Shadow cabinet reshuffle leaked… by Nick Clegg (allegedly)

The Sunday Mirror reports a conversation between Nick Clegg and his chief of staff Danny Alexander conducted on a flight to Scotland. One of the newspaper’s journalists was sitting in the seat in front of the party leader, who apparently discussed his plans to reshuffle the shadow cabinet.

The paper claims that these include demoting Chris Huhne from Home Affairs and moving Steve Webb from the Climate Change portfolio, with David Laws taking his place. Julia Goldsworthy would move to Education and Webb to Justice.

We have no way of judging the accuracy of the report, which claims Nick Clegg also shared some choice comments about some of the colleagues he was planning to move. We should add:

His private spokeswoman said: “We don’t comment on reports of fragments of private conversations. Nick has said before and genuinely believes that he leads the strongest front bench in Westminster.”

Key alleged quotes, according to the Mirror:

Of Chris Huhne:

Clegg dismissed him for the key Environment job by saying the shadow cabinet needed someone “more emotionally intelligent”. He then talked of demoting Huhne.

Of Steve Webb:

“Webb must go,” he said. “He’s a problem. I can’t stand the man. We need a new spokesman. We have to move him. We need someone with good ideas. At the moment, they just don’t add up.”

Of David Laws:

Clegg said: “Laws is not enjoying Education. The Tories have left him no space. But he’s got a forensic intelligence – he’s probably the best brain we have.”
“Give David a day [at Environment] and he’ll come up with more good ideas than Webb has come up with in a year.”

Of Julia Goldsworthy:

“We have to move her [from Communities and Local Government] too. She gets patronised. And we can’t give her Foreign. She’s just not equipped to do it.”

The degree of accuracy in the reported comments is to a large extent irrelevant. What matters is that (i) Nick and Danny have placed themselves and colleagues in an embarrassing situation entirely of their own making (‘careless talk costs lives’), and (ii) relations between the leader and some of the party’s most talented shadow cabinet members will be unnecessarily strained today as a result.

As Nick himself commented in the Telegraph yesterday, in a somewhat different context, “you increasingly have to rely on whistle-blowers to see the full picture…”.

UPDATE: Nick said on today’s Politics Show: “I, as every senior politician read articles claiming what I’ve done, said or think. Almost all of them are wildly inaccurate. A lot of the Mirror article is frankly fiction.”

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156 Comments

  • Cleggs Greatest Admirer 30th Nov '08 - 1:32pm

    thats a non denial denial. just as non apology apologies mean you are realy sorry this denial means its true.

  • being as half the reported stuff is clearly factually inaccurate what makes you think the rest would be any more so?

  • Cleggs Greatest Admirer 30th Nov '08 - 1:53pm

    This story went on the mirror website about 14 hours ago. If “half” the report is “clearly factualy inaccurate” why has no one including Nick himself come out and said so ? Errr ?

  • Thomas Hemsley 30th Nov '08 - 1:55pm

    Hmm. I doubt the public will much care about this, to be honest. It may also not be true. However, this is obviously bad for inter-SC relations (regardless of whether it is true). I actually agree with his public statements that we have the most talented frontbench in the Commons. Even people who I disagree vehemently with, such as David Laws, I recognise have great skills.

    Some of the comments, though, are both unnecessarily personal and wrong. Saying Julia Goldsworthy is patronised and then, well, patronising her by saying she is not equipped to do Foreign! It’s odd. Moving Huhne, too, would be a big mistake, particularly as Dominic Grieve is nowhere to be seen.

  • It doesnt ring true because of how silly the stuff about Webb and Huhne is. I find it hard to believe that Clegg “cant stand” Webb, who is one of the most amenable MPs. Likewise, Huhne was great at environment already, so why wouldnt he be again? The only bit that rings true is that Goldsworthy is a bit over-promoted at the moment.

    Sounds like the discussion has been heavily “sexed up”, in the knowledge that some of it is true – therefore making it impossible for Clegg to deny it because he would have to say which bits were true…

  • David Allen 30th Nov '08 - 2:09pm

    Oh brilliant! Now if we’re looking for someone who’s short on “emotional intelligence”….

  • Chris Stanbra 30th Nov '08 - 2:16pm

    Why would the Mirror journo make this up? There’s surely some truth in this. Anyway, whether its been sexed up or not, the lesson for us all here is – don’t have a private conversation in a place where you can be overheard.

  • Thomas Hemsley 30th Nov '08 - 2:23pm

    “The only bit that rings true is that Goldsworthy is a bit over-promoted at the moment.”

    How can Communities be counted as over-promotion for anyone? It is a very junior department. (Not necessarily a non-department, though).

  • Oh dear. This was bound to happen sooner or later.

    It is pretty well inevitable that Clegg’s relationship with Huhne is going to be a fraught one.

    Huhne stands head and shoulders over Clegg on almost every index. Whenever the former opens his mouth the question that is bound to be asked is why the latter became leader and not the former.

    I don’t know what Clegg has against Steve Webb. The man is hardly a threat, though I suppose his vocal opposition to neo-Thatcherism won’t go down well with Clegg enthusiasts.

    On Julia Goldsworthy, Clegg is spot on, though he could usefully have added “weakness” and “poor judgment” (the charitable explanation for her support for martial law in Cambourne last Summer).

  • Mark Littlewood 30th Nov '08 - 3:01pm

    Sadly, the story rings true for me.

    Once the Mirror journalist realised what was happening, he would almost certainly have transcribed the pertinent sentences (in short hand).

    Obviously when the juicier sentences are distilled from a lengthy conversation, it makes it sound a lot worse. If Nick and Danny spent 45 minutes going through e.g. how well all the rest of the Shadow Cabinet were doing and how they really liked them, all this would be snipped.

    But even if you believe a Mirror journalist would simply invent quotes and ascribe them to Nick or Danny (which I find monumentally unlikely), my real worry is simply the fact that such a conversation took place in such a public place.

    What makes it worse is that this isn’t the first time this has happened – Nick was overheard having a phone conversation by Kevin Maguire on a train a couple of years ago and was reported as being less than flattering about Ming’s leadership.

    Although Nick and Danny were “unlucky to get caught”, these are not risks that should be taken at all. The damage isn’t so much the media coverage – that will blow over after a day – but:

    (a) the impact on relations between the leader and his Shadow Cabinet colleagues
    (b) the tendency to add to an impression amongst the press pack that Nick is gaffe prone.

    Unfortunate – and unnecessary – stuff.

  • Cleggs Greatest Admirer 30th Nov '08 - 3:03pm

    “What is truth?” as Pilate asked. Of course I don’t believe that this is a verbatum minute of the conversation. By defination it will have een sexed up in translation however the single kiler fact is 15 hours on we have no denial. Enough of it is true to make it undenialable which in teurn makes it all true because it can be reported from now till the end of eternity.

    It also has “mythic” truth i that it speaks to a powerful narrative. A leader struggling a bit, tensions in the party etc.

    I also agre that Joe/Josephine Public will neither know nor care. But the media elite will. This is the final nail in his coffin as a serious national politican. They will just keep turning off the oxygen of publicity by not covering him. Its this which is making the polls droop which in turn…

    the party is in a dflation cycle and needs a fiscal stimulus.

