Another good week for Nick Clegg

Okay, so it’s not the most controversial headline you’re going to read on a Lib Dem blog all week. But, still, I think it needs saying – because though we Lib Dems, especially in the blogosphere, tend to be quite good at criticising our leadership, MPs and other ‘powers that be’, I’m not sure we always spread the love when it’s deserved.

I kept my powder dry during the leadership campaign, didn’t declare my voting intention, have never publicly disclosed it since. I felt both candidates – Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne – had very real strengths. I also thought each had significant, but very different, weaknesses.

My concerns with Nick were his tendency to think out loud – I admire such intellectual curiosity, but it can land a leader in hot water – and that he hadn’t yet the temperament to ‘manage’ the party with ruthless harmony. The jury’s probably still out on the former; but this week has suggested that his management skills, undoubtedly put to the test in the last week, have risen to the occasion.

This isn’t just about his media interviews on MPs’ expenses – which have generally been firm, empathetic to voters’ anger, and sound – but also the way he has personally led the party’s response, and made sure the Parliamentary party knows he means privately what he says publicly.

David Cameron has also done well this week, but has two crucial advantages over Nick. First, he has more executive power as leader of his party than Nick has as leader of ours. Secondly, it’s not to Mr Cameron’s electoral disadvantage to pick a fight with some of his MPs, especially the ‘moat-cleaning’ Tory grandees – if anything it reinforces his ‘I’m a strong leader, a different kind of Tory’ schtick.

One doubt I never harboured: that Nick lacked the emotional intelligence to be a successful, popular, liberal leader. That quality he’s demonstrated in spades this week. Sadly, it’s not been over-much on display among all our MPs this week – I’m thinking in particular of the tone-deaf appearances of Lembit Opik (on BBC Radio 5 Live), Chris Huhne (on that trouser press on Channel 4 News: “If I have to turn up to a public event, I’m expected to look smart. I think that should be legitimate.”) and Ming Campbell (on BBC1’s Question Time).

But the Boy Nick has done good, and this impression is resonating not just with partisan Lib Dems like me, but also with the public – at least if his personal poll ratings are any guide.

When YouGov asked the question, ‘Do you think Nick Clegg is doing well or badly as leader of the Liberal Democrats?’ in April his net score was +2% (33%/31%). This month it stands at +15% (43%/28%), the highest YouGov figure for a Lib Dem leader since Charles Kennedy in April 2005. Meanwhile, this week’s PoliticsHome ‘Leadership Performance Tracker’ found Nick’s net approval rating has soared in the last month, from +11% in mid-April to +23% in mid-May, just behind David Cameron.

The last week might have been the most dire for Parliament’s reputation in living memory – but Nick’s calm, strong leadership has done much for his personal reputation, and that reflects well on the party as a whole.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds and Polls.


  • Sara Scarlett 16th May '09 - 9:45am

    Shame on you Stephen Tall.

    We have profited by “not being as bad as the others…” – This is true but it says nothing about Nick Clegg’s leadership.

    Nick could have, in fact, done more. This could have been his chance to go to town with the ‘broken politics’ message and added that electoral reform as a whole would be a potential remedy as well.

    There are still very serious allegations hanging over Lord Rennard which haven’t been satisfactorily dealt with. How can you write an article about our leaders performance over the week and leave out the Rennard question? How are you in anyway confident that we’re home and dry?

  • Nick did talk about “politics in crisis” in the interviews he gave this week, but I’m glad he didn’t talk about voting reform as it really isn’t related to expenses and I think the public would have been turned off by it. While I support electoral reform, it’s an issue of very low importance for most voters and there’s a danger we’ll be seen as out of touch if we bang on about it too much.

    I agree with Stephen – Nick has been starting to find his voice recently which is reflected in his ratings (combined with the extra publicity from expenses and the Gurkha vote).

    As for Rennard – I agree questions remain but AFAIK he’s given what sounds like a reasonable(ish) explanation, and no one has so far rebutted it or made further allegations.

  • “(a) make good the Rennard problem, and do it NOW because we’ll never have better cover than we’ve got at the moment ”

    Absolutely – if anything dodgy did go on, now’s the time to sort it out.

  • “As for Rennard – I agree questions remain but AFAIK he’s given what sounds like a reasonable(ish) explanation, and no one has so far rebutted it or made further allegations.”

    Well, the only explanation I have seen from Rennard – apart from a statement that the basis of his claims had been approved by the authorities (a fact worth nothing, because the system operates on trust) – is that “you are allowed to claim an allowance for a London property whilst maintaining a home outside London as in my case.”

