Clegg: I’ll take Cameron’s place and defend government’s record if he’s too important to take part in the debates

Nick in suit on call cleggDavid Cameron has moved the goalposts on the leaders’ debates so many times that they are now not even on the pitch any more. They’re nestled somewhere in between the burger stand and the toilets. His final ultimatum is so obviously his get-out clause and it’s unsurprising that he’s done it because he wasn’t very good at it last time, frankly.

Here’s how the BBC reports the latest developments.

David Cameron has said he will take part in only one televised debate ahead of the general election, featuring seven party leaders.

The announcement rules out a head-to-head clash with Labour leader Ed Miliband ahead of the 7 May poll.

Downing Street said it was a “final offer” and criticised the “chaos” of the negotiating process.

Other parties criticised the PM, accusing him of “acting like a chicken” and trying to “bully” broadcasters.

Nick Clegg responded in combative style on Twitter.

And this morning on Call Clegg, he said that he would be happy to take Cameron’s place in the debate to defend the Government’s record if the Prime Minister was “too important” to take part.  Frankly, he’d do a much better job.

Update: 12 pm

And now Ed Miliband ducks the question on whether he would debate Nick. He said it was up to the broadcasters. He was directly asked if he would debate Clegg immediately after he said he would debate Cameron any time, any place, anywhere. Given that Clegg has introduced more progressive, transformative things, like giving extra money to disadvantaged kids in school and cutting taxes for people on lower incomes, than Labour did in thirteen years, it’s hardly surprising Miliband is running scared of a 90 minute one on one with him.

I actually think a Clegg/Miliband debate would be a million times more interesting and of higher quality than a Cameron/Miliband debate.

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

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163 Comments

  • Am I psychic; or what?

  • Eddie Sammon 5th Mar '15 - 9:41am

    Clegg should be defending the Liberal Democrats record, not the government’s. I find this a sad moment because it will position the party firmly on the right of the political spectrum and I am not on the right.

    If people don’t think it will position the party on the right then they need to think again. We’ll become the Australian Liberal Party, with fewer votes.

    Regards

  • John Tracey 5th Mar '15 - 10:20am

    Fantastic idea! The debate excluding a party of government that did so well last time (in the debates, and with just 6% lower votes than Labour) was always unfair. But I do wonder that if the SNP did a deal with Labour for coalition after the forthcoming election, would I think it right for the SNP to be apart of the debates in 2020? Not at all. They are not a national party.

    I also think the Prime Minister should be empty chaired in another of the full line-up debates he is refusing to engage with. You can’t really empty chair the PM in a head to head with Cameron and Miliband but they could with the full line up, and do it during the election campaign. It would be up to him if he wishes to change his mind.

    How could Cameron complain about this really? He didn’t moan about the Clegg v Farage debates in the run-up to the Euro elections last year.

    I hope the broadcasters consider this. Clegg v Miliband head to head would be great. Something that may finally boost those awful polls.

  • Strategically this makes sense for the lib dems, until you remember the outcome of the Farage/Clegg debate. Clegg is a terrible debater, even by the low standards set by Miliband and Cameron.

  • Richard Easter 5th Mar '15 - 10:32am

    If Clegg defends the government, then it will almost certainly be curtains for the Liberal Democrats.

    The party is already struggling with its reputation as Thatcherite on economics, supporting unwanted privatisations (Royal Mail / East Coast / Probation Service), illiberal (secret courts, TTIP, DRIP) and supporting the welfare / bedroom tax fiasco.

    The average non Tory or floating voter will just think Lib Dems = Tory and discard them. Far better for Clegg to argue from a liberal perspective and argue what he has done for civil liberties (stopping snoopers charter, detaining of children) and for the rise in the lower tax threshold, and how a proper Liberal Democrat government would provide a better future for all.

  • Nigel Jones 5th Mar '15 - 10:35am

    I am dismayed. It would be good for Nick Clegg to say he would go INSTEAD of David Cameron; but to say he will defend the government, which most commentators have described as a conservative-led government !!!
    If Nick takes part it should be on the basis of discussing future government, defending Liberal Democrat policies and values.
    I also do not know whether to be angry or cry and give up, when I hear Paddy of all people say on radio this morning that Nick will defend the government !!!!!
    Just at a time when I was building up my own motivation to campaign positively and tell all in my local party to do the same, this happens. What should I do ?

  • Jayne Mansfield 5th Mar '15 - 10:36am

    Sadly, I am afraid that he would indeed do a much better job of defending this overwhelmingly tory government’s record.

  • The mask slips even further.

    Clegg’s whole raison d’etre in UK politics is about attacking Labour and keeping Cameron in Downing St.

    I listened to Paddy on The Today Programme this morning putting the case for “defending the government’s record”.
    This is obviously the line that has been agreed in The WendyHouse. Paddy made a good job of buiding without either bricks or straw.
    The problem with putting Paddy on the radio or TV is that he reminds us how third rate Clegg is.

    However good Paddy is at sounding plausible, the line of “defending the government’s record of which we are intensely proud” is perhaps the shortest suicide note in UK political history.

  • David Evans 5th Mar '15 - 10:54am

    The disaster that is Nick Clegg continues to inflict ever more damage on Liberal Democracy. As has been pointed out many times, Nick in the debates defending the Lib Dems would be a calamity simply because he would remind people how good he made them feel about the Lib Dems 5 years ago and how badly he let them down. Now Nick is proposing to defend the entire government record. That will be an unmitigated disaster and put us close to the edge of oblivion.

    Of course this may well be Cameron stunt simply hanging out a lead for Nick to chase after, with Cameron agreeing to turn up late on with the put down ‘because I couldn’t just leave it up to Nick. You can’t expect him to be on top of everything.’ After that all that people will remember is the headline “Nick Clegg defends government’s record.”

  • David Evans 5th Mar '15 - 10:57am

    On the up side it will at least make it true what Nick said way back in 2011 – ” we won’t find anything to bloody disagree on in the bloody TV debate.” 🙂

  • Eddie Sammon 5th Mar '15 - 11:12am

    On Twitter Tim Farron says this shows we are willing to stand up for our record, but the problem is we are not taking into account the subtleties of the situation. If Clegg stands up and talks about the government’s record with beaming pride then he will look like a Tory.

    If everyone is willing to disown the idea that that we are moving to the right and the coalition was about compromise then it might be OK. But if Clegg looks like he is beaming with pride it will be a disaster.

  • What party guru decided on this approach?

    If Clegg does a good job in defending this (Tory led) government’s policies the credit will go to Cameron and thae Tories..
    If he fails then the “Face of blame” will be Clegg and the LibDems…

  • Why are people taking what Clegg says literally? Of course it is a ploy. He knows full well that neither the BBC nor any other broadcasters would accept Miliband v Clegg as an alternative. Miliband himself would reject it out of hand.

    The more serious issue is that Clegg, Lib Dem Ministers and the Party do have to account for their involvement in government. Clearly difficult decisions and compromises have had to be made. Without Clegg in a Miliband v Cameron debate there is an obvious opportunity to launch an uncontested attack on the third party. Of course if a Clegg v Miliband debate really did take place this is precisely what would happen (which is one reason why the broadcasters would refuse it).

  • Martin 5th Mar ’15 – 11:29am ….Why are people taking what Clegg says literally? Of course it is a ploy. He knows full well that neither the BBC nor any other broadcasters would accept Miliband v Clegg as an alternative. Miliband himself would reject it out of hand…

    All this ‘ploy’ has done is to further identify Clegg, and the LibDem party, with the Tories….Whatever happened to ‘distancing ourselves’?

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Mar '15 - 11:51am

    This is a Conservative government with a little Liberal Democrat influence only where that does not conflict with mainstream Conservative Party principles. Therefore it should NOT be the job of the leader of the Liberal Democrats to defend it. Even by saying this, Clegg is putting out the message that what this government has done is what a majority Liberal Democrat government would have done. If you want to throw away most of the people who used to vote for us, this is how to do it.

    Calamity Clegg strikes again.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Mar '15 - 12:01pm

    Martin

    Why are people taking what Clegg says literally?

    Because that is how most people hearing this will take it.

    The more serious issue is that Clegg, Lib Dem Ministers and the Party do have to account for their involvement in government.

    Yes, but that is not the same as “defending this government”. I can, of course, see the subtle point that it could be “putting the arguments for this government, although they are not necessarily my own independent view”, but that is far too subtle for most people. I myself have so often found that trying to argue someone else’s case because I believe it needs to be heard even if I do not necessarily agree with it always ends up with those hearing me assuming that I do agree with the case.

    We are not the Conservative Party, and up till the last election most of our votes came from people who supported us because they saw us as the best opposition to the Conservative Party. Expressing a wish to stand up and defend what is mostly a Conservative government pursuing Conservative policies is madness, absolute madness, for someone who is supposedly Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

    We can defend what we have done to influence it, sure. We ought to be making clear that the position we were in meant we had only limited influence. Clegg wants to do the opposite. He is destroying our party.

  • I was amazed to hear Paddy Ashdown this morning on the ‘Today’ programme saying that Nick Clegg would be very happy to defend this government’s record in David Cameron’s absence. There was a real chance here to present the Liberal Democrat record in government as opposed to that of the Conservatives and he totally blew it.
    Paddy also seemed so keen to throw the ‘f’ word at Cameron that he somehow managed to put the cart before the horse, invoking Mrs. Thatcher’s use of “frit” to imagine what she would have done in the circumstances.
    As history tells us, and should have told him, Thatcher turned down the idea of election debates on every occasion they were raised by her opponents.

  • Julian Tisi 5th Mar '15 - 12:25pm

    I disagree with most of the comments so far. In answer to Eddie Sammon, Clegg WILL defend the Liberal Democrats record in government, if he’s given the chance. This would be a perfect opportunity to get across some of the good things that we (and I mean the Lib Dems) have done in government because most people don’t know about them. And I can see him being really good against Miliband in exposing some of the Labour hypocrisy we’ve had to put up with over the last 5 years. Frankly anyone who thinks he will just defend Tory positions has probably become so anti-Clegg that they can’t give him credit for anything.

  • Richard Church 5th Mar '15 - 12:27pm

    What Clegg has said is perfectly sensible. He is a member of this government, and he is leader of a party that voted to create this government. You would expect him to defend its record, and you would expect the Leader of our party to highlight the significant Lib Dem achievements within it, and to use any opportunity to promote Lib Dem priorities for the next one. Doubtless that is what he will do in the unlikely event that Milliband and the broadcasters run with it. Meanwhile it helps turn the knife into Cameron’s shallow and opportunistic handling of the debate about debates. Good move.

  • Great, that should really help us get back the many voters we have lost to Labour and the Greens since the coalition and the Tuition fees fiasco, especially in our target seats., I do wonder about strategy, it seems all over the place.

  • Clegg will defend the (Tory-led) Government’s record by talking about the rise in the personal allowance, the Pupil Premium etc, thus cementing in voters’s mind that the Tories were responsible for these policies. If he defends the bad things – welfare reform, NHS reforms etc the voters he will cement in voters’ minds that the Lub Dems support these policies.

    Either way, voters will remember the last TV debates and the resulting ‘Clegg-mania’ and then remember how all the promises about “No More Broken Promises” and “A New Kind of Politics ” came to nowt.

    There is nothing to be gained for the Party by Clegg ‘standing in’ for Cameron.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Mar '15 - 12:51pm

    Richard Church

    What Clegg has said is perfectly sensible. He is a member of this government, and he is leader of a party that voted to create this government.

    I wasn’t at the party conference which agreed to the coalition, but if I had been, I would have voted in favour of it. However, my vote most certainly would NOT have been because I agree with the Conservative Party and its policies. It would have been because I accept that the country needs a stable government, and that a Conservative-LibDem coalition was the only one that could have come from the Parliament the people elected.

    If it were now put across that my vote to endorse the Coalition was a vote of personal support for the policies of the Conservative Party, which is what you are saying, I would be so angry because it would be a HUGE misrepresentation of my position.

  • Stephen Hesketh 5th Mar '15 - 12:58pm

    Julian Tisi5th Mar ’15 – 12:25pm
    Julian, why would most people not know what we have achieved in government? Who decided to be primarily the collective responsibility DPM instead of Leader of the Lib Dems and coalition DPM?

    “Frankly anyone who thinks he will just defend Tory positions has probably become so anti-Clegg that they can’t give him credit for anything.”

    That would certainly appear to be the message of the polls!

    Julian, whatever we think of Nick Clegg as a decent fair minded liberal human being, his leadership has ‘not been good’ for our party. This will not stop me campaigning for the party and authentic traditional Liberal Democrat values, policies and candidates – this is where our duty lies – to ourselves and future generations – not in supporting the unsupportable.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Mar '15 - 1:00pm

    Phyllis

    If he defends the bad things – welfare reform, NHS reforms etc the voters he will cement in voters’ minds that the Lub Dems support these policies.