  • Mr Lee-Potter really needs to get that selective hearing seen to – it can be a terribly distressing condition.

    Presumably under normal circumstances Nick Clegg could have shouted his reshuffle plans from the rooftops of Westminster and The Mirror would have proved utterly deaf to them.

    It’s very illuminating to see how interesting they suddenly become when a whiff of scandal is introduced.

  • The Mirror has been the only paper fighting a 100% loyal rear-guard action for Labour in the last couple of years. It’s not surprise that they ignore the LDs until there’s some juicy “scandal” involved.

  • Ryan: yes he did, and no doubt it is largely fiction too. But in order to prove it’s largely fiction, Clegg has to say which bit is true… and that’s where the Mirror have him trapped. They are professionals at this kind of mud-slinging remember, and they know he cant possibly say which bit is true – so they know they can add what they want to damage him and the LDs.

  • This is disastrous for the party – Nick Clegg should offer a public apology to his shadow cabinet colleagues and in view of the unbelievable stupidity of this gaffe the Party should consider if he is still fit to lead it!

  • Mark Littlewood 30th Nov '08 - 3:23pm

    LJH,

    If Nick announced a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle using the terminology that was reportedly used on the airplane, the Mirror and every other newspaper would report it.

    But I somehow doubt that the official press release is likely to explain that people are moving jobs “because of their lack of emotional intelligence” or being demoted “because the leader can’t stand them.”

  • Cleggs Greatest Admirer 30th Nov '08 - 3:24pm

    But that is precisely the problem Ryan. A “lot” could mean anything from 33% to 66% but its a tacit admision that some of it is true which is all the media needs.

    Also “fiction” is not the strongest word. its maent to sound like “pack of lies” “completely untrue” but of course isn’t.

    the added spice in the stew is tis is just in time for the “first year” write ups. he was elected 18/12/07.

    What will lay or otherwise journalists run?

    1. Lisbon fiasco

    2. Clegg Over Interview

    3. Being overshadowed by Vince Cable

    4. being caught on a carbon intensive flight slagging off collegues.

    5. being one to two points lower in the polls that his predecesor who was sacked for low polling.

    Is this entirely fair ? No but its what will happen.

    what is the counter narrative?

    1. much improved performance at PMQ’s

    2. err, thats it.

  • I wouldn’t be surprised if the “Mirror” has this on tape. The imputation of underhand disloyalty to colleagues is capable of being defamatory. Few of the personalities concerned are likely to be widely known to “Mirror” readers, it has to be said.

  • Cleggs Greatest Admirer 30th Nov '08 - 3:29pm

    Of course the Mirror is partisan but are you really saying that if any other British news paper had come upon this they wouldn’t publish?

    If cameron had been caught doing this the Lib Dem blogosphere would have had sevral field days. A field Month. and rightly so.

    To be constructive I’d suggest he does the following

    – apologises

    – expreses complete support for all collegues

    – pivots to a real issue eg the pres should be more interested in x,y or z.

  • Interestingly, Iain Dale isn’t particularly convinced by the story either:
    http://iaindale.blogspot.com/2008/11/mirror-journalist-undermines-his-own.html

    Re: “Carbon intensive flight” – this was a flight from London to Inverness. Get into the real world. There is no comparison between that journey – which would take a day by any other method – and London-Birmingham or London-Manchester flights, which are rightly criticised.

  • Mark Littlewood 30th Nov '08 - 3:44pm

    CGA,

    I’m not sure about your suggestions really. Although its an interesting and difficult conundrum about how to dig out of this hole.

    1. What would Nick be apologising for? That he said certain things or that they were said in public? “Sorry I was caught” isn’t much of an apology.

    2. If the reported statements are basically true, then how credible is it to express your complete support to e.g. Steve Webb?

    3. Tricky to pivot to real issues – although desirable obviously. Very difficult to say that the press shouldn’t be interested in what Nick said. If we want to present ourslves as a serious party that merits public attention, then what the leader honestly thinks about his senior colleagues is most definitely newsworthy.

    I think the best thing to do would be to get the reshuffle out of the way now – and certainly before Christmas. And to carry out the reshuffle in such a way as to generate a new angle to the story (e.g. in my view, the SC should only amount to c. 6 or 7 people – our A-list spokespeople for the election campaign)

  • David Allen 30th Nov '08 - 3:44pm

    “A lot of the Mirror article is frankly fiction” can only be understood to mean “Much of it is true”. The journalist will not make a big fuss about such a weak denial.

    A stronger and more specific denial of the most damaging words is, presumably, not sensible. It would give the story extra legs if someone else on the plane then came forward and said “yes, I heard him say that too.”

    So presumably, Clegg will now have to abandon or postpone any plans for a reshuffle? So people like Webb, Goldsworthy and Huhne will have to try to carry on as normal, while Paxman prepares to ask them “so when do you think Nick is going to sack you, then?”

  • Chris Rennard 30th Nov '08 - 4:07pm

    Steve Webb has put out a helpful statement confirming that he has had a friendly conversation with Nick over the article and that the report does not accurately represent Nick’s views.

    Iain Dale is interesting on the inacuracy of the report here:

    http://iaindale.blogspot.com/2008/11/mirror-journalist-undermines-his-own.html

    Chris

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 30th Nov '08 - 4:18pm

    CGA:
    “the added spice in the stew is tis is just in time for the “first year” write ups. he was elected 18/12/07.

    What will lay or otherwise journalists run?

    1. Lisbon fiasco

    2. Clegg Over Interview

    3. Being overshadowed by Vince Cable

    4. being caught on a carbon intensive flight slagging off collegues.

    5. being one to two points lower in the polls that his predecesor who was sacked for low polling.

    Is this entirely fair ? No but its what will happen.”

    The Cleggover interview, for sure, but the other thing you didn’t mention that I think still takes some beating is saying he thought the state pension was £30 a week – expecially taken together with his earlier cringeworthy “I share your pain” interview about having to switch from Ocado to Sainsbury.

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 30th Nov '08 - 4:22pm

    And I still think one of the most damaging things in this piece is the bit about considering going into coalition, but only if the Tories lose.

    This is an absolute gift to the Tory narrative of “Don’t let the Lib Dems keep Labour in power”, which they are sure to push in LD seats in the south of England.

  • Mark Littlewood 30th Nov '08 - 4:24pm

    CCF,

    It’s interesting that you derived a very different meaning from Nick’s reported words than I did.

    I thought he was implying that we might go into coalition with the Tories if they fell short of a majority, but he thought they would win outright.

  • Does the Mirror equip its journalist with listening devices. I have trouble hearing what the person sitting next to me says on an aeroplane. I have a feeling Lee Potter heard a few words, the rest is Harry Potter.

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 30th Nov '08 - 4:39pm

    Mark

    That thought did cross my mind, but it didn’t seem to make sense, because (i) if the Tories had an overall majority the question wouldn’t arise anyway and (ii) it would seem nonsensical to say the Tories had “lost” if they’d gone from opposition to being the largest party in the Commons.

    But in any case the Tories will feel free to interpret what Clegg said in whatever way suits them best, and any attempt at clarification would only make matters worse.

  • ‘Chris Rennard Says:
    30th November 2008 at 4:07 pm
    Steve Webb has put out a helpful statement confirming that he has had a friendly conversation with Nick over the article and that the report does not accurately represent Nick’s views.

