Clegg: “Liberalism youthful, optimistic philosophy”, Ashdown threatens to eat Murnaghan & Grender reminds us of Labour’s NHS deals with private sector

It’s been a marathon this morning. Nick Clegg has been on the Andrew Marr Show and Pienaar’s Politics, Paddy Ashdown has been on Murnaghan talking about the debates and the Counter Terrorism Bill and Olly Grender took part in a panel on Pienaar’s Politics.

I have done a Storify thingy of all my tweets from all the interviews here but I shall outline the key themes in this post.

This was a morning when, as we’ve seen, there have been two powerful initiatives from the party on ending illiteracy by 2025 and improving mental health crisis care so that people don’t end up in police cells. These weren’t mentioned very much in any of the interviews.

Clegg – Lib Dems in Government have been obsessed with ensuring kids get best start in life

Clegg really came into his own in the Pienaar interview where he had more opportunity to talk about Lib Dem values and priorities than on the Marr Show. He outlined how initiatives like protecting the schools budget and giving extra money to disadvantaged kids in school had started to close the attainment gap. He talked about liberalism being a “youthful, optimistic philosophy which seeks to create a society where everybody can get ahead.

The Marr interview was more difficult. Confronted with our poll ratings, he said that where people hear what we have done in Government, they are more willing to vote for us – citing his time on the doorsteps in our key seats which, he says, is more extensive than any pollster.

I’d prefer to see him front load his comments with what we are about and if he has to mention Labour’s flakiness or Neverland economics and Tory heartlessness, do that as a supplementary point.

He shrugged off his own personal ratings, making the point that any Lib Dem leader in his position, challenging the vested interests in British politics, would get tonnes of flack.

He was asked about the debates issue while sitting on the sofa next to Natalie Bennett from the Greens. She quite rightly asked him directly to back her inclusion in the debates. Nick prevaricated a bit, saying he wanted to hear all sorts of raucous voices but the make up of the debates was not for him to decide. What would have been wrong with saying: “I’d love to debate you, Natalie. I’d happily take apart your authoritarian, socialist, illiberal vision of Britain in front of 20 million people” ?

Scrap PMQs farce

Nick said that it was no wonder he looks awkward at PMQs. Here I am, he says, watching my two rivals tear strips off each other and I can’t say anything. He said the whole farce should be scrapped.

Counter terrorism bill will have human rights concessions

Welcome confirmation from Nick that the Counter Terrorism Bill will be amended to give greater judicial oversight on managed return. He didn’t mention anything about the universities, though.

Paddy: Lib Dems are protecting our civil liberties while enabling state to go after terrorists

I don’t thnk I’ve ever heard a politician threatening to eat an interview on live television before so thanks to Paddy for that one. I only wish the subsequent revelation, that he’d been present as a member o the security services when letters of suspected IRA terrorists were being steamed open, was a new one. I’ve heard it so many times before. Come on, Paddy, tell us more about your spook days.

On a more serious point, he was clear that we managed to maintain our liberties during the days when we were being threatened by the IRA and we should do so now.

Olly reminds us it wasn’t so great when Labour and Tories called the shots

One of the many reasons I think Olly Grender is great is that she is prepared to speak her mind. Her first comments on Pienaar’s Politics were all about how great it was to see younger, female MPs and “my god, I wish we had more in our party.”

She went on to remind us that Labour’s jibes at the Liberal Democrats don’t quite match up to their actions. For example, they said that the NHS Bill was tantamount to privatisation, a ridiculous assertion in itself, but they had done much more than the coalition to bring private services into the NHS. She also reminded us that it was Labour and Tory collusion that scuppered Lords reform.

Tuition fees

Challenged on tuition fees, Olly wasted no time in reminding us how Labour had promised not to introduce them several times and gone back on their word.

Nick, on Marr, said that he wished they’d just called it a graduate tax and regretted that our actions on that had obscured some of the really good stuff we’d done to give disadvantaged kids the best start in life. He pointed out how the predictions had been proved wrong and more kids from disadvantaged backgrounds were going to university.

All in all it was a solid round of interviews but I do think there are things they should tweak to get the message across more effectively. It’s very easy to write that, though, sitting at a keyboard on your sofa watching a puppy sleep. It’s not so easy when you’re under the spotlight.

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

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  • Want to give kids an equal start in life regardless of where they are from. When not ban all private education and select a child’s school by lottery. Maybe have 5 or 6 schools in each catchment area and role the dice…

  • Neil Sandison 18th Jan '15 - 1:38pm

    Is it now not so much about a fight back coming up to the election but a time for a liberal revival on basic values like freedom of speech .freedom of thought .defending basic liberties lke privacy from an over intrusive state so that we dont stumble blindly into a authoritian state be it of the right or the left.The tories hve corrupted the fairness agenda to one of penalising the poor rather than the liberal values of enable and enpowering our citizens to improve their life chances.A genuine liberal revival on core values is long overdue.

  • ” Olly wasted no time in reminding us how Labour had promised not to introduce them several times and gone back on their word.”
    This is simply false. Labour did not promise they wouldn’t introduce tuition fees,. You’ve been repeating this lie for 4 years despite it being pointed out many times that it isn’t true.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Jan '15 - 2:15pm

    Clegg might be winning me over on opposition to the Snooper’s Charter. I didn’t know it would be collecting the internet records of everyone, only suspects.