    I don’t think it matters what he says. Most people just read the headlines, they don’t look at the detail.

    To most people, Clegg saying that he will “defend this government” means Clegg saying that he believes in the policies of the Conservative Party. It means that the next general election will be a two-party thing – you vote Conservative if you agree with this government, you vote Labour if you don’t. Oh, but in one or two places, for historical reasons instead of voting Conservative to express agreement with Conservative policies, you vote Liberal Democrat.

    No-one who voted Liberal Democrat because they thought us to be the best opposition party to the Conservatives, or the one more likely to win where they are is going to vote Liberal Democrat after this. A vote for the Liberal Democrats WILL be seen as just another way of voting for the Conservatives.

    Please, please, please, Liberal Democrat members. Even now, you have the chance. If you value our party, if you want us to survive as an independent party, if all the work you have done to build us up to a position of strength means anything, get rid of him. After this, demand NOW that he steps down. He is a liability, he is destroying all we hahve worked for.

  • Eddie Sammon 5th Mar '15 - 1:05pm

    Hi Julian. Thanks. I still disagree with the move, but I feel better about it now I know Farron is on board.

    Every decision needs to be seen through the prism of what is in the long-term interests of the party and I just don’t see people focusing on that right now. The party cannot succeed unless people feel genuinely positive about it.

  • @ Richard Church @Jullan Tisi
    Whether or not the party created this government, which some might dispute, I think that selling the LibDems as a pale imitation of the Conservatives is going to lead to absolute disaster.
    What at first seemed to herald some hope that Nick Clegg might wish to at least sound independent of the Tories -if not seeming to be equidistant between the two main parties – as the election approaches was the well received tweet on social media that Caron reproduces in her article. It was well received and widely re tweeted precisely because, for once, Nick Clegg was combative and stood up to David Cameron, proving there is little doubt there is a desire among voters and party members for the LibDems to unchain themselves so they can fight on their own record.

  • paul barker 5th Mar '15 - 1:12pm

    With 2 months to polling day can people who put attacking Clegg above defending the party please go away ?
    On the idea of a Clegg/Milliband debate thats a great idea. Obviously that would involve defending our part in the coalition & the whole principle of give & take, its a Liberal principle.

  • “Obviously that would involve defending our part in the coalition & the whole principle of give & take, its a Liberal principle.”

    Nick isn’t talking about that though (and this line has been repeated by others so isn’t a slip of the tongue which was what I first thought). What is being said is that he will go on that debate to defend the GOVERNMENT’S record.

    If Lib Dem strategy for 2015 is to treat it as a referendum on the 2010-15 government then it is a dumb strategy.

  • Paul barker,
    It is not about attacking Clegg, it is about what is the best strategy for the party and with the very greatest respect this is not it. If we are to believe what we see and read in the Lib Dem Voice headlines, then we are supposed to be setting out our agenda, not doing the Tories work for them. On May 8th I sincerely hope there will be a string of resignations from the “strategy team”, and we can then try and start to regroup and recoup a little of the enormous political recognition that we have lost.

  • paul barker 5th Mar '15 - 2:54pm

    Slightly off-topic, all this focus on the debates means very little coverage of the Polls. The current position seems to be an average Tory lead somewhere between 0.5% & 1%. Thats a big contrast with December when Labour had an average lead of 3%. The long term fall in Labours vote seems to have accelerated.
    Our average is around 8% as it has been since last summer.

  • matt (Bristol) 5th Mar '15 - 3:04pm

    I wish Clegg had said something like, ‘If David Cameron doesn’t want to participate, as Deputy Prime minister for the last 5 years in a coalition based on compromise, I’ll be 100% prepared to defend those parts of the government’s record I am proud of and had a hand in, and in doing so I’ll be happy to explain why David Cameron’s lurch to the right and the plans the Conservative party have for the future of the country after the election are wrongheaded’.

    Maybe he did. But that’s not what’s being reported.

  • For the avoidance of doubt, Sky News has just run an interview with nick Clegg & this is exactly what he said:

    “….you can’t have a Miliband monologue so lets have a debate. I’m prepared to debate with Ed Miliband; my challenge to Ed Miiband is if he wants to scrutinise & challenge the record of this coalition government, David Cameron might not be prepared to do it but I am and that’s why I would like these debates to happen & I will take part.”

    Clearly Clegg would be defending the govts actions over the last 5 years, not just the LD’s.

    Madness, utter madness.

  • paul barker 5th Mar ’15 – 1:12pm …With 2 months to polling day can people who put attacking Clegg above defending the party please go away ? On the idea of a Clegg/Milliband debate thats a great idea. Obviously that would involve defending our part in the coalition & the whole principle of give & take, its a Liberal principle….

    Of course Milliband will just stand/sit there and allow Nick to pick out the LibDem bits… He won’t mention the NHS, Welfare, Bedroom tax, etc…

  • Stephen Hesketh 5th Mar '15 - 3:42pm

    matt (Bristol) 5th Mar ’15 – 3:04pm

    Well said Matt.

    This is not about loyalty but political nous/competence/honesty!

  • Julian Tisi 5th Mar '15 - 3:59pm

    @ Paul Barker
    “On the idea of a Clegg/Milliband debate thats a great idea. Obviously that would involve defending our part in the coalition & the whole principle of give & take, its a Liberal principle.”
    I couldn’t agree more, and this is the perfect opportunity for this, in the unlikely event that Miliband agrees to such a debate, Cameron sticks to his guns in not turning up and the broadcasters stick to their guns in having a head to head debate. Frankly the likelihood is small, but if Clegg HAD said someone thing like what Matt (Bristol) would prefer, the idea would have been dismissed out of hand by the broadcasters – as it is, there’s still a chance it might happen.

    A number of comments above are based on the starting point that our record is government is indefensible, therefore we should not defend it – and if we do, we’re clearly defending the Tories. That may be the opinion of many outside the party and even some in the party, but it’s an opinion based on the case for the defence having simply not been heard. It has suited both Tories and Labour to paint this government as “Tory-led” with minimal or negligible Lib Dem influence. I don’t believe that to be the case and here is a perfect opportunity to suggest to the public that we actually have had more influence than they might have imagined and that the compromises we’ve made were reasonable ones in the circumstances. It’s only by convincing people of this that we will support the idea that we’re a moderating and reasonable influence on government and people might ask for more of it. Why would we not want to take up such an opportunity? Or should we give up before we’ve even started?

  • matt (Bristol) 5th Mar '15 - 4:12pm

    Julian – On the whole, I think good chunks of our record in government are defensible, even if they are not ideal.

    What worries me more is how we set out as a party that:
    a) our vision for what comes _next_ after coalition is different from what the Conservatives are saying must come next.
    b) this is compatible with the party people voted for before 2010, and our vision arises from the same principles not taking the coalition as a blueprint in general for LibDem-ness.
    b) we are capable of bringing other parties round to our way of thinking, should we be in coalition, without further compromises the public can’t see coming.

    These things are surely do-able, but they seem (quite understandably) to be difficult to do and do well; this is the real challenge of an era of coalition government – not just to be the first minor party for years to go into a coalition, but to be the first to leave it without being irrretrievably altered in political doctrine and in reputation (for good or ill) by the experience.

    To be honest, I don’t think we’re being believed by the puiblic yet, when we do try to communictate the distinctiveness of our vision for the future, and I think that when the Tories set out the direction of travel they wish to take, many are assuming (and I believe and hope so very fervently that they are wrong) that we will be coming along for the ride, at least a good chunk of the way.

    I’d frankly rather Nick said these things, and got it out there, and he didn’t get in on the debate as Cameron’s vicarious replacement (which is highly unlikely) because the broadcasters felt he was too partisan, than he did get in on the debate, but couldn’t get heard because he had fixed in the public’s mind the (wrong) perception that he and Dave are joined at the hip, and the parties’ agendas are too.

  • Phil Rimmer 5th Mar '15 - 4:40pm

    Is Clegg determined to split this party wide open? From this, it would appear so. Defend the government’s record? Try defending our record first!

  • Simon McGrath 5th Mar '15 - 4:44pm

    One of the odd things is the number of LDs here who don’t think the Govt overall has been a success.
    The economy rescued, deficit cut, millions more jobs – 3rd lowest unemployment in Europe, NHS spending protected in real terms and more clinical staff – and that’s before we get on to the specifically LD things like the pupil premium.

    Of course there have been things we disagree with but the overall record has been good

  • Not to mention millions taken out of income tax giving an extra £840 pa. Capital Gains Tax raised from just 18% under Labour to 28% now, meaning the wealthiest pay more. The UK science budget protected and grown.
    Doubling of green energy production to 20% of UK energy production. The Green Investment Bank pushing the UK to second in the world in per capita renewables investment. 900 miles of rail electrification under way (Labour managed 8 miles in 13 years). Child detention in immigration cases ended. The Hillsborough Inquiry (repeatedly refused by Labour in power). Labour’s DNA database of the innocent abolished, along with ContactPoint & ID cards etc etc etc etc

  • David Evans 5th Mar '15 - 5:35pm

    That’s what you think Simon. Do you think the electorate agree with you, and particularly, do you think that the people who normally vote Lib Dem agree with you? Personally although as a Liberal I believe everyone has a right to their views, somehow I think that the people as a whole are more likely to be right on this one than you. Indeed they are 100% more likely.

  • If Nick is serious about distancing himself from Cameron perhaps he should be more careful in his posing with Dave….
    Yesterday’s “Times” had a lovely, front page, photograph of them enjoying each others company…..

    To me, at least, it was far too reminiscent of the ‘Rose garden love-in’ for comfort…..

  • Somewhere down the line Nick should decide which party he belongs to. At this point it would seem to be the “Conservative Democrats.”

  • Nick Collins 5th Mar '15 - 5:51pm

    . ” One of the odd things is the number of LDs here who don’t think the Govt overall has been a success”

    What is even odder is that Liberal Democrats apparently cannot understand why so many former supporters can no longer look upon the party with anything other than contempt.

  • Chris Manners 5th Mar '15 - 5:59pm

    “and that’s before we get on to the specifically LD things like the pupil premium.”

    There was already extra funding for poorer communities before. Only because the media are clueless about state education gives the Lib Dems any credence as progressives.

    The pupil premium came in, went up and down, and there was no way of monitoring its use.

    “The economy rescued”

    Never any threat to it. And lest we forget you got elected on delaying cuts till the recovery took hold.

    People thought they were voting for Andrew George. They got David Laws. And you wonder why you’re absolutely stuffed.

  • Chris Manners 5th Mar '15 - 6:04pm

    “he current position seems to be an average Tory lead somewhere between 0.5% & 1%. Thats a big contrast with December when Labour had an average lead of 3%.”

    http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/uk-polling-report-average-2

    Current position of average Labour lead of 1%. Average lead not much greater in February, So nothing’s accelerating .

  • It’s not hard to see why Clegg was dubbed Calamity by people within the party.

  • Chris Manners 5th Mar '15 - 7:12pm

    Ah thanks for the link.

  • Richard Whelan 5th Mar '15 - 7:34pm

    Why shouldn’t Nick Clegg defend the government’s record and the Liberal Democrat involvement in it? Please, let us grow up as a party. We have been in government for five years. Surely we should be grown up enough to defend our record in government. After all, if we don’t, who will?

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Mar '15 - 7:35pm

    Julian Tisi

    A number of comments above are based on the starting point that our record is government is indefensible, therefore we should not defend it – and if we do, we’re clearly defending the Tories.

    If mine is included in this “number of comments”, no, that’s not all what I’m saying.

    Not only do I believe our record in this government is defensible, I’ve defended it here, and elsewhere, again and again and again.

    But the defence I would be happy to give to it is being undermined by so much of what Clegg says and does, and this is the last straw.

  • Simon McGrath 5th Mar ’15 – 4:44pm
    Simon, if you believe what you say in your comment – the logical conclusion would be for you to vote Conservative.

    Are you really delighted with what a Conservative Government has done on the economy, jobs, the NHS, etc ?

    Do you really think that it is such a great success ?
    If so — what is stopping you being a member of The Conservative Party?

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Mar '15 - 7:46pm

    Richard Whelan

    Why shouldn’t Nick Clegg defend the government’s record and the Liberal Democrat involvement in it?

    Oh dear, ONCE AGAIN – because it will NOT be seen by the general public as Clegg defending the Liberal Democrats’ role in this government. It will be seen as Clegg giving uncritical support to the Conservative Party.