    Iain Dale is interesting on the inacuracy of the report here:

    http://iaindale.blogspot.com/2008/11/mirror-journalist-undermines-his-own.html

    I notice, Chris, you only deal with one of the four MPs in the Mirror!

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 30th Nov '08 - 5:07pm

    Peter Black:
    “I think everybody should just calm down. No other journalists seem to be picking this up and even Iain Dale does not believe it.”

    Sorry, but Iain Dale certainly hasn’t said he doesn’t believe it.

    Dale criticised the journalist’s lack of political knowledge – and even there if you look at the responses you’ll see that that was mostly because Dale hadn’t read the article properly.

    As for what you say about no other journalists having picked it up, that’s not true either. There’s a report on the BBC’s main politics news page and the Daily Mail has picked it up:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1090637/Lib-Dem-leader-Nick-Clegg-brands-frontbenchers-useless-blurts-plans-reshuffle-latest-gaffe.html

    It’s such an egregious blunder that I’d be amazed if it doesn’t receive further coverage.

  • James is right.

    The “tomorrow’s fish and chip paper” is a blase response.

    The problem with the story isn’t so much the short-term coverage (although how Peter Black already knows that none of Monday’s papers are running the story is beyond me)…but that it adds to a narrative of gaffe-proneness and that this involves Nick’s senior colleagues.

    Compared to, say, a rather careless answer about the number of sexual partners you’ve had, this incident involves other SC members. (I’m assuming the sexual partners story didn’t!)

  • Mark Littlewood 30th Nov '08 - 5:49pm

    FWIW, Anonymous at 5.09pm is me. Not sure why my name didn’t come up.

  • Eavesdropping on one half of a conversation doesn’t seem to get a very informative article.

  • The story won’t interest the wider public, however it does add to the overall drip-drip effect which is underminding activist confidence in Clegg’s leadership. Beside which, I largely voted for Clegg on Webb’s recommendation, I wonder how he feels today….

  • Mark Littlewood 30th Nov '08 - 6:07pm

    err, Peter, from what I can gather, the journo was eavesdropping on BOTh halfs of the conversation.

    I also think the article is very informative.

    If I was unfortuante enough to be Sunday Mirror editor, I would have given the story at least as much prominence.

    The only issue seems to be the article’s veracity. But surely, it is largely true.

  • Mark

    I would have given it prominence too. But I think MBOY is right first time above. My guess is that there was a piece of paper in front of Clegg and Alexander so that there is some misidentification etc.

  • Mark Littlewood 30th Nov '08 - 6:35pm

    Its possible. In my experience though, journalists are pretty good at verbatim quotes.

  • Grammar Police 30th Nov '08 - 6:44pm

    Fairly annoyingly stupid. Who would be a politician?

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 30th Nov '08 - 8:22pm

    “As for what you say about no other journalists having picked it up, that’s not true either. There’s a report on the BBC’s main politics news page and the Daily Mail has picked it up …”

    And now add an obscure little newpaper called the Daily Telegraph

  • psst… I heard a rumour… no, really, I’m not making it all up at all…

    …Clegg is going to have a reshuffle at some point between now and whenever, so if you fill in the gaps it won’t matter if your speculation is completely wrong because you can dismiss any errors as mere details while claiming the credit for your far-sightedness!

    mirror, mirror, on the rack
    who today will I stab in the back?

  • Hahaha, the LibDems are so full of themselves. Nick Clegg has no influence over the Shadow Cabinet. David Cameron decides that!

  • Just one moment please ! The conversation is as if was reported verbatim. Did this journalist sit there with a notebook and pen ? If not we have a right to question the accuracy of the report. When did you last hear clearly a conversation of a couple sitting behind you on a plane ? Perhaps they had a megaphone !!!

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Nov '08 - 11:44pm

    It is clear that Clegg is a disaster for the party. The problem is it would look very bad if we pushed him out on these grounds just a year after electing him.

    So here we have the ideal situation – he admits he has made a very stupid mistake, a mistake of such rank stupidity, discussing serious confidential matters in full hearing of the public, that he would undoubtedly be calling for the resignation of a government minister had a government minister done something similar. And he says “On those grounds, I have no choice to resign”.

    We all say “boo-hoo, how sad our leader had had to resign, but what a jolly decent chap he is to resign on such a matter of principle”. And we think “Oh thank God, he has gone”.

    Sorry, I had meant to leave it a year before directly slagging him off, but this really is too bad. We CANNOT go on with a leader like this. He has failed to give us the boost in the polls his supporters assured us he would, he has come across as another member of the political elite who is far removed from ordinary people, he has failed to make any sort of impact, he has made numerous gaffes, and now he has revealed himself as the sort who wants to surround himself with yes-men and kick out anyone he doesn’t like personally.

  • That's nonsense 30th Nov '08 - 11:54pm

    I’m sorry Matthew, that’s franky rubbish.

    He made a mistake. He’s made a number of mistakes since he became leader. Some worse than others. *THE WORST THING IS, HE’S GOING TO MAKE MORE*. Because he’s human, and because humans make mistakes, and because leader of our party is one of the hardest jobs in opposition politics and because he’s not really been doing it that long. I seem to remember being on 13% in the polls shortly after the 2001 election. I also seem to remember us getting 16.7% in the 1997 general election. We’re doing better in the polls than at either of those points.

    What I find about some of our activists is they actually expect miracles. They also expect someone to be perfect. Dare I say it, but both Charles and Paddy took a while to find their feet. Why should Nick be any different.

    I don’t know about him resigning, but if I had to put up with some of the twaddle spouted by supposed supporters of the Party, I know that I’d tell them to stuff being leader.

  • Shadows, shadows, everywhere 30th Nov '08 - 11:57pm

    Richard – see what parliament calls the Lib Dem spokespeople:http://www.parliament.uk/directories/hciolists/libdems.cfm

    And even if you ignore that. So effing what? Only a Tory could be so full of himself to think it’s a worthwhile point to talk about what the Lib Dem shadow cabinet is called.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Dec '08 - 12:10am

    If Clegg hadn’t been pushed on us with such high hopes, the media and supporters in the party telling us he was such an attractive, charismatic and intelligent leader that he would instantly give us a huge boost, I wouldn’t be so hard on him. But it’s not just this, this is the last straw. I regard it as particularly alarming that he wouldn’t promote people because he doesn’t like them as people, it suggests he wants to be surrounded with yes-men rather than people who will make him think and make him a better leader by challenging him.

    If it’s false, let him sue, if it’s not, as I said, if it were a government minister making indiscrete comments like this in the hearing of journalists, terrorists or who knows who might be sitting behind them, we would undoubtedly be calling for that minister to resign.

    That is why I am quite clear – if he is a decent man, Clegg now has only two choices – sue or resign.

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 1st Dec '08 - 12:39am

    I’m sure there’s no question of Clegg resigning, or even apologising.

    But I think every time he screws up it becomes less likely that he will survive as leader more than a few months beyond the next general election.

  • Mark Littlewood 1st Dec '08 - 1:02am

    I wanted to reply to the point made by “Roberts!”

    We really should be clear about what happened here.

    The truth is that Nick and Danny were caught red handed.

    There may be some nuances that were inaccurate, but please don’t believe the Mirror made this up.