    This was rebutted in about 30 seconds flat, because that is not what the rules say. The rules say that the member’s main residence must be outside London, which of course is precisely what is in dispute in Rennard’s case.

  • I think Rennard’s position is untenable. He has brought the Party into disrepute the rules are: `House of Lords rules state peers can only claim overnight subsistence allowance—their version of the MPs’ second home allowance— if they live most of the time outside Greater London.`

    So perhaps Lord Rennard can say yes or no whether he spends most of his time in Eastbourne (ie travels up and down on a daily basis)

    If not he should forfeit his position as campaign guru.

  • As I’ve said before, I don’t think Chris Rennard should go for this reason.

  • Bruce Wilson 16th May '09 - 12:45pm

    I do rather like Chris Huhne, except, just occassionaly, I feel like hitting him with a trouser press.

  • Are they waiting for Monday? And I hope a chastening experience for some LD MP’s (yes I am looking at you Mr Opik)after a visit to the constituency…..

    But I agree – they should be moving to parity or ahead of Labour at present. The message is still not sinking in.

  • “As I’ve said before, I don’t think Chris Rennard should go for this reason.”

    What, not even if it turns out that he has claimed tens of thousands of pounds of public money on the basis of a false statement about where he lives?

    I’m amazed by the number of people who still haven’t appreciated the effect of all these revelations on the public mood.

  • Lets wait for next weeks polls. I’d rate Nick as doing OK. I think a lot of Lib Dems will be feeling let down, they were cheering on Norman Baker etc. and will fell let down by others.

    Lembits claim for a £2500 TV is not a happy example. The Rennard defence looks entirely unconvincing.

    Nick was good on the EU, but I doubt if anyone paid attention. He relly need to get a strategy and get some key messages.
    the EU campaign could have been so good, but it is all so last minute.

    No, he doesn’t have to go on about the counting system used for STV but he does need to start getting our politics is broken and Lib Dems are the ones to fix it message accross. Of course under STV none of the mps with snouts in the trough would be relected.
    He need to talk about all votes counting, votes being more powerful, politicains doing what the electorate vote for etc

    Nick also has to accept the logic of supporting PR is that there will NEVER be a majority Lib Dem government and the BEST thing for the party will be to go into coalition with whoever will agree with some of the Lib Dem agenda. None of this nonsense about which other party got the most votes/seats/ (an absurdity if you believe in PR) or we’ll vote issue by issue
    (a recipe for a minority govt followed by Lib dem wipeout as happended to the Liberal Party in 1931.)

    The party has made silly mistakes – failing to go into coalition in scotland and wales has led to falling poll ratings. Voting against a referendum on the Lisbon treaty set an awful out of touch/not listening tone to his leadership. It broke a promise, it won us no votes, it supported no principle and led to sacking front benchers only to bring them back again. It didn’t even affect the outcome! sheer folly.

    Why offer a referendum on in out of the EU – at the momement people might vote for out – but it’s a silly tactic and a poor strategy. We should be saying there is no sensible option but to be in the EU, the choice is not in or out but what kind of EU do we want to eb in. As a slogan “the kind of EU you want”

  • Nick Clegg has definitely begun to make his mark, as the polling data indicate. What he should not do is make too much of this issue because to do so would be to play the media/neocon game.

    There have been far worse corruption scandals in politics. Think of Maudling, Poulson and T Dan Smith, and the MPs who took cash for questions. All far, far worse than anything any of the current bunch has done. Those scandals didn’t unleash lynch mobs, and that is because it wasn’t in the interests of elites at the time for that to happen.

    Nick Clegg would do best to take the advice of Councillor Patrick Smith and push home the Party’s core message. Let the other parties scratch each others’ eyes out over who spent most public money on whose moat.

  • Brown, one out of ten. Clegg, three. Cameron, four. Above five out of ten: well, Baker, Hoey, perhaps Cable…

    Get real. Almost nobody had a good week. To suggest that they did is akin to walking the streets with a large placard that says “I HAVE TOTALLY LOST TOUCH WITH PLANET EARTH. DON’T EVEN THINK OF VOTING FOR SOMEONE LIKE ME!”

  • “There have been far worse corruption scandals in politics.”

    Still not getting it at all…

  • Sara Scarlett 17th May '09 - 12:09am

    @ Cath

    “While I support electoral reform, it’s an issue of very low importance for most voters and there’s a danger we’ll be seen as out of touch if we bang on about it too much.”

    – Fail.

    Our job is to make it a high importance issue for most voters. It is one of our best policies. Otherwise we are obsolete.