    The defence of our role in this government has to be that it is a compromise, that inevitably there has to be give and take, and actually given the party balance, more give than take. But what Clegg says he wants to do here won’t come across as this. It will come across as us saying we agree with everything this government has done, and it is what we would have done if we were the sole party in government. Even if it wasn’t intended to come across like that, it will. I know that because I have argued again and again and again against the “nah nah nah nah nah”s who accuse us of just rolling over and giving in to the Conservatives, and it doesn’t matter how I try to put the point about this government being the only one possible and it inevitably having to involve compromise, it doesn’t work – I spend hours carefully defending it, and the response? “Nah nah nah nah nah, dirty rotten LibDems, you just gave in to the Tories because secretly you are just Tories, you only pretended otherwise”.

    The constant impression Clegg give that he supports the Conservatives unconditionally, that he supports what this government does not as a compromise but because he really, really believes in it 100%, is destroying our line of defence. The result is that people think we and the Tories are the same thing, that a vote for one is the same as a vote for the other, that we don;t stand for anything different. So what’s the point of the Liberal Democrats if that’s the case? And how can we maintain the vote we used to have when so much of it was from people who supported us because they felt we were the best opposition to the Conservatives?

  • Philip Thomas 5th Mar '15 - 7:50pm

    Let the Tories get a majority and you’ll find out how much we differ from them quickly enough!
    I welcome Clegg’s offer, if we’re still in government by the time of the debates (If there is a genuine divide of principle over, for example, the budget, I think we should not be afraid to walk out, even this late in the Parliament.)

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Mar '15 - 7:50pm

    Nick Collins

    What is even odder is that Liberal Democrats apparently cannot understand why so many former supporters can no longer look upon the party with anything other than contempt.

    What do you mean “Liberal Democrats”. I am a Liberal Democrat, I have been a member of the party and its predecessor for 37 years. Is what your write here about “Liberal Democrats” what you think my position is? Do you think I cannot understand why so many former supporters can no longer look upon the party with anything other than contempt? So how does that accusation you throw at me fit with all I have written above on this matter?

  • Philip Thomas 5th Mar '15 - 7:58pm

    I think he means “some Liberal Democrats”… I dunno, maybe I’m one of them. I can think of reasons why people look on us with contempt (tuition fees, the bedroom tax, etc), but I’m not sure I really understand those reasons: it seems to me the Liberal Democrats remain true to their core values…

  • As I (and presumably Nick Clegg) predicted, Labour have said that they do not want a debate just with Nick Clegg, In the circumstances, the way some are getting hot under the collar here at what only amounts to be strategic posturing is rather ridiculous. Clegg’s intervention is the pretty obvious tactic to adopt; it is not even particularly astute

    Even more ridiculously, there is speculation going around in the papers that the media outlets are threatening to ’empty chair’ Cameron as though an hour or even ninety minutes long ‘debate’ featuring Miliband and an empty chair is ever likely to happen. Miliband would be a fool to get involved: who would risk ‘losing’ to an empty chair?

  • Paul In Wokingham 5th Mar '15 - 8:15pm
  • Philip Thomas 5th Mar '15 - 8:20pm

    Empty chair might make sense in the context of the 7 leader debate though.

  • So Clegg and it would seem many here are also, is happy to jump to the media’s beck and call. From what I can determine about the intended form of the ‘debate’ and comaring it with the 2010 debates, I can see why any one sensible, particularly if you were the PM of a major world economy, would avoid being involved and hence use the opportunity given to remind the media of their place and role.

  • Philip Thomas 5th Mar '15 - 8:53pm

    @Roland Cameron’s proposal was for a 7 person 90 minute debate before the parties have published their manifestos. He wants to get out of the 2 person debate with the only other person who is likely to be Prime Minister in May. That isn’t being sensible, it is a spoiling tactic.

  • Simon McGrath 5th Mar '15 - 9:31pm

    @John Tilley – your comment is rather strange “Are you really delighted with what a Conservative Government has done on the economy, jobs, the NHS, etc ?”
    Its not a conservative government its a Coalition Govt. And yes I am delighted that we have protected the NHS, helped create millions of new jobs and have one of the highest growth rates in the EU . What is it you dislike about these ?

  • Julian Dean 5th Mar '15 - 9:46pm

    @Simon McGrath

    And yes I am delighted that we have protected the NHS”

    Why do you think a very large percentage of the medical profession would disagree with that?

  • Galen Milne 5th Mar '15 - 10:12pm

    I think it underlines the fact that in Nick Clegg we do have a great LEADER willing to take the fight to the OPPOSITION. For all those who think otherwise then that simply underlines for me the real problem within our party – too many feint hearts who never wanted to deal with the harsh realities of coalition government during the worst post war global economic crisis in our lifetimes. Some of us are still standing, and proud of it.

  • Tony Dawson 5th Mar '15 - 11:17pm

    @Richard Church

    “What Clegg has said is perfectly sensible. ”

    When I first read the headline of this topic, I hoped that Caron had done some rather poor sub-editing. Unfortunately, I can see that this is not so. What the item demonstrates, therefore, is the political ineptness of Nick Clegg possibly extending beyond anything people had ever dreamed of as being possible.

    You are entering an election where your principle opponents in 95 per cent of the seats you have a hope of winning in is the ‘partner’ (sic) which has dominated the Coalition government. So you set out to extol the virtues of that government rather than the specifically Lib Dem elements of it. So which Party do you think that approach will aid?Why don’t you just shoot yourself (and all your own Party’s supporters) in the head and be done with it?

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Mar '15 - 11:24pm

    Galen Milne

    For all those who think otherwise then that simply underlines for me the real problem within our party – too many feint hearts who never wanted to deal with the harsh realities of coalition government during the worst post war global economic crisis in our lifetimes.

    You just aren’t listening, are you? Far from not wanting to deal with the harsh realities of coalition government, I’ve been defending them.

    People like you in the party make me sick. I feel trapped between the enemies of the party and their “nah nah nah nah nah” attacks on us, and people like you, who seem just to want to justify those attacks and who don’t seem to be able to bear any internal debate or criticism of the Leader’s tactics. If you can’t bear internal debate, and you think it shouldn’t happen, and that is so obvious by the way you so misrepresent the position of those who criticise the Leader, you are NOT a Liberal.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Mar '15 - 11:35pm

    Simon McGrath

    Its not a conservative government its a Coalition Govt.

    It’s a coalition government which is mostly Conservative. That is inevitable given the balance of the two parties in Parliament. Its policies reflect that balance. If we are going to give uncritical support to that government, which is the impression that is being given if out leader wants to step in and take the place of the Leader of the ConservativeParty in defending it, then we are saying there is little difference between us and the Conservative Party.

    Well, if that is the case, we are a VERY different party from the one I joined and was an active member of for over 30 years. When was it decided that we should make this complete change from what we used to be?

    And yes I am delighted that we have protected the NHS, helped create millions of new jobs and have one of the highest growth rates in the EU . What is it you dislike about these ?

    I dislike the fact that we have NOT protected the NHS by giving it the funding that it needs to do its job properly, and we have allowed much time, energy and money to be wasted on an internal reform which was never wanted by most people working in the NHS, was driven by right-wing ideology rather than by common sense and democracy, was contrary to the Coalition agreement, and has now been admitted was a mistake even by several leading Conservatives. I dislike the fact that many of these new jobs are low paid and have gone to imported labour rather than to the people of this country. I dislike the way that the benefits of the high growth rate have gone disproportionately to the wealthiest proportion of the population.

  • Tony Dawson 5th Mar '15 - 11:42pm

    Galen Milne, some of us not only do NOT have ‘faint hearts’, we get out there and win elections despite handicaps being hung around our necks year after year. Have you won anything recently? We also support Coalition government, provided that it is undertaken competently. Our Party has not been led competently. It has not even been led at all. Nick Clegg would appear to have been far too busy being Deputy Prime Minister to entertain the slightest thoughts about the future of the Liberal Democrats and the effects of his actions upon that future.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Mar '15 - 12:25am

    ColinW (paraphrased)

    Blah-di-blah-di-blah.

    The problem is that is how it comes across, we aren’t being listened to. I don’t deny that we have had achievements in this government, and that it would have been a whole lot worse if it had been a purely Conservative government. So why is that message not getting through? Why do our opinion poll figures keep on going down? Why do so many who used to support us now say “Never again”?

    To me, the problem has always been that we have come across as far too pleased with ourselves about this government, whereas we were the big losers in the general election, all the “Cleggmania” boom at the start came to nothing, and we lost seats. We had to agree with what was actually quite a humiliating compromise. A good example is that we wanted full STV, but all we got was a referendum on AV. Much can be said about other aspects of this government – it’s a little bit of a shift towards our direction away from what the Conservatives would regard as ideal, but it’s still very much towards the Conservatives and not towards us. I can accept that’s the reality of the situation, and defend what we have done to try and get a little out of it. However, I think that by not being more open about the fact that this government was very much a disappointing compromise, we are damaging ourselves hugely. By giving the impression that we want to sing its praises and are very happy with everything it is doing, we are damaging our image, because we are giving the impression that we have become Conservatives.

    You give a list of things we have got out of this government. I’m not particularly happy with the income tax thing, it is NOT in line with our 2010 manifesto as our Leader and his PR people falsely claim. That manifesto made much more clear that the income tax cut we wanted was part of a shift of overall taxation, not just a cut. Given the reality of the economic situation we faced, the “worst post war global economic crisis” as Galen Milne put it, I don’t think that tax cut should have been the first choice in how we deal with that amount of money, I’d have preferred it to have gone to stopping some of the government spending cuts which are hugely damaging and will result in more cost in the long term. However, if the Conservatives were insistent on making tax cuts, I can of course see the point in coming to a compromise that they are concentrated lower down the scale rather than upper as their ideal would be. Just don’t pretend that compromise was our ideal. We used to be the party that said “a penny on income tax for education”, that is we were in favour of tax increases to give better government services, because we could see that’s a good long term investment. People admired us for our honesty in saying that. Trying to buy vote with tax cuts now doesn’t seem to be working, it just makes us look like another variety of Tory. One of the reasons government spending is remaining stubbornly high IS the lack of investment in training in the past, resulting in things like the NHS having to use expensive agency staff.

    Many of the other things are little titbits. Well, are people impressed by that? No. Our opponents on the left can pick out plenty of Tory titbits that go hugely against what we used to stand for, and embarrass us by claiming we now support them. We need to fight that, we need to make clear that this government is a compromise and not one particularly on our terms. We are just not doing that if our Leader says he want to stand up to defend this government. That was the words quoted “I’ll defend this government”. If the words were “I’ll defend our role in this government”, fine. But they weren’t that, were they?

    I genuinely think we are getting things wrong, and have been since the Coalition was formed, starting with the Rose Garden love-in. Saying we have got the presentation wrong is not the same thing as saying we should not have joined the coalition, as is being alleged, and it is not saying that somehow we could have achieved hugely more in this coalition, which I think is what is meant by the attacks which claim opponents of Clegg are “feint hearts who never wanted to deal with the harsh realities of coalition government”.

    As I have already said, what sort of liberals are we if we are unable to have internal debates on how best to present our position to the public? Paul Barker asks me to “go away” because he can’t cope with that sort of debate. Well, I have done. I am no longer campaigning for the party. I cannot do so while the defence I would be perfectly willing to give of it is being so undermined by its own Leader. I am in a real dilemma now. I am actually quite desperate to get some message from the top which tells me my support is valued, and that I am being listened to when I express my concerns about why I think the way we are presenting ourselves isn’t getting the message across. I really would like, come election day, to feel enthused enough that I do want to go out and do a bit of campaigning. There’s no other party I have any interest in supporting. But what I am getting here, not just from Clegg but from the Cleggies who seem to think any criticism of the Leader is unacceptable, is pushing me out. After what Clegg’s said here, I’ll find it hard even to put my cross against the LibDems let alone do anything else.

  • Stephen Hesketh 6th Mar '15 - 6:56am

    Tony Dawson 5th Mar ’15 – 11:17pm and 11:42pm.

    Nails on their heads Tony!

  • Tony Dawson 5th Mar ’15 – 11:42pm
    “…Our Party has not been led competently. It has not even been led at all.
    Nick Clegg would appear to have been far too busy being Deputy Prime Minister to entertain the slightest thoughts about the future of the Liberal Democrats and the effects of his actions upon that future.”

    Parachuted into an MEP seat, parachuted into a Sheffield seat, Clegg arrived without trace as party leader within 8 years of joining the party.
    Party leader within less time than it takes many loyal, hard-working Liberal Democrats to get approved as a ppc.
    Is it any surprise that he does not fully comprehend or pay attention to the future of the party?

    The sense of personal entitlement is staggering to behold.

  • Philip Thomas 6th Mar '15 - 8:37am

    @Matthew I agree with most of what you are saying. We have given far more than we have received and we need to raise taxes to cut the deficit (as indeed we have said in our plans for the next parliament). But unlike you, I don’t see any contradiction between saying that on the door step and what the leadership is doing. Clegg was making a tactical manoeuvre to highlight Cameron’s cowardice, nothing more. Maybe he could have picked his words better, but that is hardly a reason to abandon campaigning.