    I don’t know the journalist involved, but anyone working for the Sunday Mirror will be trained, agile and able to note down a conversation happening about a yard away from them.

    Most folk can probably do this if they put their mind to it, but journos are professionally programmed to.

    There are routes of appeal if either Danny or Nick think they have been misrepresented.

    It starts with the Press Complaints Commission and it ends with suing for libel.

    If the leader of the party believes that the Sunday Mirror’s report was fiction, I have no doubt that he will take at least the first step. And with considerable alacrity.

    If he doesn’t even do that, then it is reasonable to assume that the Sunday Mirror’s report is essentially accurate.

    My own view is that the report is probably and largely accurate.

  • Mark Littlewood 1st Dec '08 - 1:53am

    Are you the same Peter Black who advised that no other media were picking up the story?

    But the fact is that what the Sunday Mirror reported is – to all intents and purposes – true.

    You are also crushingly wrong about your utterly insane statement that

    “I am sorry but no politician is going to either complain to the Press Commission or sue for libel over a story like this whether it is fiction or not. It would just give the story legs.”

    If the story is fiction, then the leadership would act.

    You can’t – as a journalist on a major paper – just make up “snakes on a plane ” stories.

    The idea that this would just give “the story legs” is just laughable.

    The party leadership has either been fairly or unfairly covered in the Sunday Mirror.

    Which?

    If the latter, let’s give the story the longest possible legs we can.

    Unfortunately the former is true.

    As an aside, can LibDems stop fretting about “stories” getting “legs”. It’s an absurd mixed metaphor and just not a good way to deal with stuff.

    If anyone seriously believes that the Mirror is running fabricated stories and made-up quotes, you need a reality check.

    Although I think the leader of the Tories has many, many flaws you won’t find him cowering in a corner worrying about “legs” on a “story” when one of his own front bench is arrested.

    Whereas we just think we’re getting a tough time of it. That’s somewhere between sad and pathetic.

    If Nick and Danny’s conversation was contorted, then they should complain. Swiftly and angrily.

  • Tiger Tiger 1st Dec '08 - 8:40am

    Mark Littlewood – declare your interest.

    You’re enjoying this because of the guy Clegg was talking to – your old bosom buddy Danny Alexander.

    Surely there isn’t some history between the two of you, perchance?

  • David from W5 1st Dec '08 - 8:59am

    The simple fact is that this sort of gaffe is happening far too frequently. You simply don’t talk about this sort of thing in a pubic place. I don’t think it’s a resigning matter, but for heaven’s sake don’t let it happen again.

  • Huw Dawson wrote:

    “What I’m finding disgusting here is the sheer lack of loyalty and utter hypocricy.”

    Oh right. We mustn’t be disloyal to Clegg, but it’s OK for Clegg to be disloyal to Chris Huhne and Steve Webb?

    Clegg has been around long enough to know that it is folly to talk about anything other than the weather in a public place.

    I don’t think the “Mirror” made it up, not for one moment. I suspect they taped the conversation and know they can justify their account of it. They got stung over the Iraqi prisoners, didn’t they?

    But don’t have TOO much synmpathy for Steve Webb. He is one of the Parliamentarians who helped foist Clegg on us in the first place.

    Personally, I don’t care how many women Clegg has had in his bed. What I do mind is a leader of a major political party claiming to care about ordinary people yet not knowing what the basic state pension is (even I knew that). And unlike the hapless Kennedy, Clegg was stone cold sober when he said it.

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 1st Dec '08 - 9:49am

    Peter Black wrote (yesterday):
    “No other journalists seem to be picking this up and even Iain Dale does not believe it. It will be somebody’s chip paper tomorrow.”

    Just to be clear how much chip paper we’re talking about, here’s the list so far (major print organs only):

    [Had to remove URLs, as the message was blocked at the first attempt]

    The Star:

    The Mirror:

    The Financial Times:

    The Herald:

    The Independent:

    The Times:

    The Spectator:

    The Mail:

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 1st Dec '08 - 9:51am

    Oh, and the Telegraph.

  • For the party’s sake let us all, each one, consider who reads Lib Dem Voice – a Mirror journalist ? certainly – new stories by the minute. Our political opponents who must be rejoicing at some of the quotes for Election literature ” Clegg ays…..incompetent”,”Lib Leader has no confidence in ……”
    What need we of enemies if we have friends like these ?

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Dec '08 - 10:21am

    Peter Black:

    “I am sorry but no politician is going to either complain to the Press Commission or sue for libel over a story like this whether it is fiction or not. It would just give the story legs. I really worry for those members who are panicking over this matter”

    Peter, I am not panicking about this. I am simply stating what I believe Nick Clegg should do if he is a decent man. If the story is false, he should use the channels available for making a formal complaint. If he does not do that, we can only conclude the story is true, in which case his behaviour is reprehensible and I have no confidence in him as party leader.

    I made no secret of the fact during the leadership election that I felt electing him as leader would be a disaster, and that I really just could not comprehend why so many people were so strongly pushing him forward, not just as an acceptable leader but as someone who towered over all the others in suitability for the role and who would bring us instant success as soon as he was in it. However, once he was elected I accepted it would be damaging to the party to make any public criticism of him, he needed time to find himself in the role, and I needed time to see if – as I really hoped – I would be proved wrong.

    However, in his reported behaviour now – which I have to believe is true unless he takes formal steps to complain against those reports – he has not given the loyalty to fellow senior members of the party and hence the party himself that I have given to him over the past year. It is also behaviour which really casts doubt on his suitability for high office in which discretion is vital.

    Look Peter, I could not attend party conference and stand up to cheer the man, I could not distribute leaflets putting him forward as the best person to lead the country, I could not knock on doors and ask for votes for the party and defend his leadership if I was challenged on that. It is as simple as that, I have lost all confidence in him.

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 1st Dec '08 - 10:21am

    Roberts !

    Remember anyone can post here. Any journalists desperate enough to quote anonymous comments on an Internet blog (and I know there are some!) can make up their own …

  • Elizabeth Patterson 1st Dec '08 - 10:40am

    I thought I ought to slip in a comment to improve the gender balance, although with these pretentious latin names you never know.

    Front line politicians; all have their flaws and NC is no exception.
    I wish he wouldn’t try so hard to live up to the calamity tag; but perhaps a personality with the drive and confidence to get us to the cutting edge of social reform might have to come with some carelessness of detail, some ruthlessness, and a pretty thick skin?

    I do not recognise the alleged comment on Chris Huhne.
    I made my leadership choice by studying their EYES, (as good a way as any); one had widely spaced eyes, showing emotional intelligence; the other had smaller closely spaced eyes with a hint of hardness and petulance.

  • Clegg's Greatest Admirer 1st Dec '08 - 11:17am

    Listen to nick’s set piece interview on the Westminister Hour yesterday. 8 m 50 sec of flag ship radio. Only the poltical elite listen but its agenda setting.

    1. It was dressed up as a first anniversary interview even we hve 18 days to go. I suspect the press office has had to burn political capital to get it pulled forward to rclaim the agenda.

    2. Not a single phrase, sentence or proposal that would generate any follow up coverage in todays press.

    3. Quinn could barely hide her contempt for him on several occasions and he got quite sarcastic about the Mirror story. he’d clearly had an awful day and sounded wretched at points.

