Nick Clegg's Leadership Dilemma

So in a week that showed Ed Miliband's leadership of the Labour Party was coming under pressure again, comes bad news for Nick Clegg. His party have currently lost three-quarters of their support since the last General Election.

This isn't surprising. The Liberal Democrats are no longer the anti-government protest vote. They have been absorbed inside the Government, and serve a valuable role for the Conservative party.

The majority of public dissatisfaction at Government performance, becomes directed at the Lib-Dems. Why? Because they represent the weakest point of the Government. Cameron and Osborne have the confidence and surety to build a shield of immunity against public criticism.

Nick Clegg can't come out from such a platform of certainty. He is standing on the thin ground of compromise, where to many, he appears to have exchanged power for principles. Thus leaving him vulnerable to charges of selling out.

The Lib-Dems have been on the outside looking in for the last century, mounting critical attacks on successive governments. Now that they are on the inside, they have lost the core strength that their role as outsiders gave them.

That ability to stand for fairness, equality and justice, has become absorbed in the government machine. For all Nick Clegg protestations, they have lost their unique voice. The leader appears dis-connected from the party's core values.

Clegg now faces a huge leadership dilemma. Does he stay locked into government, and try to find the voice of protest and change, that amplifies those values. Taking a position of defiance, becoming The Outsider whilst on The Inside.

With the enormous risk that his party could go the way of The Greens in Ireland, and get wiped out at election time, by an angry public wanting to take out their simmering frustration on the perceived weakest link.

Or can he re-connect to his party's DNA, and from out of those core ingredients take the path that naturally amplifies Liberal Democrat's role in British politics.

With people not generally sure of what Ed Miliband stands for, there is a vacancy on The Outside for a leader who can champion the views and feelings, of those who don't feel represented by the coalition.

Nick Clegg is getting warning signs that spell significant long-term trouble for the Liberal Democrats. He will likely take the long view that those polls will change in time.

But for the polls to change, he has to change. He has to start to tell it like it is, and be his own man. Challenging the government publicly, when he disagrees with policies and direction. An Outsider on The Inside. Or has the compromise of power, suppressed his ability to speak freely? The polls suggest this is the case.

Martin Perry is a Leadership Coach. He specialises in helping leaders cross the bridge of change with natural confidence and self-assurance. He can be found at

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