  • David Morton 17th May '09 - 12:57am

    Com Res also has a Euro Election question which has Con 30% Lab 17%,UKIP 17%, LD 15%. Even with UKIP in the man figures that still leaves 21% for others !

    Of the four polls taken since the Telegraph revelations came out in Chronological order we have been +4%, +1%, N/C and then -2%.

    Nearly al of this is margin of error stuff but it is difficult to see the party getting any traction from it. The Euro pol is also the first one this year i line with historical precient showing the euro figure for the Lib Dems as being lower than the GE question.

  • Well said David Morton. Clegg has managed to make the Lib Dems look more sleazy then the Tories. Why? Because Cameron was clear – this was about right and wrong and anyone in his camp had to justify what they’d done against that filter. Clegg and Brown have asked for apologies and pay back – the language of the playground.

    The fact is that the vast majority of those on the take are either Labour or Tories – and given UKIP are about as corrupt as it gets – we should be benefitting. The fact we’re not is almost entirely down to our reaction to the expenses issue. We’ve not got it wrong – but we’re not in the right.

  • David Morton 17th May '09 - 4:22am

    Correction to my post above. My figures are correct however the figures are from the Euro intention question on BPIX not Com Res as I stated. We are on 15% in BPIX for both the GE and Euro questions so my point about being lower in the Euro’s is wrong as well.

    The Com Res Euro poll is in the Sunday Express. Con 28% Lab 20% UKIP 15% LD 14% Green 11% BNP 4%

  • Our Tory troll friend, “Anonymous1”, says it is less wicked for MPs to take bribes from architects to get public sector contracts than to overclaim expenses (rather reminiscent, though much less extreme, than Hwyel Morgan’s rating of starting illegal wars on the moral scale).

    What “Anonymous1” means by “not getting it” is not being manipulated by the US military/industrial/petro-chemical complex, as he, Hywel Morgan, Alix Mortimer, et al, evidently have been.

    What we are witnessing here is a full-frontal assault on Parliamentary democracy by (mostly foreign) elites. Wakey, wakey, folks!

    Dan: Are the “men in white suits” going to have “made in Washington” written on their jacket labels?

  • Sesenco

    “Our Tory troll friend, “Anonymous1″, says it is less wicked for MPs to take bribes from architects to get public sector contracts than to overclaim expenses …”

    Of course, I never wrote any such thing. I simply wrote that you still weren’t getting it – though I hadn’t realised quite how far you had retreated into paranoid delusion. It’s telling that you are – apparently – unable to post here without continually making up lies.

    As for my being a “Tory troll”, I have never in my life supported the Conservatives, and I was an active member of the Lib Dems for more than 20 years.

    You can burble on about mass hysteria and military-industrial complexes as much as you like. But the public anger is huge, and any party that doesn’t take decisive action against its own offenders is going to be severely punished by the electorate.

    Just look at the current opinion polls, which show Labour support down by more than 40% since the last general election.

    And the fact remains that a week ago the Chief Executive of the Lib Dems was accused of making a false statement in order to claim tens of thousands of pounds of public money.

    During that week, the factual accuracy of that report has not been disputed either by Lord Rennard or by any party spokesman.

    It is breathtaking that these accusations have been allowed to stand without being strongly rebutted. It would certainly be rash to assume that they have been forgotten.

  • If you are not a Tory troll, “Anonymous1”, then reveal your identity. Otherwise, readers will continue to regard you as a Tory troll, which is what your behaviour indicates.

    This is what you actually wrote, “Anonymous1”:-


    “There have been far worse corruption scandals in politics.”
    Still not getting it at all…


    So who is telling lies, “Anonymous1”?

    Oh no, sorry, you’re not telling lies, “Anonymous1”. You are suffering from a paranoid delusion that the behaviour of people like Richard Younger-Ross is less wicked than that of Reginald Maudling and John Poulson.

    Where freedom has been extinguished, it is possible for people to say the most ridiculous things and for others to be too afraid to challenge them.

    TRUTH: Taking bribes from architects is more wicked than over-claiming expenses.

    TRUTH: Starting illegal wars is more wicked than over-claiming expenses.

    At least, in a rational world, but evidently not in the frrenzied, manipulated one that the “Torygraph” and its paymasters have generated this week.

    Someone elsewhere on this site has likened the expenses mania to the Diana hysteria, and I recall Richard Ingrams saying that the week immediately after the death of Diana was one of the few occasions when he felt like he was living in a fascist state. A period, like the present, when people felt afraid to speak out against unreason and witchhunts.