    4. i couldn’t believe how incredibly vague most of his rsponses were. When we got to specifics on child care he admitted we didn’t know where the money was comming from for the propsals. It was only when we got to Green in the finishing straights when he seemed to throw some fire.

    For the record i can’t imagine why any sane individual would want to be Federal Leader a job which is thankless and impossible. I suspect Clegg’s Career has been ruined by getting the job too soon in fairly awful circumstances.

    never the less things curently aren’t right.

    I hope he takes a long, deserved christmas break and comes back refreshed.

  • David from W5 1st Dec '08 - 11:25am

    And the headlines in the papers which have now covered it are pretty awful:

    Financial Times
    Clegg hits turbulence after in-flight chat

    Herald (Glasgow)
    Plane talking lands ‘Calamity’ Clegg with a problem

    Independent
    ‘I can’t stand him’: Clegg overheard attacking team

    Spectator
    Another calamity for Clegg

    Telegraph
    Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg ‘criticised fellow MPs during plane journey’

    Daily Mail
    Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg brands his own frontbenchers ‘useless’ and blurts out plans for reshuffle in latest gaffe
    [I know what lots of people, myself included, think of the Mail, but if we are to make progress, we need the votes of many Daily Mail readers]

    Times
    Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg ‘overheard talking about colleagues’

    Metro (widely-read London free paper)
    Clegg ‘slates his Lib Dem team’

    Sheffield Star
    Plane talking Clegg is left red-faced

    Mirror
    Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg under fire for jibes at own MPs

    The Sun
    Clegg in ‘useless’ party jibe “Bungling Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg

    Oh dear.

  • I don’t even know what to say about this without reeling off a list of expletives. I worked for the party and i’m fucking fed up with stories like this from our own leadership which destroy the work done on the ground. No wonder we are slipping in the polls again.

    I think a point that hasn’t been discussed on this thread is his suggest that he wants to demote huhne.

    Its worth publically reminding clegg here that while I and a lot of others back him as the current leader, not so long ago half the party voted for the man he now wants to demote.

    If he does demote him its open warfare as far as I’m concerned. What the hell does ’emotional intelligence’ refer to by the way?

  • On wednesday at 1130 R4 is broadcasting the rediscovered WW2 Dylan Thomas commentary which was never originally broadcast and yet which still managed to enter popular folklore – ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’.

    How opportune!

  • Oh you forgot to add one here:

    Clegg has the right to hold an opinion on his cabinet.

    Clegg has the right to discuss this with somebody.

    (3) Clegg has the right to talk loudly in public undermining some of his best respected MP’s

    I also liked this comment

    “Division like this is harmful to the party. Nothing wrong was done here.”

    Yeah your right division is harmful – who’se fault is that again? There wouldn’t have been division if he had discussed this
    discretely and intelligently, instead a shadow cabinet reshuffle was discussed on a commuter plane and disparaging comments were made about key people in his organisation – now thats professional… If he worked for a company or charity he would have had discipinary action taken against him.

  • Let’s look at the practicalities here. The Sunday Mirror reported this as a verbatim conversation – but have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone one row in front or behind you on a plane? You need to speak pretty loudly, if not quite shouting. Nick & Danny are both experienced enough to realise that if they were going to discuss this on a plane, then they’d need to keep their voices low.

    Also – even using shorthand it’s difficult to keep the flow of a conversation. So did the reporter record it on tape?

    In any case, is it really surprising that a leader might a) think some of his team aren’t up to the job and b) think about a reshuffle? If you’ve got to bring in people whose political views might differ slightly from your own, or who have a strong bed of support in the activists, then there will always be tensions (Blair v. Brown in later days, for example.)

  • Rock Hunter 1st Dec '08 - 12:43pm

    I kind of have to echo AndyM11’s frustration above – having worked for the party also, stuff like this can damage the work done on the ground. Yes it was a private conversation but it was in a public place – what if Brown or Cameron had done this? Admittedly it would be a bigger story but still….

    Come on guys, how many of you feel comfortable discussing private matters on trains, planes and automobiles? I don’t even like people spying on my game of Football Manager…..

    We seem to take one step forward and two back in terms of PR – I think the issue here is our ability to look bloody amateur even at the best of times. One silly mistake and stuff like this happens.

    In any case, aren’t things like this what airplane toliets are for? Especially on short flights…..

  • David from W5 1st Dec '08 - 12:47pm

    KL, I agree with your points a) and b), but you don’t discuss it in a plane.

  • Andy,

    I think “emotional intelligence” is a psychobabble term that refers to trendy PR people who wear the latest fashions, talk the latest buzz-words and effect bonhommie when dealing with folk.

    Huw Dawson,

    I think it is a bit rich for a Clegg supporter to demand loyalty, in view of the circumstances in which Clegg came to power.

    The Clegg leadership campaign effectively began the moment Ming took office. Clegg did nothing to stop the media speculation, indeed his fan club was busily setting up a campaigning organisation and recruiting bloggers and activists to the cause. Then when he felt the time was right, he unleashed attack mongrels like Linda Jack to menace Campbell on the internet. I am not saying that Clegg actively undermined Ming, he basically sat back and watched as things went pear-shaped.

    Ok, I know that what I have described here is standard party political manouevreing, and complaining about it is a bit like protesting about the weather. But it does tend to neutralise the moral force Huw’s appeal for loyalty to the leader.

    I say again, it is the Parliamentary Party that is to blame for Clegg. They backed him, and half the voting membership followed.

    Clegg is in no way a bad guy – far from it. He is just the wrong man to lead the party.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Dec '08 - 12:58pm

    Huw, the Leader of the party has a particular position of responsibility in it and therefore has a loyalty to it due to that position. Ordinary party members do not owe it the same degree of loyalty.

    The idea that once you are a party member you have to follow its leader uncritically is a big reason why so few people are willing to join political parties these days, so in the lack of sufficient members for them to pay their way, the parties have to go running to millionaires or pretend millionaires to fund them …

    Parties ought to be seen as a network of people working together for a common aim, not as top-down organisations where members are brainwashed followers of the Leader. This is the image we should be putting across – people coming together and by doing so challenging the power of wealth and influence and making sure that government really is by the people and for the people. If this is how we sold what the Liberal Democrats were, wouldn’t we be doing better?

    We must break this idea that ordinary people have now that politicians are aliens from Planet Zarg, imposed upon us, and part of some system we are forced to work with but cannot change. Is it really so difficult for our leaders and those responsible for our party’s national image to see this and work out that this is the malaise affecting politics which needs to be broken and we can break it?

    Or are we stuck with management types and PR gurus at the top, people who are used to ordering others around, and selling products rather than working together for ideals?

  • Sorry, AFFECT bonhommie…

  • Rock Hunter 1st Dec '08 - 1:00pm

    Jennie, that’s a good point – back to the drawing board….

    What ever happened to passing notes like in school….as long as you destroy them afterwards!

  • David Allen 1st Dec '08 - 1:11pm

    I think there are two separate issues over the leadership. One is whether we are a party that believes in Thatcherite cuts in state spending, as might have been inferred from our Conference vote. Thanks partly to mature reflection and partly to the subsequent recession, the spending cuts have now vanished from our agenda.