    I don’t want to wake up to a majority Tory government on 8th May. It will make the past 5 years seem like a pleasant interlude. But if I do, at least I will have the small compensation that I did my part to prevent it.

  • Rather than replace Cameron with Clegg the broadcasters should replace him with a spitting image puppet dressed in his Bullingdon Club outfit.

  • Steve Way 6th Mar ’15 – 9:10am
    “… replace him with a spitting image puppet dressed in his Bullingdon Club outfit.”

    HIGNFY once replaced Roy Hattersley with a TUB OF LARD.

    So there is a precedent.

  • Steve Comer 6th Mar '15 - 11:27am

    What concerns me is that senior party figures can talk of the Party Leader “defending the Government’s record.”
    Surely what we should be doing is “defending the Liberal Democrat record in Government.”
    Not the same thing at all. Cameron would be highly delighted if Lib Dems campaigned for the Coalition – it would leave him free to campaign as a Tory Leader!

    Sorry Paddy, sorry Clegg apologists – enagage brain before opening gob in future!

  • matt (Bristol) 6th Mar '15 - 12:50pm

    Matthew Huntbach — “Saying we have got the presentation wrong is not the same thing as saying we should not have joined the coalition.”

    AMEN.

  • To Nigel Jones and all those who want to go out and canvass please do so and tell people what the Lib Dems have achieved in spite of being a small party up against the Goliath of the Conservatives. Those of us who seek social justice have had a difficult time of it over the last 5 years but imagine how much worse it would have been if the Tories had been in power alone. It was much worse in the rather smaller recessions under the Conservatives. Maybe that is what Paddy and Nick want to say but a sound bite is all they get.
    Paul of Woking thank you for the link about Vince Cable’s new stance. I haven’t read it yet but share your joy! This party is the only one for those of us who believe in the importance of liberty in spite of all the crassness of some of the great and the good who have turned out to be not that great and not so good either. If Tony Greaves can stick with it so can we.

  • Nick Collins 6th Mar '15 - 1:58pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach., please do not take my comment personally; it was not addressed specifically at you Although you comment on this site more frequently and at greater length than anyone else, I do not assume that your views represent those of all Liberal Democrats.

  • David Evans 6th Mar '15 - 2:14pm

    Galen, you say “in Nick Clegg we do have a great LEADER.” Is this the great LEADER who has led us to lose half of our councillors, a third of our members; two thirds of our MSPs and all but one of our MSPs? And unless there is a massive change at the top he will lose us about half of our remaining MPs (already down five in 2010), and quite possibly all of our mainland MPs in Scotland!

    Perhaps you have a different interpretation of the term ‘great LEADER’ to most of us, but the only one I can reconcile with the facts is a leader who deliberately ignores promises, ignores conference votes and loses so much support that compared to the size of his ego, the rest of the party is so diminished that he appears to be “a great LEADER.” Or perhaps you are a lifelong liberal who like me is fully aware of the wilderness years pre Jo Grimond, but unlike me you want us to be led back there.

  • Nigel Jones 6th Mar '15 - 3:56pm

    I have come back in, having been fully engaged elsewhere since I made my early comment.
    Sue S: I still want to canvass for Liberal Democracy, so thank you.
    I still feel as I did yesterday and hope it is clear that I do not oppose us being up there in the debate. However, Nick made a massive blunder in the EU debate (with electoral consequences) which makes me wonder if he really did have the true LD mindset on that. So what he and Paddy said yesterday suggests they do not have the true LD mindset on our attitude to national issues at the moment and we could end up with another massive blunder.
    As regards people’s comments about tactics; sure, we should not be totally self-centred if we are to convince the broadcasters, but all we needed to say was: ‘If Cameron does not wish to debate with Milliband and broadcasters insist they only want 2 people in the debate, then Nick is happy to step in and debate the issues that people want to hear about.’

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Mar '15 - 4:58pm

    Nick Collins

    @ Matthew Huntbach., please do not take my comment personally; it was not addressed specifically at you

    I do take it personally. I regard what you wrote, since it just said “Liberal Democrats” and not “some Liberal Democrats” or “the Liberal Democrat leadership” as an attack on me as much as on any other Liberal Democrat.

    I would like to see the Liberal Democrats move away from where they’ve been dragged by Clegg, and I regard people like you who attack all of us without qualification as my enemy in that regard. All the hard work I have put into the party over all my adult lifetime is being wrecked by people like you as much as it is by Clegg, because your choice of words makes it clear you want to destroy ALL the party, and not to see it rescued as I want to see it rescued.

    If we could get across a clear public image that the Liberal Democrats are NOT all Clegg and Cleggery, it would help rescue the party. But your choice of language is directly aimed at stopping that message getting across. If we could show that there is support we could gain by moving away from Clegg and Cleggery, by people like you making a distinction between the Cleggies and people like me who are loyal to what the party used to stand for, and supporting people like me, we could do better at rescuing the party. But you stamp on that, destroy the possibility of what I want to see, when you like so many others push out the message that attacks ALL of us in the party without distinction, that makes out we are ALL Cleggies.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Mar '15 - 5:10pm

    Philip Thomas

    Clegg was making a tactical manoeuvre to highlight Cameron’s cowardice, nothing more. Maybe he could have picked his words better, but that is hardly a reason to abandon campaigning.

    It is not just this. This is just an example. Quite a stunning example, yes, but it’s not the only one. I stopped campaigning for the party some time ago. I really am in a dilemma, as there’s no other party I support, and I hate the idea of a general election happening and me not being actively involved as I have been in every general election since 1979. But I just CANNOT get involved when Clegg keeps on and on and on pushing this hugely damaging message that we are so happy with the Coalition and all its policies and they are what a purely Liberal Democrat government would have done.

    It may not have been meant that way, but that is how it comes across. I can assure you, from all the conversations I have had with people who in the past I persuaded to vote Liberal Democrat and who now say “Never again”, that this is how they see it. And so much of what Nick Clegg says and does reinforces that message.

    If this was a tactical manoeuvre, it was a hugely mistaken one. If it ever did come about, and there was a Clegg for the government debate against Miliband for the opposition, it would seal it. Clegg would be seen as Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party arguing the case for Conservative Party policies. It doesn’t actually have to happen, because Clegg saying he wants it to happen gets it into people’s minds that it will be just that.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Mar '15 - 5:25pm

    Philip Thomas

    I don’t want to wake up to a majority Tory government on 8th May. It will make the past 5 years seem like a pleasant interlude.

    I don’t want to either. But recent polls are suggesting that’s what we may get. We’re more likely to get it because of the combination of Nick Clegg and people like Nick Collins pushing out the message that all Liberal Democrats are the same, and all of them are no different from the Conservatives, or so little in difference that it hardly matters.

    As a result, people who are opposed to the Conservatives in seats we hold and in seats which they hold and where we used to have a good chance are pulling away from us saying “there’s no difference, they’re both the same, I don’t care if the Tories get in rather than the LibDems, it doesn’t matter”. I can see this happening, I’ve had people in critical marginals telling me just that. They’re drifting away to non-voting or to Labour or the Greens, but Labour and the Greens are never going to win some of those suburban and rural constituencies which we can and have won. In local government, it’s already happened.Thanks to the Cleggses and Collinses, what were LibDem-run councils have gone back to the Tories.

    Oh, sure, they’ll see how wrong they were when we do have a REAL majority Tory government. But I wish we could stop that. And what Clegg’s saying here will have the opposite effect.

  • Nick Collins 6th Mar '15 - 5:54pm

    ” and I regard people like you … as my enemy …”

    So, Matthew Huntbach, let me get this right. Anyone who criticises the Liberal Democrats (and anyone within the Liberal Democrats who does not support your particular anti-Clegg faction?) is your enemy: and it’s personal? I feel sorry for you; you must have an awful lot of enemies.

  • Alex Sabine 6th Mar '15 - 6:21pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach
    If we could get across a clear public image that the Liberal Democrats are NOT all Clegg and Cleggery…”

    If that’s what you wanted to do you would have had to dump Clegg as leader. Irrespective of whether he takes part in a head-to-head debate with Ed Miliband, it is laughable to pretend that you can in effect disown him and the policies he and his Lib Dem ministerial colleagues defends while he remains party leader. What are you going to do, send him to Siberia for the duration of the election campaign?

    On what dog-whistle level are the voters supposed to hear the message you want them to hear while ignoring the message being delivered by the party’s most prominent figure and deputy PM?

    As usual I can’t help feeling you are attaching an exaggerated significance to the form of words used by Lib Dems to justify government policies – as in “we hate what we’re having to do but unfortunately it’s your fault, dear voters, for only giving us so few MPs” or “we don’t believe in much that we’re doing and we hope you give us credit for making it clear that we’re doing it under sufferance”.

    It’s as if all Lib Dem ministers should have their nose pegs at the ready whenever they go through the lobbies in support of government policy that they have helped to design. None of this is likely to cut much mustard with the average voter, who is unlikely to be paying close enough attention to the precise choreographing of coalition differentiation to get the message you want to convey – or to be much impressed by the pusillanimous buck-passing that such an approach would seem to involve.

  • Back on topic: A Miliband v Cameron debate is not in the interests of Lib Dems, it is not a precedent that we want to see; it would act as a clear act of support by the broadcasters for two party politics: we do not want to give opponents to smear us without the possibility of a direct reply. Accordingly, Clegg’s intervention was well judged as it makes it more difficult for Miliband and the broadcasters to try to force the issue.

    Whilst there may, in the end be two multi-party debates, I think that the combination of Cameron’s stipulations, Clegg’s offer to debate against Miliband and Miliband’s to debate against Clegg, will ensure that a Cameron v Miliband head to head will not happen.

  • Philip Thomas 6th Mar '15 - 9:19pm

    @Matthew
    What would it take for you to resume campaigning? A clear break with the Tories?

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Mar '15 - 10:35pm

    Philip Thomas

    What would it take for you to resume campaigning?

    The resignation or dismissal of Nick Clegg as Leader.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Mar '15 - 10:47pm

    Alex Sabine

    On what dog-whistle level are the voters supposed to hear the message you want them to hear while ignoring the message being delivered by the party’s most prominent figure and deputy PM?

    You are illustrating my point so well, but not getting it.

    Isn’t it very obvious that the policies that would come from a government which is five-sixths Conservative and one-sixth Liberal Democrat are not the same as the policies that would come from a government which is 100% Liberal Democrat? If they were the same, what would be the point of the Liberal Democrats? Yet your whole argument is on the basis that Nick Clegg is an enthusiastic supporter of all the policies of this five-sixths Conservative government not on the basis of accepting them as a compromise but on the basis of believing them by conviction. If that is the case, then quite clearly he is in the wrong party.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Mar '15 - 11:01pm

    Alex Sabine

    As usual I can’t help feeling you are attaching an exaggerated significance to the form of words used by Lib Dems to justify government policies – as in “we hate what we’re having to do but unfortunately it’s your fault, dear voters, for only giving us so few MPs” or “we don’t believe in much that we’re doing and we hope you give us credit for making it clear that we’re doing it under sufferance”.

    Well, I believe in the liberal democratic model of politics, in which we have a representative chamber, and what comes out of that chamber is a compromise that a majority of it can agree to. Quite obviously in politics we can’t all have our own way, democracy is about having to accept what the others want and coming to some sort of agreement.

    Why is it that you find it so hard to accept or even understand this model of politics that you have to talk about it in the way you are doing? Why use this exaggerated language to denounce liberal democratic politics? It’s not necessarily a matter of hating the compromise that is reached, but it is a matter of making it clear the compromise would be a different sort of balance if we had more seats and more influence.

    I don’t believe in the Leninist model of politics, where policy is all made within a party, and the party has iron discipline so all its members have to state enthusiastic agreement for whatever is the party line this week, and politics is about seizing control of the formal democratic mechanisms of the state to use them just to rubber stamp whatever is the party line made by the party. I believe in multi-party politics, and that has to mean government by agreement and open debate in the democratic chamber, and an honourable acceptance of the compromises that must mean. If I were a Leninist or a follower of the ideology founded by Mussolini, of course I would denounce all that as hypocrisy in the sort of words you are using, and mock those accepting the compromise as using “nose pegs” and the like. But I’m liberal democrat.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Mar '15 - 11:12pm

    Alex Sabine

    None of this is likely to cut much mustard with the average voter, who is unlikely to be paying close enough attention to the precise choreographing of coalition differentiation to get the message you want to convey

    Yes, and that is why I’ve been saying what I’ve been saying here – that the average voter will not see “I’ll take Cameron’s place and defend this government’s record” as those arguing against me have said it should be taken i.e. “I’ll defend the Liberal Democrats’ role in this government”. The average voter will not see the subtlety, and so will see it as there now being no difference at all between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, and so will regard voting Liberal Democrats as pointless, since why vote for them when you could just as well vote for the Conservatives if their sort of thing is what takes your fancy.

