for not taking a stand on anything other than what someone else believes in, as long as it will get him elected. But Nick Clegg shows what the results of being a weasel will be. When the next election rolls around, the Lib Dems are dead. As Marina Hyde at the Guardian, a non-Murdoch paper, put it:

So what a radioactive irony that Clegg should make that precise dysfunctional relationship the template for the relationship between his own party and the Tories. The Lib Dems are there, but appear to have no influence. They take bucketloads of crap and wield none of the power. It’s the worst of both worlds.

This relationship dynamic may well have secured Britain’s destruction in Europe, and it has almost certainly secured the Liberal Democrats’ destruction for the foreseeable. Whether their MPs will be able to fill a taxi after the next general election is a matter of debate.

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Lagarde likely to replace DSK at IMF

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde (L) ...

Christine Lagarde with Dominique Strauss-Kahn

There’s been speculation for a week, but it looks like Europe is rallying around French finance minister Christine Lagarde as the successor to Dominique Strauss-Kahn at the head of the International Monetary Fund:

As the International Monetary Fund prepared to accept nominations Monday to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn at its helm, European officials rallied over the weekend around Christine Lagarde, France’s finance minister, as their top choice for the post, despite fresh warnings from leaders of emerging markets and other countries that simply handing the job to another European could undermine the fund’s legitimacy.

It’s hard to believe the Europeans would let anyone outside of Europe take over the IMF post now that DSK is gone. There’s an unwritten agreement that an American gets to lead the World Bank and a European gets the IMF. If you look at the World Bank, the past two heads have been Robert Zoellick and Paul Wolfowitz, both Bush administration veterans.

There are a number of reasons the Europeans want control of the World Bank, but the most important is they don’t want anyone outside of their continent making decisions that will have a huge bearing on dealing with the current European economic crisis. IMF policies in Africa and South America have caused a lot of pain on those continents and have also led to anti-IMF riots. And after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, in which the IMF tied loans to major structural overhauls of the banking, currency and economic systems of affected Asian countries, the Europeans definitely don’t want someone from Asia, the continent most likely to provide a new leader for the organization, taking over the post. There must be a huge fear of payback among Europeans if someone outside the continent was making decisions on whether Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Portugal would survive, not to mention the general economic problems facing the continent.

In terms of selecting a European to head the IMF, it is kind of surprising that Gordon Brown, the former U.K. prime minister, isn’t being seriously considered. Just a few years ago, when the world economy was collapsing, he was being praised as the world leader who kept his head and developed a viable recovery plan while the rest of the world was running in circles. But the rest of Europe really doesn’t trust anyone who comes from the U.K. Some, in fact, blame the Anglo-U.S. economic model for the current global financial mayhem. And in the U.K., surprisingly, there is a visceral hatred of Gordon Brown, something I never quite understood when I was there. The current U.K. chancellor of the exchequer (what we would call the Treasury secretary), George Osborne, despises Brown and absolutely refuses to support his candidacy as the IMF chief. So, Brown is out.

And it’s kind of ironic that Christine Lagarde is the front runner … a French woman replacing a Frenchman accused of a sex crime.

But Europe will rally behind one candidate to make sure Europe retains the IMF leadership. And right now, the rally is behind Lagarde.