    I am inclined to say that following this outbreak of sanity, now is not a good time to have a leadership election. When next we do, I think we will all want to see a more openly contested election, in which the winner clearly declares where he/she stands on this issue, and thereby gains a proper mandate from the Party. In the current economic emergency situation, that would be problematic.

    The other issue is, of course, whether the leader is competent and can claim the respect of his colleagues. I agree that if that doesn’t apply, it should force an election, whether or not it is a good time for one.

    Like Darrell, I do not think it has come to that. Webb has nobly defended his leader, while the comments about Goldsworthy can best be read as indicating that we should not make excessive demands on someone who is still quite young and inexperienced. However, I do think Clegg has some issues he needs to resolve over the next few months.

    In particular, he now needs to counter any suggestion of demoting Huhne, by clearly doing something which proves that he is not. There could be a number of ways to do that, for example by giving Huhne some sort of high-profile special responsibility. That will bring this episode to a suitable conclusion.

  • Not impressed 1st Dec '08 - 1:27pm

    I don’t think there is any talk of leadership election here, that would be silly.

    I am however, like many members, annoyed that this has happened. Does it not raise slight questions of judgement?

    As a Lib Dem, I am used to continually battling against zero media coverage, and I would never outright blame the leadership. However, I am now forced to battle against negative coverage, entirely self made by the leader because he appeared not to have the judgement to keep his mouth shut on a plane full of people. I do object to that!

  • Not impressed 1st Dec '08 - 1:29pm

    Also, Clegg could not demote Huhne even if he wanted to, because such a large number of active members would launch nothing short of a civil war.

  • Is there any question of collusion between Clegg, Alexander and the Mirror? This is proving a paradoxic boon to his profile!

  • Not impressed 1st Dec '08 - 1:49pm

    “Are we angry he got overheard, or angry he holds the opinions he holds?”

    That’s a good question and a tough one to answer.

    I suppose that I just disagree with the opinions he holds. I voted for Huhne and feel he would have made the better leader, and I have a lot of time for Steve Webb, who is a thoroughly decent guy. So I’m angry he holds them in that I think he’s wrong, yet he is of course entitled to hold them, and of course to discuss them (in private) with his most trusted frineds and colleagues.

    But I am very angry that he lacks the judgement to stop himself sitting on a plane full of people and saying them.

  • Thats exactly the view I hold Not Impressed.

  • Angry that he spoke so carelessly in a public place – very angry.

  • Grammar Police 1st Dec '08 - 2:09pm

    I’m not angry about either. I’m disappointed he was overheard.

  • Tony Greaves 1st Dec '08 - 2:11pm

    It is extraordinary that there is this debate about Mssrs Huhne and Webb and Ms Goldsworthy who are three of the more impressive members of our front bench team in the Commons.

    I have never seen anyone successfully patronising Julia by the way – it would not be easy. She has a top job and she does it well. (I declare an interest as a lowly member of our CLG team).

    If this story is all true the good news is that this publicity has made it all much more difficult to achieve. (In my view the very idea that what the party now needs is a major shake-up of portfolios is itself crackers).

    Tony Greaves

  • Not impressed 1st Dec '08 - 2:49pm

    Huw Dawson –

    I’m sorry, but I completely understand why people feel a bit annoyed at this and I’m surprised you don’t. It’s not nice for anyone to accuse you of being stalinist, but you are trying to shut down debate and the anger people feel.

    No-one sensible is seriously saying that Clegg should resign over this. And no-one is trying to damage him or the party. I for example have chosen not to put my name to these comments, because as a D or E list (rather than F or G list) member of the party, by publically saying this, I could do some damage, at least in my own area. Publically, I would defend Clegg on this, but this site allows us to express our true feelings either publicly or anonymously.

    But I will restate, whether you think it is opportunist or not, that I am dissapointed in the lack of judgment that Clegg has shown by saying this in public. He may have been unlucky to have had a journo sat in front of him, but it was a risk he should not have been stupid enough to take. This is not mud flinging or an attempt to oust our leader. It is people saying what they think.

  • Huw – Ok i’m not sure where to start with your post, but first off:

    “Again, I’m no Stalinist. I merely think that it’s slightly sickening to see a mature group of individuals deciding to spoil a minor bit of amusing bad luck by flinging mud.”

    Would you find it amusing if your boss decided to publically sound off about his belief that you wern’t up to the job?

    Secondly, the fact that you consider it a trivial matter slightly contradicts your next point where you acknowledge that there has been a lot of criticism of Clegg by LD members as a result of this story. The fact that this criticism has surfaced as a result of his actions in itself shows its hardly a trivial matter. Characterising it as ‘amusing bad lack’ doesn’t exactly do much to wipe away the title of ‘calamity clegg’ does it?

    As I stated earlier, he only won the leadership ballot by 700 votes not so long ago. I would hope most people who voted for Huhne accepted the result and are backing Clegg. But, to publically talk of demoting Huhne is going to get a lot of peoples backs up and not just the small group of people who have not yet accepted Clegg’s leadership.

    Finally the bit you posted about cable either having to resign or stand for leader is nonsense (did he stand for leader when Ming resigned?) apart from being another good example of a straw man arguement.

    Clegg is just going to have to eat humble pie and hopefully learn from this mistake.

  • Not impressed 1st Dec '08 - 5:29pm

    “I have a hunch who Not Impressed might be, but I’m probably completely wrong.”

    Hehe – I bet you bloody don’t. I am far more D list than that! Flattered though 🙂

    Ps. I do take your point. It will blow over, and we’ll move on. And this post will be tomorrow’s whatever the modern vision of chip paper is. Above all, I hope this will teach Nick a lesson. This is infinitely better than him being over heard discussing his preferance for a coalition partner. I would be really mad if that happenned:)

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 1st Dec '08 - 5:48pm

    Listening to that radio interview that CGA referred to (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/puffbox/promo/regular/7757821.stm), it really is difficult to be optimistic about Clegg’s prospects.

    For one thing he sounded as though he’d just been given a sedative. Maybe he was tired, or ill, or something, but many people find politics soporific enough even when the speaker doesn’t give the impression that he’s about to nod off.

    The very first thing he mentioned was that the party is going to double the number of its MPs in the Commons. That was ill-advised enough a year ago in the excitement (?) of a leadership campaign. But to repeat it now, with the party’s poll rating struggling to rise above the low teens and its main opponents some thirty points ahead, is bizarre. Has he never encountered the concept of managing expectations?

    And then we have a new spending commitment of £3bn a year, to be met out of the £20bn a year savings, the source of which we still haven’t been given a clue about. And when pressed, all Clegg could come up with was a couple of planned one-off items of expenditure, and a throwaway reference to the high level of government borrowing. Most people are taking that as a cue to rein in expenditure. Clegg’s argument sounded dangerously close to “We’re so deep in debt that a few billion more every year won’t matter”.

    At least there was no talk of extra tax cuts coming out of the £20bn. David Allen noted above with relief that these had vanished from the agenda. I wonder. Maybe they have just been temporarily submerged in the maelstrom of presentational confusion. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Clegg blurted this out again if he’s put under pressure in the future.

    To my mind the reason for all these gaffes and screw-ups isn’t that Clegg is unlucky or accident-prone. It’s simply that he is constitutionally incapable of thinking about what effect the words he is saying will have.