    If Clegg goes along with this, he’s demonstrating the very opposite of the thing he said he wanted to demonstrate when we went into coalition – that coalition government can work. If coalition has to mean that the parties in it must permanently merge in terms of policy, which is what you do seem to be saying by the mocking language you are using to denounce my alternative take on it, then it is saying coalition cannot work, because it must inevitably mean the destruction of the smaller party in it.

  • Matthew, I think your take on this is very off target. Little of the fuss and scarcely anything relating to Clegg will get through to most of the population, however a Miliband v Cameron prime time TV event surely will. Moreover such an event would cement in place a presidential approach to UK politics. Clegg cannot do much to stop this, but his intervention does make it that much more difficult for the broadcasters to force the issue on Cameron.

    A debate here about what Clegg would be doing on an event that clearly will never take place is an absurdity. Larger issues are at stake.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Mar '15 - 11:29pm

    Nick Collins

    So, Matthew Huntbach, let me get this right. Anyone who criticises the Liberal Democrats (and anyone within the Liberal Democrats who does not support your particular anti-Clegg faction?) is your enemy: and it’s personal?

    No, that is not what I am saying. I am saying that anyone who uses language which wants to make out that all Liberal Democrats are the same and all support the sort of attitude that Clegg and his supporters have is my enemy in the sense of working against what I want to see – the Liberal Democrats restored to the sort of party it was before Clegg became its leader. My problem is not with criticising the Liberal Democrats, it’s with the way the various strands of opinion in the party are not getting recognised.

    A lot of people seem to come to this site and make this sort of attack “nah nah nah nah nah, you Liberal Democrats are all the same, you’ve all rolled over and give up your principles and become Tories”. Now, if the real aim of these people is to try and assist in doing what I want to be done – the Liberal Democrats to be pulled back from the rightward drift they have had under Clegg, they are going completely the wrong away about it. If they really do want to see the Liberal Democrats rescued, then they need to give support to those of us within the party trying to do it, not try to destroy us by denying even our existence. We need to be able to show that there is wide outside support for what we want, and you by the line you take are doing the opposite of that, and so bolstering the Cleggies in their takeover of our party.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Mar '15 - 11:33pm

    Martin

    Matthew, I think your take on this is very off target. Little of the fuss and scarcely anything relating to Clegg will get through to most of the population,

    Yes, can’t you see? THAT’S MY POINT!!!

    Sure, little of this will get through to most of the population, they’ll just see the headline. And what was that headline? Well, go and see, it is at the top of this page. Clegg says he wants to defend this government i.e. to be a spokesperson for the Tories. THAT’S what people will see, none of the subtleties, yes.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Mar '15 - 11:39pm

    matt (Bristol)

    Matthew Huntbach — “Saying we have got the presentation wrong is not the same thing as saying we should not have joined the coalition.”

    Thans Matt. I am glad there is at least one person here who has the intelligence to understand what I am saying.

  • All Clegg has done is help Cameron…The line of, “My ‘deputy’ will do the job”, comes to mind… To top it all, Caron (and some other posters) are accusing Milliband of, “Running scared’…

    CCHQ must be loving the LibDem intervention…

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Mar '15 - 11:46pm

    Philip Thomas

    A clear break with the Tories?

    When you say that, do you mean that we are NOT going to have a clear break with the Tories when the election comes? That is, are you suggesting that we fight the election as Tory allies rather than as an independent party?

  • Matthew: You are vastly over-estimating anything that will get through relating to Clegg. The headlines are all about Cameron. I do not want to see a presidential Miliband v Cameron debate; what I see is a response from Clegg that is the best in the circumstances to throw a spoke in the wheels. I take your point that if you take the scenario seriously there would be no coherent position available, but there really is no point since there is no serious likelihood of such a scenario whatsoever.

  • expats: Yes, Clegg is helping Cameron in that he is making a head to head debate more unlikely. Since Clegg does not want a Miliband v Cameron debate, Clegg does so with good reason.

  • Alex Sabine 7th Mar '15 - 3:22am

    Matthew: Again you seem to be setting up a load of straw men in order to knock them down. As you are well aware from our previous exchanges, I don’t believe any more than you do in Leninist-style policy-making by party machines or party caucuses. On the contrary, I believe in a form of representative democracy in which individual MPs would in fact have greater latitude than at present to exercise their own judgement on the issues that come before Parliament (that is, the role of the whips ought to be diminished, though I have little expectation that it will happen).

    However, that is not the same as saying that members of a government ought to go around disowning the policies they have introduced or parading their conscientious objections while continuing to hold onto office. As Nick Clegg (by and large) recognises, that would simply not be credible in the eyes of the electorate and such a crude attempt at ‘differentiation’ would meet with ridicule and disbelief.

    Of course it is only to be expected that, with an election imminent, the Tories and Lib Dems will each be scrambling to claim any credit that might be going for the more popular policies with the segments of the electorate they are appealing to, while seeking to pin the unpopular policies on their coalition partners. But claiming that you have had precious little influence over government policy is as ill-advised as hyperbolic claims in the other direction: it would only ensure that the Lib Dems receive no credit for their part in those aspects of the government’s record that might be counted a success by large numbers of voters (notably the economy and employment).

    Whether voters believe the construction each party chooses to put on the evolution of policies and outcomes, and the rival characterisations of how decisions unfolded and who stopped whom from doing what, is in any case doubtful. Your point seems to be that coalition elevates such presentational issues to supreme importance, in order to preserve parties’ identities.

    Well, maybe so. But that it is an inherent challenge with coalitions; it would be just as great, if not greater, in the event of a Labour-Lib Dem coalition let alone a multi-party one. Indeed, given the competing claims coalition parties make as to the provenance and pursuit of different policies – both actual policies and hypothetical ones that were blocked by the other party – I dare say that in a multi-party rainbow coalition it would be almost impossible for voters to know who to believe on such questions. I suspect they would quite sensibly pay little heed to them, and concentrate on the substance of what parties have actually done in government or opposition and what policies they are standing on for the next parliament.

    You also don’t seem much bothered by the effect of carrying on in this manner throughout a five-year parliament on the quality and coherence of government in this country. The implication seems to be that this a matter of secondary importance next to the need to maintain party identity and esprit de corps. I don’t share that view, firstly because I find it self-indulgent and partisan, and secondly because I think it will ultimately discredit the concept of coalition government itself – which, of ourse, the Lib Dems have a greater ‘stake’ in than the Tory or Labour parties who might expect to benefit were voters to draw the conclusion that coalition government is inherently dysfunctional.

  • Philip Thomas 7th Mar '15 - 7:15am

    @Matthew Obviously there will be a clear break with the Tories during the campaign: that was my point!

    Sadly, I see that won’t be enough for you- you are content to make a demand which is clearly not going to happen: very few political parties can change leader 2 months before a election. We had our chance to change the leader last year, we missed it, we have to take the consequences. The worse our electoral situation the more we need people on the ground campaigning…

  • Philip Thomas 7th Mar ’15 – 7:15am ……. We had our chance to change the leader last year, we missed it, we have to take the consequences. …..

    Local Elections : 250 council seats lost
    EURO Elections : 10 out of 11 MEP’s lost….

    Lord Oakeshott tried, was vilified, resigned…. Clegg stayed. Have things improved?

  • Simon Hebditch 7th Mar '15 - 11:03am

    It is certainly true that it is now far too late to change the party leadership before the election. If the party had serious difficulty with the programme of the coalition government then we should have left it on principled grounds some time ago. Now it would be seen as a desperate last throw of the dice to avoid disaster at the polls. The party has to be committed to root and branch change after the election – changing leadership personnel, reviewing our principles and policy programmes and setting out to renew the party yet again.

    This will mean that we should not join any coalition after the election but spend the next five years rebuilding competence and trust, and identifying ourselves with political alliances and movements of the centre left in British politics. I know I have often bored others by continually calling for a realignment of the left. The cause is just as important today as it was in the 1970s.

  • Simon Hebditch 7th Mar '15 - 11:10am

    And just a thought on the nature of coalition government. I always rejected the concept of “differentiation”. Of course, we should use opportunities to promote our own objectives and successes within a joint government but it is on government – not a hotch potch of differing political programmes. We cannot expect to convince the public of our veracity if we try to say that we approved of some policies and rejected others.

    We are bound by the government programme as a whole. We had the mechanism to “veto” some government proposals through the existence of the quad of senior ministers. We allowed an austerity programme which went too far and delayed any recovery. We allowed the disasterous NHS “reforms”. We allowed the bedroom tax. We are, therefore, as culpable as the Tories.

  • Nick Collins 7th Mar '15 - 11:10am

    @ Matthew Huntbach:

    ” So how does that … fit with all I have written above on this matter?”

    I don’t know, Matthew: I do not have time to read it all.

  • David Evans 7th Mar '15 - 11:32am

    Simon Hebditch – “We” didn’t allow these things. Nick did. That is why he should go. However, Nick and his backers have a huge tenacity and I don’t believe it is inevitable that an election calamity in 2015 will automatically lead to the changes you want.

    I’m afraid that just because you believe he should go after the election, it won’t happen unless you and a lot of others make it happen. It didn’t work in 2014, and a lot of those people you would hope would make it happen have left the party in dismay and disgust at Nick Clegg over the last five years. It will be a very tough fight, but it is one we have to win.

  • Very dangerous to call those who do not agree ‘enemies’. Next step? Look at history. Surely democracy gives us the freedom to disagree without being labelled or stigmatised? Enemy is the word we use to enable us to treat others in a very bad way. What has happened to the world I had so much hope for in my youth? If anyone had said we would be reduced to the conditions of today we would not have believed it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Mar '15 - 12:09pm

    Philip Thomas

    Sadly, I see that won’t be enough for you- you are content to make a demand which is clearly not going to happen: very few political parties can change leader 2 months before a election.

    I am not making a demand. I was asked a question, and I answered it, that’s all. If someone says “What do you want?” and I say “X” I am not demanding X, I am simply saying X is what I want.

    Of course I am not expecting Clegg to step down, or the party to force him to do so. Therefore, for the first time in my adult life, I will not be putting any effort into the Liberal Democrat (before that Liberal Party) general election campaign this year.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Mar '15 - 12:13pm

    Martin

    Matthew: You are vastly over-estimating anything that will get through relating to Clegg.

    I’m not saying this is the be-all and end-all. All I’m saying is that this is another one of those things that will trickle through to build up the general impression that the Liberal Democrats are now just a local brand of the Conservative Party.

  • In 2014 we were told by party loyalists that there were no credible alternatives to Nick Clegg…..If the party suffers the loss of half our MPs, but Clegg survives, will that be the same line? And, If Nick loses his seat, ???????

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Mar '15 - 12:30pm

    Nick Collins

    @ Matthew Huntbach:

    ” So how does that … fit with all I have written above on this matter?”

    I don’t know, Matthew: I do not have time to read it all.

    I was writing in reply to the following from you:

    What is even odder is that Liberal Democrats apparently cannot understand why so many former supporters can no longer look upon the party with anything other than contempt.

    Now, I was reading this as you saying that all Liberal Democrats could not understand why so many former supporters can no longer look upon the party with anything other than contempt, because you did not put any qualifier on it.

    The material I had written here previously supports exactly what you were saying – I am trying to convince my fellow Liberal Democrats that many of the things coming out from the top of the party, and this “I’ll take Cameron’s place and defend this government” is a good example, is just the sort of thing which causes so many former supporters to look upon the party with contempt.

    All I was asking was that you qualify what you wrote by accepting that actually there are some Liberal Democrats who can see your point and are trying to push the same message you are pushing within the party.

    I took offence to what you were saying because I think what we inside the party need is outside support for what we are doing. It just doesn’t help when people like you just write all of us off. I think we could make so much better a case that Clegg is wrong and we need big changes if we can show there are people who would support the party if it changed in that direction. But if all we get instead from people who maybe do think that underneath is “nah nah nah nah nah” attacks on ALL of us in the party, regardless of our individual viewpoints, it is wrecking our chances of getting the change that I hope you would like to see as much as I would like to see.

  • David Evans 7th Mar '15 - 1:12pm

    I am sad to tell you expats, but you are fundamentally mistaken. In 2014 we were told by NICK loyalists that there were no credible alternatives to Nick Clegg. People loyal to the party and its values have known that to be untrue for several years now. Sadly the Nick loyalists have their hands on most of the levers of power – viz the number of articles from Nick loyalists saying “We were right about tuition fees and you, and the students and the public are all wrong.”

