Clegg's evolution

PROMISING too much is one of the most basic problems in politics. It is one into which Nick Clegg fell in the year before the General Election and it is no surprise the scars he has picked up after less than a year in Government are already informing his planning for the next poll. He must be open about what the Liberal Democrats are able to achieve and it is this that will help him avoid more of the "vilification" which he described yesterday.

The Sheffield Hallam MP is right to avoid any kind of formal electoral pack with his coalition partners, despite the apparent Conservative soft-pedalling in the recent Pennines by-election but, having sanctioned a series of devastating spending cuts, Mr Clegg must make sure the Government adopts more of his own party's agenda.

His choice of words yesterday, when he talked about being "condemned to compromise" with other parties on the tuition fees rise, was telling. It echoed his party's thinking on a range of issues and reflected the political limbo and economic pressure of last May.

Such an attitude should not become the hallmark of the Liberal Democrats, however. The outcome of the election meant they had little choice but to link-up with the Conservatives and, having pledged to govern in the national interest, they must do so. As Mr Clegg stares at some shocking poll ratings, he should find he is best-served by sticking with his emerging sense of hardness and realism.