    “Anonymous1”, what do the Barclay brothers, safe in their Channel Islands redoubt, care about the health of British public life? Or Major Wick, for that matter? Maybe, as the omniscient prophet you claim to be, you can tell us.

  • “Anonymous1” wrote:

    “During that week, the factual accuracy of that report has not been disputed either by Lord Rennard or by any party spokesman.”

    You are presumably unfamiliar with the statement that Lord Rennard made to the “Liverpool Daily Post”.

  • “Sesenco”

    As you know perfectly well, Rennard did not dispute the factual accuracy of the News of the World report in his statement to the Liverpool Daily Post. I’m copying the text of that statement below.

    “The basis of all my claims has been specifically approved by the House of Lords authorities.

    “All peers’ claims, and the rules governing them, have been on the internet for some years. Peers are not paid any salary or pension for their work. But you are allowed to claim an allowance for a London property whilst maintaining a home outside London as in my case.

    “I think that there should be a new system for paying peers through transparent taxable allowances. Otherwise the Lords will be completely dominated by the rich and the retired who are able to live in London.”

  • @ Sara Scarlett re. electoral reform:

    “Our job is to make it a high importance issue for most voters. It is one of our best policies. Otherwise we are obsolete.”

    If the Lib Dems didn’t have many better policies than electoral reform I wouldn’t have bothered to join. There is a segment of the party that feels very strongly about it, but from the members I’ve met they’re in a small minority.

    Most people join/support the Lib Dems because we have good policies and principles on important issues like education, health, human rights, equality, the Iraq war, the Middle East, climate change… you know – things that actually affect people’s lives on a daily basis.

  • “more wicked than over-claiming expenses.”

    You miss the point. Virtually no-one has “over-claimed” expenses. They have claimed what they were “entitled” to because MPs deliberately set up a system to enrich themselves which was designed to be (and many fought to keep) secret from the public.

  • “Anonymous1”:-

    The “News of the Scews” alleged that Lord Rennard had been dishonest. Lord Rennard says that he had not been dishonest.

    Hywel Morgan:-

    No-one disputes that MPs should receive some expenses. The complaint against the people named in the “Daily Torygraph” is that they have received too much in expenses, or that they have received expenses for things that should not be claimable, or (in a few cases) that they have actually perpetrated frauds.

    Let’s get things in perspective, shall we?

    Ernest Marples, while Secretary of State for Transport, awarded motorway construction contracts to a company in which his wife was the majority shareholder. Was he reprimanded in any way? Er, nope.

    Bob Boothby, while a Member of the House of Commons and lover of the Prime Minister’s wife, obstructed the Police investigation into the Kray brothers, who just happened to be supplying him with teenage catamites. Was he reprimanded in any way? Er, nope.

    Harold, Wilson, while Prime Minister, accepted a gift of a crate of champagne from the financier, Sir Eric Miller. Was he reprimanded in any way? Er, nope.

    Anthony Crosland (later to become Foreign Secretary) accepted a gift of a dinner service from John Poulson. (“I never used the bloody thing!” he protested, as though that were some kind of excuse.) Was he reprimanded in any way? Er, nope.

    And I haven’t even touched on Parliamentarians who accepted cash for asking questions and making amendments to bills, and who sold peerages for party donations and political favours.

    Rational people, I hope, will agree that the cesspit I describe stinks far more strongly than the present expenses mess. So why the OTT hysteria?

  • Stephen:
    “As for the Chris Rennard issue… well, I’ve previously blogged here that this needs to be resolved. But I believe in due process, something I’ve always believed to be a sound liberal concept.”

    I haven’t seen anyone suggest otherwise. But of course there’s nothing in “due process” to stop Rennard saying “The allegations are untrue – my main residence is in Eastbourne” – particularly as he has already made comments to the press about this report.

    If the party is investigating the matter, fair enough – though one can only wonder how long it really takes to ascertain where the Chief Executive’s main residence is. But if the party were just sticking its head in the sand in the hope the issue will go away, that would be disastrous.

  • No offense meant to you lot – but your PEB was shockingly poor, as if it was a lamer version of Cameron’s Cameron Direct PEB. It was called “Conversations with Nick Clegg” but consisted almost entirely of him talking! The poll numbers put UKIP ahead of you, and you have come out smelling as much as shit as the other parties IN PROPORTION to your size. The only reason you don’t look “as bad” is because you are smaller.

    Apart from today’s media over Clegg’s call for the Speaker to resign, this hasn’t been a good week for anyone, let alone Clegg or the Lib Dems. Stop trying to paint a turd, acknowledge how bad the situation and come face to face with the fact that you are going nowhere in the polls. Perhaps when you have done that, you can start going places.

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