  • Dr Michael Taylor 7th Mar '15 - 2:11pm

    I think the time has come for the wingers, moaners and anti cleggites to get off their backsides, stop writing and blogging about the election and get out on the streets. They might be surprised at what they find there.

    You can moan again after the election.

  • Aye Michael, the streets are paved with gold!!!!! We could lose 250 deposits and that when the ceiling has been lowered from 12.5% to 5%.. I am sorry dreaming about what we might want and the reality of what it actually is still stops us from facing reality. If you want any further proof look at the local election results this week, have you ever seen anything so appalling.

  • David Evans, “Angels dancing on the heads of pins”…….There have been heated (warm) exchanges between two posters (who basically agree with each other ) over the omission of the word ‘some’….. Anyway, I’m sure you knew what I meant…

  • Nick Collins 7th Mar '15 - 3:30pm

    @Matthew Huntbach

    “What is even odder is that Liberal Democrats apparently cannot understand why so many former supporters can no longer look upon the party with anything other than contempt.”

    Yup; I’m happy to stand by that statement, although it made more sense, within its original context, as a response to Simon McGrath’s comment. If you found it offensive, that’s your problem , not mine. But it does have the advantage of brevity.

  • @Nick Collins

    I find that failure to understand similar to the experience of ordering a vegetarian meal in a restaurant, getting something with meat in it, sending the meal back, and then getting the same meal returned with the bits of meat having been pulled out. They can’t understand why you don’t want to eat it; they can’t understand why you won’t be coming back. I voted vegetarian – I got a pepperoni pizza with half the pieces of pepperoni removed by a waiter who can’t understand why I’m not grateful.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Mar '15 - 6:28pm

    Nick Collins

    Yup; I’m happy to stand by that statement, although it made more sense, within its original context, as a response to Simon McGrath’s comment. If you found it offensive, that’s your problem , not mine.

    How many times do I have to repeat myself on this?

    The issue I had was not with the general point of the statement, it was the way it was phrased as if you meant all Liberal Democrats, when what I had written just previously in this same thread showed that I was one Liberal Democrat who disproved that point.

  • Philip Thomas 7th Mar '15 - 6:31pm

    I don’t see why we can’t both moan about the leadership and campaign for the party. I’d encourage everyone to do the latter, and we are the party of free speech, so the former is going to happen. To those who would silence the moaners, I say, we can’t afford to lose support at this time: and to those moaners who won’t campaign, I say, if you want the party to be more like the party you want it to be, you need to be out there helping shape its future.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Mar '15 - 6:32pm

    Dr Michael Taylor

    I think the time has come for the wingers, moaners and anti cleggites to get off their backsides, stop writing and blogging about the election and get out on the streets.

    No. I refuse. I will not go out on the streets and campaign for the Liberal Democrats when what I would want to say in favour of them is being undermined by the Leader of the party.

    Membership of a political party is voluntary. What activity a member decides to put into it is up to that member. If you and others want me to go back to doing all that I have done in the past for the party, you must make it a party with a public image where I WANT to do that again. Have you got that point, Dr Michael Taylor?

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Mar '15 - 6:39pm

    Philip Thomas

    to those moaners who won’t campaign, I say, if you want the party to be more like the party you want it to be, you need to be out there helping shape its future.

    I spent over 30 years of my life as an active campaigner for the party. My campaign activity now is restricted to here where I am trying to tell the party what it is doing wrong and why that is losing it support. If the party does not want to listen and so carries on losing support, well at least I’ve tried my best.

    From May 2010 everything I have said about why what the party is doing in terms of its public image is damaging and losing its votes has turned out to be completely accurate. Far, far, far more accurate than what those leading the party have said. Remember all that stuff about how the Rose Garden love-in would so impress voters they’ come flocking o us? That all we had to do was look much more like real politicians i.e. be Westminster Bubble types, and we would win so much more support because people would then think much better of us? Or that pumping the line “75% of our manifesto policies implemented” which suddenly and silently disappeared when the calculation was done on the back of a different envelope and it worked at at 40% that time?

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Mar '15 - 6:44pm

    Alex Sabine

    However, that is not the same as saying that members of a government ought to go around disowning the policies they have introduced or parading their conscientious objections while continuing to hold onto office.

    I am not asking for that.

    You accuse me of setting up straw men, yet the whole of that message in which that sentence above completely misrepresents my point, and so is very much setting up straw men.

  • Dr Michael Taylor 7th Mar ’15 – 2:11pm
    “…….get off their backsides, stop writing and blogging about the election and get out on the streets. They might be surprised at what they find there.”

    Dr Michael Taylor should get off his backside, stop writing pompous, self righteous insults to our intelligence. he might be surprised that if he did so we might might start asking him seriously.

    If in his fifty years as a party member he had a stunning record of succession ejecting MPs or needing getting himself elected he might be in a better position to extrude the rest of us.

    I don’t know what he expects us to find on those imaginary streets of his. Is he visiting streets that nobody else in the UK can possibly find. Paved with gold?
    Populated by joyous voters wreathed with smiles and falling over themselves to elect the humble, self-effacing Dr Taylor to parliament perhaps?

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Mar '15 - 6:54pm

    Bolano

    I find that failure to understand similar to the experience of ordering a vegetarian meal in a restaurant, getting something with meat in it, sending the meal back, and then getting the same meal returned with the bits of meat having been pulled out. They can’t understand why you don’t want to eat it; they can’t understand why you won’t be coming back. I voted vegetarian – I got a pepperoni pizza with half the pieces of pepperoni removed by a waiter who can’t understand why I’m not grateful.

    No, it’s not like you ordering a meal. It’s like you being with a group of people who have to choose just one meal which will be shared by everyone. You wanted vegetarian, yes. But not many other people agreed with you, and a bigger bunch of people insisted they must have a meal with meat in it.

    You illustrate very much the point which Alex Sabine isn’t getting. You think I am saying the same sort of thing that Alex Sabine is saying. He thinks I am saying the same sort of thing that you are saying. And when I try to explain carefully my actual position, all I get is “boring, we can’t be bothered to read what you wrote because you wrote too much”, and continuing abuse in which Sabine/Bolano accuses me of being Bolano/Sabine instead of actually responding to what I actually wrote.

    Anyway, never mind. I’m a Liberal, I’m used to that sort of thing,

  • Philip Thomas 7th Mar '15 - 6:55pm

    @matthew I respect your long service, far longer than mine- and I am not disagreeing with your views on policy. In the end, it is your choice not to campaign this election. I hope you and the party are sufficiently reconciled for you to resume service at the next one.

  • Spillchucker does it again rendering a perfectly ordinary sentence into something incomprehensible.

    Instead of —
    “…If in his fifty years as a party member he had a stunning record of succession ejecting MPs or needing getting himself elected he might be in a better position to extrude the rest of us.”

    Please read —
    “…If in his fifty years as a party member he had a stunning record of success in electing MPs or indeed in getting himself elected – he might be in a better position to lecture the rest of us.”

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Mar '15 - 7:19pm

    Anne

    Very dangerous to call those who do not agree ‘enemies’.

    Well, I am a Christian, and as Jesus said “Love your enemies”. A wise person once pointed out, can’t remember quite where, but it’s stuck in my mind, that the corollary of that phrase is that one will have enemies.

    Oh, seriously, if you would prefer the word “opponent”, that’s fine. All I was trying to point out was that I really am very fed up with people who attack the Liberal Democrats in a way that assumes every single Liberal Democrat is an uncritical supporter of Nick Clegg and all he says and does. There are quite a few people who are regular contributors to Liberal Democrat Voice who seem to come here day-in, day-out, and have been doing so for months, years even, just to make that point. Why do they do it?

    Now, I have branded these people “nah nah nah nah nah”s, and have very often argued against them and defended the party against the sort of point we can see made here by “Bolano” when he seems to suppose that all Liberal Democrats are very bad people because somehow 57 Liberal Democrat MPs could not get a government which was 100% Liberal Democrat in policy in place. Contrary to what Alex Sabine is suggesting, I have very much agreed with the point that we have to come to a compromise situation, and support that compromise as what is possible in reality. All I am saying is that we need to do more to clarify that situation and make clear that what comes out of this government is necessarily different from what would come out from a government that was 100% Liberal Democrat. I believe that so much of what our Leader says and does makes it harder to get across this point, and the words of his that were quoted in the original article are a good illustration of that.

    Now, if those “nah nah nah nah nah”s are coming here and saying their “nah nah nah nah nah” because they suppose that doing so will get the Liberal Democrats to change their position, I am saying I believe them to be wrong. I am saying in particular that this line which puts out the idea that every member of the Liberal Democrat is an uncritical supporter of all that Nick Clegg says and does is, in my belief, damaging rather than helpful to the cause of trying to pull the Liberal Democrats back from where Clegg and the Cleggies have dragged the party. I think if there was more acknowledgement of the range of opinions within the Liberal Democrats, and something in the way of wider public support for those of us who want to change the party away from where Clegg has taken it, it would make it much easier for those of us who want that change to be able to get somewhere with it. It is in this sense, as someone who very much does want to see the rightward drift of the Liberal Democrats under Clegg to be reversed, that I brand the “nah nah nah nah nah”s as “enemies”. My reason for using such a strong word is that I really do want to try and get them to see how much I think they are damaging the chance of what I would want to see be done getting done, when perhaps they thought they were helping.

  • Nick Collins 7th Mar '15 - 7:41pm

    @ Bolano. Precisely. And the more poor Matthew ties himself in knots insisting that he understands, the more he demonstrates that he doesn’t. It’s the LibDem performance in this Parliament that I and other like-minded former LibDems, deplore: not just the presentation thereof.

    And, Matthew, do you not see the irony in someone spending so many words, repeating himself, becoming exasperated because he feels that others do not understand him and criticising others’ use of language?

  • Nick Collins 7th Mar '15 - 8:24pm

    @ Matthew. I really do not mind you calling me your enemy. I am not a Christian, so may I be excused loving you? I regret having spent /wasted a huge amount of time campaigning for the Liberal Party and its successors but now, as already stated, I have nothing but contempt for the Liberal Democrats*. Therefore, it matters not a jot to me which faction thereof finishes up on top of what’s left of them after 7 May,

    So,,if you wish to have a little civil war with “Clegg and the Cleggies” as you call them, by all means do so.. It should provide a good alternative spectator sport if, as I fear, England’s performance in this summer’s Ashes series is somewhat disappointing.

    *the Party that is: there are some individuals therein who I still like and respect, but I will not vote for them.

  • Philip Thomas 7th Mar '15 - 8:51pm

    I don’t think you wasted your time Nick. I think the United Kingdom is a better place for your efforts. Of course, I would say that.

    I hope you don’t get to find out just how much worse things would be without us.

  • “And now Ed Miliband ducks the question on whether he would debate Nick.. it’s hardly surprising Miliband is running scared of a 90 minute one on one with him.”

    Given that Miliband has written to the broadcasters indicating that he’s perfectly happy to take part in all the proposed debates, whoever they invite, your claim just isn’t true.

    I’m astonished that after the catastrophe that was the Farage debates, you should think anybody would be running scared of debating Clegg. If Clegg can’t make any impact against the country’s most notorious right-wing bogeyman, then what chance has he got of impressing against Miliband when virtually all left-leaning voters despise Clegg after the rose garden and tuition fees?

  • @Philip Thomas
    “I don’t think you wasted your time Nick. I think the United Kingdom is a better place for your efforts. Of course, I would say that.”

    Though I am not a Lib Dem and dislike Clegg intensely, even I can see that what you say there is 100% correct. This government has been bad enough with Lib Dems giving it a veneer of civility – the thought of a Tory majority chills the blood.

    However, Clegg is about to discover (if he hasn’t already) the same thing Tony Blair found out before him. It doesn’t matter how many decent things you do in government – if you betray people, that’s the only thing you’ll be remembered for.

  • Alex Sabine 8th Mar '15 - 1:26am

    Matthew: You insist you are not asking for Clegg or other Lib Dem ministers to disown government policy, or to constantly insinuate their discomfort with it while remaining part of the government (a posture which Vince Cable is much given to, though in his case it is more a matter of tone than in substance). Yet on no account must Clegg be allowed to defend the government’s record or the Lib Dems’ part in it. The only conclusion I can draw is that you don’t think his support for the government’s policies and record should extend to being prepared to defend it publicly! Presumably, having consorted with the devil, he should sup from a longer spoon. This strikes me as an abdication of political responsibility for the events and decisions of the past five years.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Mar '15 - 6:33am

    Alex Sabine

    Yet on no account must Clegg be allowed to defend the government’s record or the Lib Dems’ part in it.

    No, that’s not what I’m saying. Please go back and read what I’ve written rather than erecting straw men.

    What I am saying is that Clegg needs to make more clear that what this government has done is NOT the Liberal Democrat ideal. I explicitly stated that I would it fine for him to defend the Liberal Democrats role in this government, so why do you put out this message which says I am saying “on no account” must this be done? I want the Leader of the Liberal Democrats to be out there making a clear distinction between what Liberal Democrats see as the best policies and what Conservatives see as the best policies. All I was doing here was suggesting the form of wording he chose to use “I’ll take Cameron’s place and defend this governments record” is likely to be taken to mean he sees no difference between Conservative policies and Liberal policies.

    The fact is that this government is bound to be more Conservative than Liberal Democrat due to its balance. What is wrong with pointing this out?

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Mar '15 - 6:41am

    Nick Collins

    And the more poor Matthew ties himself in knots insisting that he understands, the more he demonstrates that he doesn’t. It’s the LibDem performance in this Parliament that I and other like-minded former LibDems, deplore: not just the presentation thereof.

    No, I can perfectly well understand that. People see the Liberal Democrats saying one thing and then going into Parliament and voting for another. Of course I can understand that makes people angry and not want to support the party. See, you’re accusing me of being a Cleggy because you’e just jumping to the conclusion that secretly I support Tory policies and wanted to trick the electorate into voting LibDem so that the LibDems could get elected and support those policies, and that my only problem is that I think Clegg is not presenting the case for them as well as he could. No, that is not my position at all.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Mar '15 - 6:49am

    Nick Collins

    So,,if you wish to have a little civil war with “Clegg and the Cleggies” as you call them, by all means do so.. It should provide a good alternative spectator sport if, as I fear, England’s performance in this summer’s Ashes series is somewhat disappointing.

    Why do you use the phrase “Civil War” to describe the process of people with different views explaining their positions and having a rational debate about it, and coming to a conclusion on that basis? I call it liberal democracy. It’s what I stand for. It’s how I believe things should be run. When you use contemptuous words for this process it suggests you do not believe in liberalism or democracy.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Mar '15 - 7:20am

    I believe in liberal democracy. That means I believe government should take the form of a representative assembly whose members come together to find the best compromise solution which can be agreed on. So what happens if one supports a particular position, but cannot find majority support for it? One then has to therefore try and work for a compromise which is different from one’s ideal, but is as close to it as the others will accept.

    What is wrong with that?

    All the people I am arguing with seem to despise this model of politics.

    The alternative to this model is fascism. Fascism explicitly denounces the liberal democrat model of politics as weak. Fascism says that coming together and making compromises and individuals ending up agreeing to something which was not their original ideal is all wrong. Fascism uses the same arguments that the people I have been arguing with use . Fascism pooh-poohs the mechanisms of debate and reaching compromises. Fascism says instead there should be no compromise. Fascism says instead it should be about whoever seizing power and doing what it is they want without compromise. Fascism says this is good because it is clear and strong and does not involve anyone going back on what they first said they believed in.

  • Stephen Hesketh 8th Mar '15 - 8:20am

    Matthew Huntbach 8th Mar ’15 – 6:49am
    “Nick Collins -So, if you wish to have a little civil war with “Clegg and the Cleggies” as you call them, by all means do so.”

    Matthew, my concern involves Nick Collins’ use of the word ‘little’!

    The ‘Cleggite Tendency’s’ entryist experiment with our party has clearly (and inevitably) failed and a line must be drawn under their influence as soon possible after the GE.

    My own belief is that in order to achieve this we need as many authentic preamble-supporting MP’s returning as possible. The smaller their number as a proportion of the whole, the higher are Clegg’s chances of holding on.

  • Nick Collins 8th Mar '15 - 8:48am

    @ Matthew Huntbach

    :” See, you’re accusing me of being a Cleggy because you’e just jumping to the conclusion that secretly I support Tory policies and wanted to trick the electorate into voting … ”

    I have accused you of no such thing and jumped to no such conclusion. It seems to me, Matthew, that a man who feels the need to begin so many sentences with the words ” No that is not what I am saying” or “What I am saying is …” should be more careful about putting words into the mouths of others.

  • Philip Thomas 8th Mar '15 - 10:23am

    @Matthew. “All the people I am arguing with seem to despise this model of politics.”
    I don’t: and I don’t think the others do either.

    Yesterday, I listened to Nick Clegg attacking the Tories. In the debates, I expect to see him doing the same.
    There could have been more nuance. I winced when Baroness Floella claimed “our fingerprints are all over the bills” and again when she specifically named the Immigration Bill (which I happen to have some detailed knowledge of): I can see what she meant because there are (for example) a couple of good clauses in the Immigration Bill which no doubt a pure Tory government would have omitted- and she was just making a brief introductory speech- but “our fingerprints are all over the bills” is so liable to misinterpretation…

  • Nick Collins 8th Mar '15 - 11:34am

    @ Philip Thomas. Congratulations on your valiant attempt to pull this thread back to its original topic. I wonder if you will be successful.

  • @ Matthew Huntbach

    “I believe in liberal democracy. That means I believe government should take the form of a representative assembly whose members come together to find the best compromise solution which can be agreed on.”

    You’re a supporter of representative democracy. Just not a very strong supporter. If, to use my earlier analogy, a prospective MP puts up a vegetarian manifesto, and is voted into power by lots of vegetarians, you don’t think the determining factor is his representation of his voters if other factors you believe more important come into play. Unfortunately this belief of yours, if executed, has a tendency to undermine representative democracy – because voters lose confidence in their representatives actually representing them.

    The majority of Lib Dem voters voted for the party at the last election wanting the Tories not to get into government. The party decided that representing those voters was less important than doing what it felt was best for the nation. That’s not representative democracy. As a consequence, the majority of Lib Dem voters have abandoned the party.

    In a representative democracy, what is most important is the MPs represent the will of their voters, not do whatever you or Clegg think is best. This strand of thinking, this ‘we know better than those who supported us’ has got the party where it is today, and has contributed to this crisis in democracy, driving many to lose all faith in our system. ‘You’ took the majority of your voter’s votes, and ‘you’ refused to represent them because ‘you’ know best. That’s not representative democracy.

  • @Nick Collins

    Yes. I don’t doubt the sincerity of those who chose to go into coalition, or those who supported them – they were driven to do what they thought was best. But in that they were rather like those in the parable in The Man for All Seasons, who chased the Devil over all the country cutting down every law that stood in their way – and when there were no laws left, and the Devil turned?

    The sorry history of Nick Clegg will not refute that he wanted to do good. It will be a tale of hubris: of the man who cut down laws to get at the Devil, and thus enable the Devil to turn the country into a wasteland.

  • @Matthew Huntbach
    “the sort of point we can see made here by “Bolano” when he seems to suppose that all Liberal Democrats are very bad people because somehow 57 Liberal Democrat MPs could not get a government which was 100% Liberal Democrat in policy in place.”

    Strawman. Again. On an epic scale. How many voters chose the Lib Dems because they thought they would form a Lib Dem Government? Virtually none, I’d wager. We voted for them to represent us, not to govern – and that’s what they didn’t do. In this, if nothing else, you stand with Clegg – it’s all about the governing, and not about the representation. The Lib Dems will be hammered at the forthcoming election not because the voters can’t hack a party being in power but because they built themselves over years, gained supporters such as myself and millions of others by being the party that above all valued representation of the voters, that adopted good policies whether they spun well or not that represented what their supporters wanted. And at the very moment power was within grasp, at the very moment it was more important than ever to stay true to the spirit of representation, the nerve cracked, and all that could be seen was governing.

    That was Nick Clegg’s hubris, and it’s going to smash the party to pieces – but I hope not beyond the point where it can recover and rebuild. It is with huge sadness that I’ve watched a great party I’ve supported for years wreck itself like this – but I hope it can, and believe it can, come back. But it won’t if so many of its members remain in denial.

  • Bolano

    If Clegg is at fault it is because he did not cut down Laws.
    In fact he could not wait to bring Laws back as a minister despite Laws being the only Liberal Minister in modern times to be forced to resign following a public humiliation and public apology.

  • @John Tilley

    You may well be right – I couldn’t say to what degree. Either way, Law’s performance is Clegg’s performance.

  • David Allen 8th Mar '15 - 6:02pm

    The fundamental position of a political party is defined by the leader. If you don’t like the leader’s position, you must either act against that leader, or stop supporting the party.

    Clegg has clearly defined the position of the party, not for the first time. He could have used any of the careful formulations suggested by posters in this thread, such as “defending the Liberal Democrat record in Government”, or “defending our part in the coalition & the whole principle of give & take”. But he didn’t.

    He used the formulation “happy to take Cameron’s place in the debate to defend the Government’s record”. He was being careful and he was being very clear. He has identified himself as someone who can simply and validly take Cameron’s place, because he is equally happy to stand by the record of the Government in its totality.

    Clegg’s position is diametrically opposed to that of those dissident Liberal Democrats who believe that the party’s role is to balance, ameliorate, or modify what the Tories alone would have chosen to do in government. On the contrary, Clegg’s position is that the crucial role of the Liberal Democrats is to partner the Tories, to enable a Conservative-led coalition to rule, to support in its entirety the record of that government, and hence inevitably to argue for its continuation. Since the party has loudly and clearly opposed all attempts to remove Clegg, it has endorsed that position. There is no point in dissident members trying to suggest otherwise. If they do, they are simply misrepresenting where the party presently stands.

    As “dissidents” on these questions, we should include not only the Huntbachs the Heskeths, but also people like Paul Barker, whose comment above about “defending our part in the coalition & the whole principle of give & take” clearly positions him in disagreement with Cleggism. My question to the dissidents is, what choice will you make? Will you’ like me, “go on strike”? Or will you continue to push leaflets through doors, knowing that with every leaflet you post, you endorse the uncritical support of Conservative – Libdem Alliance Government?

  • Philip Thomas 8th Mar '15 - 6:17pm

    @David Allen. Nonsense: the fundamental position of the Liberal Democrat Party is defined by its members and constitution- as Nick Clegg said yesterday “I’m just the leader what do I know about our policies?”. Nor are those who dislike the leader’s policies compelled to take action against him or withdraw their support. I dislike some of our leader’s policies, but I am continuing to support the party.
    Clegg does indeed believe in “the Liberal Democrat difference”- the ability of our party to influence the policy of our coalition partner. Signs are his belief in it may be stronger than the dissidents- I for one don’t think our influence is quite as strong as some of our rhetoric makes out.
    I will continue to knock on doors and ask for voting intentions, and push leaflets through the doors if there is no answer to the knock, knowing that I am supporting the Liberal Democrat Party, which will make its own mind up about whom to ally with after the election.

  • David Allen 8th Mar ’15 – 6:02pm
    David, as usual you argue a good point and you do it well. But I think you are wrong in one fundamental assumptIon.
    You ask the question —
    “…My question to the dissidents is, what choice will you make? Will you’ like me, “go on strike”? Or will you continue to push leaflets through doors, knowing that with every leaflet you post, you endorse the uncritical support of Conservative – Libdem Alliance Government?”

    I should say that I do not regard myself as “a dissident”. I regard myself as a mainstream Liberal Democrat whose party has been temporarily captured by a small but unrepresentative group. There are plenty of others who share my view including some MPs, Lords, councillors etc.
    So it seems to me that the choice is not as you suggest.

    Delivering leaflets, giving money etc in support of MPs or candidates who share my view amd whom I trust to help to rebuild the party is not endorsing this Conservative Government or those who have temporarily captured the party. It is starting the work of rebuilding.

  • Philip Thomas 8th Mar '15 - 8:27pm

    @JohnTilley
    Quite- we can choose where and whom we fight for.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Mar '15 - 10:53pm

    Bolano

    Strawman. Again. On an epic scale. How many voters chose the Lib Dems because they thought they would form a Lib Dem Government? Virtually none, I’d wager. We voted for them to represent us, not to govern – and that’s what they didn’t do.

    Let me repeat – the liberal democrat model of government is that government is by a representative chamber. The member of that chamber meet together to arrive at whatever compromise can get the most support. So, it is not the case that everyone can get everything 100% as they want it. Instead, there has to be an agreement on something which is a compromise, so yes it does mean representatives voting for something which was not their ideal.

    Now, you seem to be saying that should not happen. Rather no-one should budge, there should be a stalemate because no-one will let go and make a compromise with anyone else. I do not think this is a realistic position, and it is not the liberal democratic one. In negotiating a compromise which is somewhat between the Liberal Democrat ideal and the Conservative ideal, the Liberal Democrats were doing just what you say they were not. You are disappointed with the outcome, and so am I. So where are we differing?

    I suggested that you think the Liberal Democrats could have got a compromise which was much closer to the Liberal Democrat ideal, but you accused me of erecting a straw man when I said that. So, what?

    Do you think the Liberal Democrats would best represent you just by voting against everything else, so leading to that stalemate position? Had the Liberal Democrats not agreed to a coalition, David Cameron would have led a minority Conservative government. Most people who have some knowledge of how politics works, myself included, think that he would have called another general election shortly after on the grounds “I can’t govern properly due to not having a majority”, and to make sure he did win a majority in that next general election would have taken care not to have pushed through policies that would have been unpopular. Then, having won a majority, he would govern as he has been governing since 2010, but in a much more extreme manner without the moderation of the Liberal Democrats. So I believe that in forming the coalition the Liberal Democrats were doing the best possible to push the policies they were elected to push and so to represent those who elected them on the basis of those policies.

    You disagree, well that’s fine. But you are not disagreeing on an “agree to disagree” line. Instead, you are saying that the position I am taking is so unbelievable that it cannot be one I truly hold. That instead really I believe in the right-wing policies of the Conservative Party and only pretended otherwise when I was campaigning for the Liberal Democrats in order to “gain power” and so to enact those right-wing policies. If that is not your position, please explain, because the only way your attacks on me make sense is if you believe me to be a dishonest man for saying what I am saying, and all other Liberal Democrats to be dishonest people for saying the same, and worthy only of contempt for that, and the only difference between me and Nick Clegg being that he is slightly more honest in the way he puts it, and I am particularly dishonest in the way I cover it up, and pretend to disagree with Nick Clegg in order to be able to go on covering it up that way..

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Mar '15 - 11:10pm

    Bolano

    In a representative democracy, what is most important is the MPs represent the will of their voters, not do whatever you or Clegg think is best. This strand of thinking, this ‘we know better than those who supported us’ has got the party where it is today, and has contributed to this crisis in democracy, driving many to lose all faith in our system.

    So how are they to do that if you say it is wrong for them to try and negotiate a compromise? When I said what you seem to be saying is that the Liberal Democrats are bad people because the 57 Liberal Democrat MPs have not managed to persuade 268 of the 593 other MPs to drop their own policies and instead agree to Liberal Democrat one so allowing a majority government with 100% Liberal Democrat policies to come into existence, you accused me of erecting a straw man?

    What I am saying is that if there were more Liberal Democrat MPs, a government which is closer to the Liberal Democrat ideal could have been formed because the Liberal Democrat MPs would have more negotiating power. I am criticising Nick Clegg because he comes across as too supportive of this government, making out it is the Liberal Democrat ideal, and he will not say clearly that it is a compromise far from our ideal and therefore push the message “Vote Liberal Democrat if you want Liberal Democrat policies”.

    Of course, in the last general election most people did not vote Liberal Democrat. In the referendum a year later, most people who expressed an opinion expressed an opinion which was campaigned for on the lines that it was good to have an electoral system which propped up the biggest party (i.e. in 2010 the Tories) by giving them many more seats than their share of the vote and suppressed third parties (i.e, in 2010 the Liberal Democrats) by giving them many fewer seas than their share of the vote. So, we don’t have a government with Liberal Democrat policies because most people voted against it, and most people confirmed they wanted a Tory-dominated government in 201 by voting to support the electoral system whose supporters said the best thing about it was the distortion in favour of the Tories and against the LibDems. People have what they voted for. Why should the LibDems get the blame for that when they were on the losing side in 2010 and 2011?

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Mar '15 - 11:20pm

    Now I appreciate that most people do not think through these things as I do, and so there are many who cannot work out the logical consequences of voting “No” in 2011 was that they were voting “Yes” to the Tory-dominated government.

    Similarly most people in this country have little sense of numeracy and budgets, and so find it hard to get the point that the most basic aspect of government is that it has to raise funds to pay for services. So, it seems there are a large number of people who thought a Conservative-LibDem coalition would be a compromise in which we get LibDem levels of government service and Conservative levels of taxation. They are angry with the Liberal Democrats and accuse them of “betrayal” because this could not be delivered.

    But I do not think it helps us Liberal Democrats explain our case here when the Leader of the Liberal Democrats and PR people around him are trying to push the line that the Liberal Democrats too are a party of tax cuts.

  • David Allen 9th Mar '15 - 12:34am

    John Tilley,

    “I regard myself as a mainstream Liberal Democrat whose party has been temporarily captured by a small but unrepresentative group.”

    Well, that’s how it looked to me when Clegg, who had won the leadership with an anodyne nice-young-fella campaign, came out in 2008 as a fully-fledged Orange Book neocon with his “big idea” of “big permanent tax cuts”. The party had always taken a clear stance to the left of centre. Once people woke up to the reality of what Clegg was saying, I felt sure that he would be forced to change his policies or to leave the leadership.

    It did not work out like that. If it was a “temporary” capture, seven years and counting was an awful long time for it to last. Before the election, Clegg used hyped-up excitement about constitutional reform to distract attention from his shift to the Right. After it, he was ruthless in seizing the opportunity to ally with the Tories and drive out most of the left-of-centre activists. The MPs, peers, and permanent staff are now predominantly united in support of the governmental gravy train and the Conservative alliance. The activists may not be, but the activists have very little power.

    It just isn’t plausible that a party is “temporarily captured” by a “small unrepresentative” group. Power politics does not work like that. We have lost. We lost because the other side had the money, the connections, and the ruthless dishonesty. But we lost.

    Can someone like Farron win it back for us? I think he (and just a few others) would sincerely like to. But what chance does he have, even if elected leader, with the vast majority of MPs determined not to change?

    We need a new party which is open to change.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Mar '15 - 10:38am

    David Allen

    Well, that’s how it looked to me when Clegg, who had won the leadership with an anodyne nice-young-fella campaign, came out in 2008 as a fully-fledged Orange Book neocon with his “big idea” of “big permanent tax cuts”.

    I remember a conversation I had with some party colleagues at the time of the leadership election when I said I was not sure I could remain in the party if Clegg was elected leader, because I was troubled by his position firmly on the economic right of the party. I also remember on this site describing him as “the great right hope”. So it was clear, at least to me, that he was not “anodyne” but instead was very much the candidate of the economic right. Yet I also remember many people who were not of that stream being taken in by him, in that conversation I mentioned I remember how annoyed I was getting underneath that people who I know shared my economic view just didn’t seem to get the point that Clegg was not one of us and that he had distinct agenda, or at least was being pushed by people with a distinct agenda.

    That was the other thing. Just why was this not particularly distinguished back-bench MP who had never said or done anything to mark him out as better than all the others and was very lacking in party experience getting pushed SO hard by almost all the press? Why was he being labelled again and again as “obviously the next leader of the Liberal Democrats”? It seemed to me he was being pushed so hard that other potential contenders dropped out.

    It was not just the right-wing press pushing Clegg, although they pushed hard in his favour. The Guardian also pushed hard for him, that is why I now label the pro-Clegg papers “right-wing and elitist” in order to include the Guardian. The Guardian publishes loads of “nah nah nah nah nah” snide anti-LibDem messages, often just slipped in as a by-the-by in other material, based on the suppositions we have seen here that all Liberal Democrats are Clegg fans. But in its coverage of the Liberal Democrats, it ALWAYS shows an extreme bias towards the right-wing of the party. It seems to me that this is very hypocritical. It played a major part in pushing Clegg and his right-wing agenda, and yet it publishes attack after attack on the party for the party having accepted what it was pushing. I do not ever recall the Guardian even publishing a single article written by a Liberal Democrat who is critical of the Clegg wing of the party, though it publishes stuff from Cleggies often enough.

    Mostly I think this is because the Guardian for all its leftish stance is stuffed full of public school snobs, who hardly recognise the existence of people who aren’t like them. To that type, the “obvious next leader” has to be one of them. People who aren’t are almost invisible in their eyes, and are certainly written off as lacking in the talent that it is assumed any fellow public school snob type will have.

  • Steve Comer 10th Mar '15 - 4:27pm

    Matthew asked:
    “Just why was this not particularly distinguished back-bench MP who had never said or done anything to mark him out as better than all the others and was very lacking in party experience getting pushed SO hard by almost all the press”
    Well here is my theory….
    The British establishment is adept at ensuring its grip on power is maintained despite changes of party in government. The failure of the Tory Party in the post-1997 Blair years unnerved them; they needed a safe pair of hands that would ensure they could not lose power and influence in the Britain they owned. Liberal Democrat success under Charles Kennedy unnerved them. Here was a party they didn’t really understand, a party that opposed a foreign war that they demanded, that proposed tax reforms that threatened their cozy lifestyle, and which had proved itself to be more than competent when running major cities and districts at a local level.
    There was a danger that the Liberal Democrats could replicate what they had done locally at a national level.
    The only way to combat that was to ensure the elements that did not threaten the established order became ascendant in the Lib Dems, as they were in the other two parties. The first step in this was the Orange Book, the second stage was to remove Kennedy and replace him with a leader the establishment could trust. The obvious candidate was Nick Clegg, the son of a banker, public school and Oxbridge, parachuted into safe seats, and the type of person the Bilderberg Group and the British establishment could be comfortable with. But Kennedy’s personal problems erupted too soon, and the boy wonder was not considered ready. Never mind – ‘Ming we hold the fort until he is’. Trouble is that didn’t work, the party lost its best ever Foreign Affairs lead, and gained a lacklustre leader. The anointed one started with a huge lead which dissipated as the campaign went on, In the end struggled to beat his radical challenger, but with the aid of fortuitous postal strike he scraped in.
    In the end destiny was fulfilled and the two public schoolboys formed a coalition. The established order was maintained, the tax havens in British dependencies were not threatened, and the Bankers would soon be able to get back to bonuses as usual……

  • Simon McGrath 10th Mar '15 - 4:42pm

    @Steve Comer – do you actually believe all that guff about the Bilderberg group etc?

  • Simon McGuff

    Bit like believing all that guff from Big Tobacco ?

  • Nick Collins 10th Mar '15 - 5:51pm

    Perhaps “Big Tobacco” is not all that some people have been smoking.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    Clearly we’re speaking foreign languages here. If it seems I am unduly hung up on the principle of the party I vote for staying vaguely true to their principles for a moment or two afterwards, I do apologise. Frankly, I expect Clegg to position the party somewhat to the left of the coalition in the run-up to the election. Once the results are in however, I can fully expect that the realities of trying to exercise power may require a coalition with the Tories, or perhaps UKIP, or perhaps even the Monster Raving Loony Party. After all, it must be said that a coalition with lunatics would not infer that Clegg was endorsing lunacy, but instead rather reducing instances of howling at the moon by exerting a calming influence, and that rather than complaining that my vote for quite sensible policies had been thrown out the window I had in fact been subconsciously voting for the party that was most concerned over my sleep. Why the combination of your realpoliticking and S Shaw’s liberalism red in tooth and claw leaves me confident where I’ll be placing my next ‘x’.

  • Alex Sabine 14th Mar '15 - 7:26am

    @ Bolano
    “Clearly we’re speaking foreign languages here.”

    I also sometimes feel that way when I am debating with Matthew, although I don’t doubt his sincerity for a minute. But he doesn’t help his cause by accusing those who disagree with him on things like the tactical positioning of the Lib Dems, or the presentational challenges of being the junior partner in a coalition government, of supporting fascism rather than representative democracy. Nor are statements like “I appreciate most people don’t think these things through as I do” very becoming.

    I think much of the confusion here has arisen from failing to distinguish between the legislature and the executive. Representative democracy is, first and foremost, about the legislature. The need to broker compromises in in the interests of stable government, and in particular in order to form a coalition government, is about the effectiveness of the executive. In the UK system, with no formal separation of powers and some MPs sitting in both the legislature and the executive, there is a substantial overlap between these two branches, and the tensions between them have to be reconciled often by the same individuals.

    So, in the first place, a party like the Lib Dems has to decide whether to play a role in government if the opportunity presents itself. Even if it does, MPs and government ministers are not the same thing – although a large proportion of the Lib Dem MPs have government jobs. Given the rigid party whipping system that operates today, individual MPs may feel their ability to exercise their own judgement or abide by pre-election promises (where these clash with the government programme) are heavily circumscribed.

    Those who are arguing that they should do so all the same are not disputing any of the tenets of representative democracy, Matthew – quite the opposite. In fact they are giving it a higher priority than executive power. They can be accused of naivety perhaps, or of failing to understand what is necessary for effective government. But the charge in that case is that they are excessively committed to the representation function, and not committed enough to the wider interests of governance. It is absurd to say this is a form of fascist thinking.

  • In any case, the ‘never compromise, no debate, strong-man’ approach which Matthew, highly implausibly, imagines fellow Lib Dems and others commenting in this thread to be advocating is not really ‘fascism’ as such but simply tyranny/despotism/totalitarianism. Orwell observed in 1944 that the word fascist “has lost the last vestige of meaning” and that “almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘fascist'”. In the absence of a clearer understanding of the term, his advice was to “use the word with a certain amount of circumspection and not, as is usually done, degrade it to the level of a swear word.”

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