    That’s a gift I used to think all politicians possessed to some extent – or all the ones capable of getting elected in the first place. But the Lib Dems seem to have ended up with a leader who just doesn’t have it at all.

  • I listened to that interview and to me he just seemed a little tired to start with but got better as time went on. Carolyn Quinn wasn’t particularly hostile to him unlike Sopel earlier in the day. The danger here if we overreact to the plane saga that we’ll end up effectively neutering Clegg so he becomes anodyne and boring. Now take it from me that is a genuine turnoff for voters.

    Having said that a further clear cut and strong statement of support by Clegg for all the people named would be sensible. In particular he needs to ensure full backing is given to Chris Huhne who from where I’m sitting is doing a good job at home affairs. They have to be seen as having buried the hatchet.

  • If we are going to lambast Clegg for apprently making these comments, could we at least engage with the content of them.

    Do we think David Laws, Julia Goldsworthy, Steve Webb and Chris Huhne have been making enough headlines in the respective roles?

    Do we feel they have been making enough impact against our Labour and Conservative opponents?

    Are we making full use of their obvious and undoubted skills to help us fulfil our potential?

    What can they do differently/more/better?

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 1st Dec '08 - 6:31pm

    Stephen

    First of all, please don’t put words into my mouth. As you can see, I didn’t “dismiss it as impossible”.

    The point I’m making is that it is extremely stupid to talk about doubling the number of Lib Dem MPs when the likelihood is that that will not happen. As I said, it’s a matter of managing expectations.

    As for your comparison with 1997, we’ve been over this many times, and it’s wholly spurious. The LD vote may have decreased by 1 between 1992 and 1997, but the Tory vote fell by 11 points. The Tory lead over the LDs nationally fell from 24 points to 14 points. That’s why we gained so many seats.

    You know as well as I do that on current opinion polls, the Tory lead over the LDs nationally is about 26 points – that’s compared with only about 10 points at the last election.

    Of course this isn’t set in stone, and there may be some movement before the next election. But what I am criticising is the folly of continuing to talk about the party doubling its number of seats when on the current polls the party would actually lose seats.

  • Hywel Morgan 1st Dec '08 - 6:31pm

    “Would you also have rubbished Paddy Ashdown if he’d said that in c.1995?”

    Firstly he never said it to my recollection. If he had I think the polls at the time did show us doubling our number of seats. Albeit from a much smaller base.

    In 97 it was always credible that we would have a net increase of seats on a lower vote share, it’s much less credible that would happen in 2009/10.

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 1st Dec '08 - 6:53pm

    “Now Nick’s prediction may prove to be wrong; we’ll know in a couple of years’ time (or sooner).”

    Incidentally, to be fair to him, I don’t think it is really a prediction so much as a target, and it isn’t a target for the next election, but for the one after that (c. 2014). But these are subtleties which – as you’ve just demonstrated – are likely to be missed by commentators.

  • Dane Clouston urges us to become anti – EU. That would make nonsense of our whole , committed pro-EU stance. Those who would agree with him – UKIP etc should ask themselves the questions that completely confirmed my own pro-Europe sentiments.
    1. If there had been a EU in the 1930s would the Holocust have been possible ? Also would 6 million Poles have lost their lives ?
    2. Would the 1939-45 war have been more or less likely if the EU had existed ?
    For the sake of the lives of the people of Europe for me there is no difficulty whatsoever in working for a more united Europe.

  • The Last Radical 2nd Dec '08 - 12:22am

    I’m afraid Clegg is just accident prone, and as I feared during the Leadrship campaign, essentially a lightweight policy wonk.
    We had the twisting and turning over Lisbon, the toe curling ‘leg over’ interview, a generally lacklustre performance on the media and now this.

    Matthew Huntbach has said a lot of what I feel, but I disagree with him about change. We cannot have three leaders in one Parliament. We’re probably stuck with Nick until the General Election – its damage limitation time.

  • Liam Pennington 2nd Dec '08 - 8:00am

    The sound you can here is the collective whoop of joy as all of us who have never supported Nick Clegg finally get the very real possibility of choosing Chris Huhne as leader.

    It is always difficult to restrain by feelings for Clegg, when he slumps from error to error so easily. From the “I don’t believe in God but what I really meant was…” early interview, through Sainsbury’s, to the “forced abstention”, and now this. A catalogue of mistakes from start to finish.

    Clegg should just realise that the greatest challenge he now faces is getting the Liberal Democrats a million votes, never mind a million doors.

    Just go now, Nick, for the good of our party.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Dec '08 - 10:50am

    Up until now, of course I thought that Clegg was a rubbish leader. I didn’t want that to happen, I really had hoped I would be pleasantly surprised by him, as I was by Kennedy. As the year has gone on, however, with mistake after mistake, lacklustre performance, vapid nothingness in what he says, all the appearance of what he is – an arrogant public schoolboy who thinks he knows everything but is completely out of touch with real life and how ordinary people think – came to the fore. This latest incident just shows my worst fears – that he’ll trash anyone he doesn’t like because they are more able than him but don’t always agree with him, and surround himself with yes-men.

    My response over the past year has been to remain silent and just drop out of party activity. Out of loyalty to past colleagues and what I helped build up in the past, I didn’t want to do or say anything in public which might damage the party further. I completely accepted that having made the mistake of electing Clegg, the party was stuck with him until at least after the next general election, and as I said, if you can’t say anything good, say nothing at all.

    However, yes, I was seething with anger that everything I had said about Clegg when I was warning people not to vote for him has come true – I took a lot of abuse for being very forthright about it, but, folks, tell me where I was wrong? And as for all those people who were telling us just how Clegg would tranform the party, improve its standing instantly, attract a whole range of new supporters, folks, what has happened? We seem to have attracted a few rabid free-marketeers, who tie us up arguing with their simplistic ideas, but are no good for work on the ground, and are definitely NOT what the ordinary punter wants in a political party. Apart from that, zilch, the press can’t even be bothered to make a big thing about this latest Clegg affair because we aren’t worth their bothering with any more.

    As for knocking on a million doors, what’s that all about? How can I knock on a door when I have nothing to say? I’m meant to ask the person who answers what he or she wants? Doesn’t that just reinforce the impression that we have nothing to say? Doesn’t that just reinforce the impresion that we’re aliens from the Planet Zarg, so we have to go round asking the humans what they think in order to find out?

    But this latest incident has got me, because Clegg has gone too far – sorry, that’s the way I am, I’ll stay quiet if I lose, but push me too far and I’ll get angry, and now I am angry. Oh yes, it didn’t help seeing some stupid extreme free-marketeer twerp grinning from my old patch (or at least he claimed he was a member there) and more silly abuse from those like him who are now infesting our party. We know this sort were the keenest backers of Clegg, along with their mentors in the right-wing press. And it doesn’t help that I, along with everyone else, am suffering from the consequences that worship of the money-shuffling businessman, has now brought this country to, and STILL the twerps are calling out “more, more of this, please”.

    So, when this latest thing happened, I did think that though normally of course we couldn’t ditch a newly elected leader, here was the chance for him to step down honourably. Well, it won’t happen, but Liberal Democrats must now say to themselves firmly and deeply, are we going to improve our support while Clegg remains leader? Is he going to show us any new insights and abilities we haven’t seen yet? Has anyone who supported him got the guts to say “Sorry, I got it wrong”? Or are you going to continue throwing good money after bad?

