Our reports from this week’s Call Clegg have concentrated on Nick’s unequivocal announcement that the so called Snoopers’ Charter, which would have obliged companies to store details of websites visited and social media contacts, will not be enacted while the Liberal Democrats are in Government. However, that only took up a small part of his half hour session. Here are some of the other highlights:

Abu Qatada

Nick was asked several times about the idea that Britain should temporarily pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights. While he did not explicitly rule the idea out, I do not think for a second that he would ever agree to it. The thing about our Nick is that he’s a polite and courteous soul and he’s not about to enter into dialogue with Theresa May over the airwaves. What he said, repeatedly, was that nobody had put this idea to him. I suspect that this is because the Tories, however much they are chattering amongst themselves that this might be a good idea, know perfectly well that there is no point formally raising it with Nick or any other Liberal Democrat. This is what Nick said:

I think it’s difficult to comment on a so called argument which hasn’t even happened.  No one’s proposed and certainly no one’s put to me this idea that we should somehow suddenly start, I don’t know, pulling out of this or that…..

…no one’s put it to me, I’ve never seen a single piece of paper, so I’ve got no idea even in theory you know whether jumping in and out of the EC would make the blindest bit of difference if you could.

While Liberal Democrats might prefer to have heard the words “not in a million years” associated with this answer, I don’t think we have anything to worry about.

Policy priorities

LBC had sent its political reporter out and about to get some ideas from members of the public about what think should happen to boost the economy. As Nick commented, the three suggestions broadcast, on lower income taxes, affordable housing and deregulation, sound remarkably like Government policy:

Well, the biggest change, which of course is a change from the front page of the last Lib Dem Manifesto into the pay packets of millions of people, is raising the point at which you start paying income tax; it’s the biggest change in the personal income tax system this country’s seen in a generation.  As of next April you, and everybody listening to this, will be able to earn £10,000 tax free, free of income tax, for the first time.

“Get those course of jabs done”

I remember the agony of deciding whether to let my daughter have the MMR vaccination. She was due for it right in the middle of all the doubt and controversy. After much personal research, we decided to go ahead, but a little later than recommended, after a Finnish study convinced us that it was safe. I rarely had sympathy with the Blairs during their time in Downing Street, but one time I did understand was when they wouldn’t say whether their youngest son had had the jab. Nick, though, had no such reservations. His boys had all had the vaccine and he was happy to not only acknowledge that, but to tell others they should do the same:

I really would urge parents, whatever your misgivings, do what the people who know about this most say is right for your children, get those course of jabs done.

He elaborated:

I just think you have to have trust in the people that look at this, they’ve got no axe to grind they just want to do the right thing, come up with the right science.  They’ve said very categorically that the concerns about the link between MMR and other conditions are just not proven, and more than that they said really explicitly it is really bad for your children’s health if you don’t take this jab.

Clamping down on tax avoidance

In response to a question about whether the rich were paying their fair share of tax, Nick said:

We’ve put massive new resources to clamp down on tax avoidance offshore and elsewhere, we’ve recouped billions of pounds.  We inherited a tax system which just had these massive holes in it under Labour where people are just allowed to basically pick and choose the kind of taxes they pay and I’m really, really proud of the progress we’ve made but I totally accept Jamie we need to do more.  And, on your more general point making people on the top pay their fair share, if you actually look, I mean don’t believe it from me, look at the objective analysis of what we as a government have done for the last two or three years, it’s the top 10% in society that have made the biggest contribution to all the savings we’re having to make.

All this and more, on extending the school day and shortening the holidays to make life easier for working parents, the appointment of Jo Johnson to the No 10 policy unit and the controversy over Sport England, can be found here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings