About the only opportunity Nick Clegg has to win popular acclaim is if the doctored apology broadcast becomes a viral hit - hopefully Christmas Number One this year. After another year of achieving no Liberal Democrat policy triumphs, reduced to sabotaging Tory constitutional outrage, and participating in an economic experiment that rivals Thatcherism for its total disconnect from reality, he is rallying his remaining troops for another thirty months of public humiliation, before the party is decimated by the electorate.
There is some merit in this, at least in terms of boosting Ministerial pension entitlements, but Clegg has failed to realise that the only chance that the Liberal Democrats now have of even partial redemption is by full-throated exposure of the lunacy that the Tories are now trying to spin. The place to do this is from Opposition benches - voting for Coalition agreement measures but no further. Clegg's strategy, on the other hand, seems to be to turn the Liberal Democrats into a version of the German FDP, well to the right of the Tories on virtually every economic policy - with vestiges of genuine liberalism only where it supports free-market economics. The return of every Tory's favourite Liberal, David Laws, reinforces this trend.
Clegg's policy position resembles a hypnotised rabbit in the path of an oncoming juggernaut. The enthusiastic endorsement of Osborne's economic mismanagement and the self-flagellating support for deflationary, depressionary austerity is depressing. If there were actually a Plan A, as opposed to shovelling cash in the direction of Tory cronies and getting the hell out before being caught, then Plan B might not be necessary. Instead there seems to be a conspiracy to get the last decent man in the Cabinet, Dr Cable, to do all the dirty work - diluting employment rights, upping tuition fees - while simultaneously slandering his loyalty and playing up to Tory lies spread about his socialism.
We shall see whether the apology on tuition fees will cause any kind of dead-cat bounce in Lib Dem support - but there is no strategy other than hoping that something might turn up. Miliband is delighted, as this means that there will be no need to make any meaningful pronoucements as the Coalition approachs shipwreck. That is the tragedy, and a failure of duty on both the part of Labour and what's left of Liberal Democrat engagement.