    And, yes, I say all this under my own name (I am blessed or cursed with a memorable and googleable one) I will not hide under anonymity.

  • Liam Pennington 2nd Dec '08 - 11:00am

    Matthew – a really good post

    You are not the only person who is letting his party activity (and possibly membership) slip as a direct consequence of Clegg’s leadership.

    I have been a member since 2000, have stood for election in no-hope wards, have weathered the storm when our local Exec leader was plunged into a pornography scandal, defended Ming, and stood up against wayward Conference decisions.

    But Nick is a different concept all together. The man has no skills as leader.

    And, yes, I too say all this under my own name. I am blessed (or cursed) with a memorable and googleable one. I will not hide under anonymity.

  • Liam Pennington 2nd Dec '08 - 11:03am

    “Dane Clouston”

    In a Radio 5 interview the day(s) after being elected leader by a hair’s breadth, Clegg started his new found confidence by saying he didn’t believe in God.

    Then came a hurried statement clarifying that he didn’t mean to offend anyone (heaven forfend) and it was all an out of context blurted reply.

    The man wouldn’t know conviction if it thwacked him over the head.

  • What has happened to Linda Jack of late? If I recall, Linda was the most enthusiastic cheerleader for Clegg before and after Ming’s resignation. Stab Ming in the back and replace him with Clegg and sweet dew will fall, she boomed. Why is Linda not up all ngiht defending her idol from these wicked attacks?

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 2nd Dec '08 - 1:13pm

    Of course, the other aspect of this is that the more gaffes Clegg provides the media with, the more likely they are to settle on “gaffe-prone buffoon” as their standing characterisation of him, and the harder they will look for yet more gaffes to fit that narrative. Just as they settled on depicting Ming Campbell as a doddering old dotard, no matter how hard the party tried to fight against it.

    Fighting a general election campaign with the tabloid press determined to portray the party leader as a clown would be a very unpleasant experience indeed.

  • At least it’s good to see that there is strong debate within the party. This shows that we haven’t lost our critical anti-establishment faculties even though much of the criticism on the subject of leadership or specific tactics is founded on limited perceptions.

    It remains unfortunate that the issues of contention are based on reaction to misinformed conflation of issues (such as Europe and the EU), but we thrive on our disagreements, so if we remember that the only way to get there in the end is to continue talking sense will eventually prevail.

    Clegg is a smart guy with good instincts so I was glad to read that he is growing a thicker skin – the mud being thrown around here won’t throw the party off course because it just doesn’t stick.

    It is not up to our leaders to lie down and roll over – it is up to us to hold our representatives to account. So I hope all of the disgruntled voices here will engage more actively in the party processes to get their complaints heard rather than sniping idly from the sidelines.

    Now, back to writing that new Focus…

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 2nd Dec '08 - 2:44pm

    “So I hope all of the disgruntled voices here will engage more actively in the party processes to get their complaints heard rather than sniping idly from the sidelines.”

    Oh yes, that reminds me. I emailed Vince Cable about 2 weeks ago to ask for clarification about the switch to green taxes apparently having shrunk by more than half, according to a report of his press briefing.

    No response whatsoever, needless to say.

    It’s difficult to “engage” with people when they simply ignore attempts to communicate.

  • CCF,
    I’d be a bit patient with Vince Cable at the moment, with the Deputy Leader’s position, the economic portfolio and a Queen’s Speech to respond to he mught have a bit too much on his hands to respond to a piffler who can’t be bothered to read the party website.

    Dane Clouston,
    good to see that you’ve got off your hobby horse and are addressing the issues instead of making personal attacks these days – it makes a refreshing change!

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 2nd Dec '08 - 3:57pm

    Oranjepan
    “he mught have a bit too much on his hands to respond to a piffler who can’t be bothered to read the party website.”

    Well, of course I wasn’t expecting a personal response from Cable!

    And as a matter of fact I spent quite a long time looking at the party website trying to clarify this point. After I had seen the message “Error 404 Page not found” about a dozen times, I gave up and tried to contact Cable.

    Anyway, if you know why the figure Cable recently put on the “green switch” was less than half the amount the party originally agreed on, feel free to tell us.

    But of course calling people names has always been your preferred method of avoiding tricky questions.

  • Dane,
    so in your world patience is a vice? and a sense of humour is to be frowned upon?

    CCF,
    maybe you could work this out for yourself. Possibly it has something to do with a concern for headlines (something you’re clearly not overly worried about, if I may say), or potentially a concern for coherence in the ever-shifting sands of economic data, or more likely a mixture of the two.

    FWIW I think the principle stands, while we should and will stand by this the economic crisis is turning the most concrete sums to dust as we speak, so viewed in light of the circumstances you are expecting immediate answers to an impossible question – which is highly unrealistic, notwithstanding the obvious overriding importance of other matters.

    I am sure however, that were you to offer your undoubted abilities to the greater service of the party representatives you would likely have better access to their thinking to resolve your anxiety.

    If you’ll accept a humble compliment, I think you’d do exceedingly well if you turned your attentions to the weaknesses of our opponents and use this opportunity as a means to state your own position.

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 2nd Dec '08 - 6:50pm

    Oranjepan

    You implied that the answer to my question about the decrease in the “green switch” could easily be found on the party’s website – that I was at fault because I “couldn’t be bothered” to find it.

    In fact, you haven’t the slightest clue what the answer is. What you posted was just a bit of rubbish you had invented.

    Sorry to be blunt, but why don’t you shut up for a bit and give us a break from your drivel, even if it’s only for a day or two?

  • CCF,
    I accept to my shame that I’m not capable of reading minds, so you are right insofar as I’m surmising what Vince Cable’s thinking is.

    There is never one answer to any real-world problem, so it’s a bit rich to go around complaining about your own false expectation that you’ll be spoon-fed from now until eternity.

    Or are you seriously suggesting that the most respected parliamentarian has transformed overnight into his mirror-image?

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 2nd Dec '08 - 7:51pm

    Oranjepan

    If you think it would be necessary to read minds to know the answer to the question, why did you post that nonsense about my being “a piffler who can’t be bothered to read the party website”?

    You know damn well – and you knew damn well when you posted that – that the answer isn’t on the party website!

  • CCF,
    now you’re reading minds (or attempting to).

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 2nd Dec '08 - 10:27pm

    Oranjepan

    Well is the answer to my question on the party website, or isn’t it?

    Are you deliberately trying to wind me up with all this nonsense, or what?

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 11th Dec '08 - 10:21am

    Good news for Chris Huhne fans. According to rumours, Nick Clegg has made it known that his “emotional intelligence” comment didn’t refer to him at all:
    “In a hole, Nick Clegg, one-man JCB, keeps on digging. The Lib Dem loudmouth begged brooding Chris Huhne not to believe a Sunday Mirror eavesdropper on an aeroplane insisting le Clegg had accused his leadership rival of lacking “emotional intelligence”. Word is that Calamity Clegg explained he was referring to Paul Burstow, the party’s hitherto blameless chief whip. As excuses go, that verges on the suicidal.”
    http://www.newstatesman.com/uk-politics/2008/12/ali-labour-village-clegg

    Oh Lor!

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