Call Clegg highlights 4 July 2013: #iagreewiththecheckoutgirl and tackling the Tories on marriage tax breaks

It’s never the major issues of the day that make the headlines from the Call Clegg show. This week, despite robust questioning on Egypt, immigration, it was all about that incident in Sainsburys where a member of staff refused to serve a customer while they were talking on their phone.

So, has he ever spoken on the phone while in a queue?

Firstly, yes I have spoken on the phone in the queue.  I kind of like to think that I probably wouldn’t do that if I was right at the top, at the sort of the front of the check in queue.  But I tell you one thing that I do this has sort of brought to the surface … I mean I have sat in innumerable meetings where people don’t look each other in the eye.  They don’t appear to be paying attention.  They sort of half dip in and dip out of conversations.  They spend their whole time with their nose glued to their hand held appliance.  It drives me round the bend.  But I just think we have this real tendency where people are supposed to talk to each other, they don’t actually talk to each other, they mumble at each other whilst actually communicating with their own hand held appliances.

He added:

(If she)…couldn’t do her job and she’s perfectly then entitled to say, well hang on a minute do you want to be served or not.  I like most people have a slight sneaking sympathy for her

“The greatest thing that has ever happened to me”

That was Nick’s view of his own marriage, but he was scathing about the Tory plans for a marriage tax break.

What does it mean for someone who let’s say was married but has lost their husband or wife, what does it mean for a widow for instance, who is suddenly widowed and is told you’re not going to get the tax breaks you’ve got, or a woman who is abandoned by her husband.  The woman still believes passionately in her own marriage and in marriage generally but suddenly has the tax break taken away from her.  I just think the problem is the moment the state starts trying to use the tax system to hand pick people for behaviour that the state thinks is good, I just think you get into a really sort of slippery slope of trying to divide one set of people off from another.  So, if it’s going to cost hundreds of millions of pounds we’ll see what proposals the Conservatives come up with.  I would much prefer to use that money for instance to make childcare cheaper for all working families up and down the country, regardless whether the mums and dads of those children getting that childcare are married or not.

Changing his mind on the immigration amnesty

His comments on immigration may find favour in some sections of the press, but won’t go down well with party members, particularly when it comes to his wish to abandon the policy of an amnesty after 10 years of being here illegally. He said:

As I say the more I’ve looked at it the more I think, the cornerstone of a fair but firm immigration system is public confidence.  And I’ve come to the view that if the public feel that you are, for whatever good intension and Boris has set them out.  In effect doing something many members of the public is rewarding illegal behaviour, you damage the public confidence which I think is essential by the way.  Not just for a firm immigration system but also for people who are interested, as I am, in a fair open immigration system where that’s in the country’s interest.  It is also essential to have public backing in the way that it works because otherwise people feel that the rules are just not kind of really worth the paper they’re written on.  You have to have confidence in the way in which rules work.

Thing is, it’s not as if immigrants get a fair deal in the press, nor is the abject incompetence and unfairness of the immigration system towards the people it’s dealing. Not everyone who is here “illegally” is some criminal abuser of the system. It may be that they filled in a form incorrectly or misunderstood something and sent their forms in after the deadline. There needs to be a proportionate way of dealing with something like that.

Nick might also have a bit more chance of getting the party to see things from his point of view if he behaved more like Willie Rennie did when he changed the Scottish party’s position on minimum alcohol pricing. Yes, he told the press about it, but he said he was going to seek the support of party members, which was by no means assured at that time. By respectfully arguing his point within the party and acknowledging its procedures, he got the result he wanted.

On language

Nick revealed that he and Miriam speak to the children in their own languages so that they grow up bilingual. The question he was asked was about whether it’s important to hear more

I have very strong views on this, everybody of course should speak in their home the languages that they want, and if other languages come naturally to them they’re entirely free to do that.  But, I couldn’t agree with you more if you want a cohesive society where people understand each other, mutually respect each other, tolerate each other, obey the law, play by the rules of the game, you’ve got to have a shared language, of course you do.  And, that’s why…I mean sometimes it’s cause for controversy but I’ve been an unapologetic supporter, obviously an advocate of the things that our government has done, this coalition government, to strengthen the language tests for people who are coming into this country….

… Look, any mum and dad who is sending their child to a school to learn, forget what politicians think, forget what governments do, forget the policy stuff I’ve just talked about, as a mum and dad you’re not doing your child any service by not equipping your little daughter or son with the ability to communicate with their classmates.  I mean it’s just not a very fair thing to do.

Labour must haul themselves into the 21st century

On Labour funding:

Yes, there you go, I gave a yes/no answer to that one.  No, I think it’s just extraordinary the Labour Party is now more dependent on kind of what I call old money from Trade Unions, from these old trade union barons who bully and bluster their way through politics than they have been for years and years.  It is not healthy, it is just not healthy to have a Party at the beck and call of people like McCluskey, it just isn’t right.  And, the sooner the Labour Party realise they’ve got to haul themselves into the 21st century rather than being stuck in really old fashioned politics where deals are done behind closed doors, where candidates are stitched up, where you only get anywhere if you’re nice to the Trade Union bosses, they’ve got to move on.

I’ve not even got to the NHS, Channel 4’s call to prayer or Egypt. You can, though, see the whole thing here.

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

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7 Comments

  • “Look, any mum and dad who is sending their child to a school to learn, forget what politicians think, forget what governments do, forget the policy stuff I’ve just talked about, as a mum and dad you’re not doing your child any service by not equipping your little daughter or son with the ability to communicate with their classmates. I mean it’s just not a very fair thing to do.”

    Bugger. I agree with Nick.

  • “What does it mean for someone who let’s say was married but has lost their husband or wife, what does it mean for a widow for instance, who is suddenly widowed and is told you’re not going to get the tax breaks you’ve got, or a woman who is abandoned by her husband.”

    A ‘married persons’ tax allowance – which of course should be allowed to any couple who are treated as a unit by the state for the purposes of taxation or benefits, would be a tiny amount of income, unless the party who died/left has income significantly below their personal tax allowance and was therefore largely if not totally supported by the person receiving the transferred amount. Having ‘lost’ this expense, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to reduce the allowance for it.

    If you think otherwise, shouldn’t you be arguing that the state pension shouldn’t be reduced when one member of a couple dies? How does a new widower feel when she finds that she is going from the couples rate to the individual rate of state pension?

    Members of a couple should be treated consistently – either treated as a couple both for benefits and tax, or treated as individuals by both the tax and benefits system.

  • I wonder if the people in meetings looking at their phones are playing fruit ninja

  • I very much agreed with the checkout girl – so hopefully next time the checkout staff will acknowledge that I exist when I’m buying something!

  • Even a married man or woman will have to wait an extra week for unemployment benefit as a result of Osborne’s spiteful decision. How can we possibly coexist with that???!!!

  • Peter Hayes 7th Jul '13 - 7:29pm

    My partner worked with a lot of women who paid the married womans National Insurance because they had a teachers pension in their own right and would get their part share of their husbands pension and spend the savings on family or mortgage. In this day and age we need to be based on individual contributions.

  • “I just think the problem is the moment the state starts trying to use the tax system to hand pick people for behaviour that the state thinks is good, …. I would much prefer to use that money for instance to make childcare cheaper for all working families up and down the country, regardless whether the mums and dads of those children getting that childcare are married or not.”

    – so will this childcare money be paid to stay at mums looking after their children or only when third parties do it, thus favouring the kind of two-income familiess that Lib Dem MPs are drawn from?

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