    I’m still open minded, but before now not many people have been making good criticisms of it loudly. Much of the criticism has been that it smells a bit funny and traditional liberals won’t like it.

  • “..Ashdown threatens to eat Murnaghan….”

    So we’ve lost the vegetarian vote as well !

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 18th Jan '15 - 2:59pm

    Simon, Olly wasn’t so specific as that, but she made the general point:-)

  • Little Jackie Paper 18th Jan '15 - 3:59pm

    None of the three main parties has anything to be proud of when it comes to tuition fees.

    The 1997 Labour manifesto contained a watery plan for some sort of graduate repayments. The 2001 Labour manifesto appeared to rule out fee increases, however they were introduced in the 2005 parliament (though not in Scotland). Labour did not, have a target of 50% school leavers going to university. I’m not totally clear what Labour’s plans are at the moment, though if the media are to be believed then they would like a cap of £6k though I don’t see how that would be funded.

    For the Conservatives, when leader Iain Duncan Smith appeared to say he would abolish fees. The 2001 Conservative manifesto talked about more generous terms for students and also promised no top up fees. For the Lib Dems, I’d like to think that most people can agree that the pledge was a ghastly mistake. I suspect that the coalition system will be unsustainable within the decade without sharp increases in how much is repaid.

    But isn’t all this just the worst sort of insincere politics? Not saying much beyond, ‘we aren’t as bad as them.’ Is it any wonder that politics is losing the young with this level of debate. At the moment politicians tell anyone who will listen that debt is a threat to the national fabric whilst loading it onto the young. We are continually told there’s no money left, but there is for triple locked pensions, HS2, foreign aid, cancer drugs funds, winter fuel cheques…….

    There is, of course, an entirely valid argument that there should be some sort of contribution. But then why should that be for the young or graduates only? If it is such an important point of principle that those with means should repay state support why not have those that have, for example, seen the benefits of house price inflation not pay back any right to buy discounts?

    The young are increasingly left as the canary in the cave for the pay and go society. That, rather than what precisely was said 14 years ago seems to be the more important point for all (stress, all) parties to face.

  • No party except the LibDems fought by-elections and the general elaction with such a high profile pledge on tuition fees. All parties were dishonest on the subject, but the LibDems were very much the worse of a bad bunch. If I was still a LibDem it’s a subject I would try and avoid because you won’t win no matter how many excuses and apologies you make. If you don’t believe me just cast your minds back to all the protests, the students hatred was not directed at the Tories, but at Nick Clegg and the LibDems.

  • Peter Watson 18th Jan '15 - 8:17pm

    In addition to some of the television appearances above I caught Gordon Birtwistle on the North West Politics Show. He seemed a decent and plain speaking chap but I was very struck by how vague and indirect he was when asked if Nick Clegg was a vote winner or a vote loser.

  • Paul Pettinger 18th Jan '15 - 9:27pm

    “He shrugged off his own personal ratings, making the point that any Lib Dem leader in his position, challenging the vested interests in British politics, would get tonnes of flack.”

    How can we believe in democracy if former Lib Dem voters are so feeble as to reject the Party due to challenging vested interests? How can we believe in pluralism in a free media if our former voters are so easily led by flack from journalists? How can we reject protesting and also be a “serious Party”, with simultaneously challenging vested interest? What vested interests in British politics have been challenged and successfully challenged since entering Govt in Westminster? This isn’t just insulting to former Lib Dem voters, or those former voters still unsure about whether they should vote Lib Dem in May, but it sounds like newspeak.

  • “He said the whole farce [PMQs] should be scrapped.”

    So why not scrap it – or conduct it in a very different way when he stands in for Cameron? (I assume he doesn’t actually mean scrapping having the Prime Minister come before the House!)?

    Why not review the footage of PMQs and report those MPs acting out of line with Erskine May (of which there are plenty every week)?

    Why not have his own Deputy PMQs conducted in a very different way?

    For years, Lib Dem Councillors were told to use the opportunities of hung councils to change the way business was done – it’s a big disappointment that Lib Dem MPs wanted to inheirit the system, take the chance to have their “turn” rather than change it.

  • Labour is also now talking about mental health- expect some Purging..

  • Paul Pettinger 18th Jan ’15 – 9:27pm
    “He shrugged off his own personal ratings, making the point that any Lib Dem leader in his position, …. ….would get tonnes of flack.”

    This isn’t just insulting to former Lib Dem voters, or those former voters still unsure about whether they should vote Lib Dem in May, but it sounds like newspeak.”

    I agree Paul but it may be even more serious than that.
    I switchedon BBC Radio 4 this morning to hear Clegg claim that it is possible to prevent suicide.
    This comes the day after his bold (Sir Humphrey might say courageous) claim that he will wipe out illiteracy in precisely ten years.
    The promise to enable every citizen to walk on water by 2025 can only be days away.

    Will this general election be the first where the leader of a UK political party is accompanied around the country not just by a couple of blokes from special branch but also by a couple of blokes in white coats?

  • Paul Pettinger 20th Jan '15 - 12:50pm

    Mr John Tilley, in his 2010 autumn conference speech Nick Clegg said that: “Britain in 2010 is anxious, unsure about the future, but Britain in 2015 will be a different country. Strong, fair, free and full of hope again. A country we can be proud to hand on to our children. That is the goal we must keep firmly fixed in our minds. That is the prize.”

    As society is now free and fair doing well at the General Election is pretty pointless – is that Nick Clegg’s idea?

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