Nick Clegg’s fourth half hour phone-in this morning was the first I had actually managed to listen to all the way through. It takes some guts for a senior member of the Government to take unvetted calls from members of the public every week. In just 30 minutes, he answered questions on subjects like youth unemployment, the threatened Lewisham hospital, childcare, stay at home parents, David Ward’s comments and HS2 and its role in providing prosperity for the whole country.
One man was very angry about the comments made by David Ward for which he apologised and was subsequently censured by the Chief Whip. Nick said he hadn’t spoken to David Ward himself but that:
I can’t be clearer in my own personal abhorrence of anything based on prejudice rather than objective criticism.
The questioner wanted to see the whip withdrawn from Ward, and Nick acknowledged that there were some people who wanted to see that happen. Similarly, though, others felt that the party had gone too far and the important thing was that he had apologised for his offensive words. If I can just add a personal opinion in here – Ward mucked up, he apologised and we should move on. We are a party that believes in rehabilitation and second chances and I’m glad we practised it.
Another caller criticised the Lib Dem decision to vote against the boundary changes. Nick said that it was bad for the country that the House of Lords had not been reformed and that, ultimately, a deal was a deal. The Tories reneged on the commitment both in their manifesto and the Coalition Agreement for Lords Reform and the Liberal Democrats were within their rights to withdraw support from a related item.
He made no attempt to hide that the Liberal Democrats were at fault in not “reflecting the country we seek to represent” in response to a question on the lack of women in politics. He told the caller, a young woman, that the best thing she could do was to get involved in politics herself and talked about how we were trying to change things by putting money and mentoring into making our party more diverse.
His response to a question about marriage tax breaks inspired the caller to say that she agreed with Nick who said that it was a bit odd to ask people who weren’t married to pay higher tax. The Deputy PM laughed that he hadn’t heard “I agree with Nick” for a long time.
He told bankers that they needed to be more sensitive about the bonuses they take, and to acknowledge that the whole banking system would have collapsed without the generosity of UK taxpayers. On MPs’ pay, I was glad to see him say how hard MPs work, but also to say that they had to act in keeping with their constituents’ circumstances.
I have made a Storify account of the half hour which you can see here. Alternatively, you can listen to all the Call Clegg shows which are downloadable as podcasts from the LBC website. I’ve set up my iTunes to download them all. If you are able to watch or listen live, apparently you can do so in HD on LBC’s iPhone or iPad application.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings