Interview: Nick Clegg – I told Cameron he was talking complete bilge

Bilge! Now there’s a word that gets far too infrequent an airing. It happens to be the word Nick Clegg used to describe David Cameron’s despatch box-defence of our voting system during this week’s PMQs, revealed in a lengthy interview with the deputy prime minister in today’s Independent. Other topics covered include NHS reform, Libya, Prince Andrew and why the Liberal Democrats must see this coalition government through for its full term. Nick’s conference speech on Sunday needs to provide an uplift to party members after a bruising few weeks and months, and from this interview it looks like he is set to do just that.

Here’s an extract of what Nick has to say:

Without the Liberal Democrats, you would not have got a huge restoration of civil liberties; a balanced approach to Europe; a ferocious protection of human rights; a very heavy emphasis on more resources to our schools; the pupil premium; lifting thousands and thousands of people out of income tax; a £10bn levy on the banks; a crackdown on tax loopholes, a referendum in May on the voting system.

These are early days – 10 months into a five-year parliament. All the focus is on the immediate task of the deficit. People have to hold their nerve, not lurch from one thing to the next. You have to work at it day in, day out and deliver over time, so that people see the difference you make. That is what we do and we will continue to do.

The whole interview can be found here.

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  • That’s funny I was watching PMQ and Nick was nodding his head like a dog and grinning like a Cheshire Cat as he listened to HMV and apparently agreed with everything he was saying.

    It really is cowardly to say that he whispered his disapproval – why doesn’t he have what it takes to come out and state it publicly. No bottle is the answer and that’s been obvious for some time now.

    Still talking about pussy cats I see a LibDem murderer has been sent to jail for murder.

  • Depressed Ex 11th Mar '11 - 5:36pm

    Without the Liberal Democrats, you would not have got … the pupil premium …

    One of Clegg’s sillier bits of spin, considering it was also in the Tory manifesto!

  • Eco Jon. And see him whispering intently into Cameron’s ear the snidey response to Milliband’s question about Libya.
    He didn’t need to do that, he wanted and chose to.

  • Linda Buckley 11th Mar '11 - 6:09pm

    While most of us respect the need to curb top heavy management, cumbersome bureaucracy and waste across OUR public srevices; the breadth, depth and tyrranical speed of this programme is generating REAL, WHITE KNUCKLE FEAR amongst ordinary people. You have NO MANDATE to do this to our society!
    We all know there will be a seismic shift in our collective social values as a result of this dangerous dismantling. We all know people who will be deeply wronged in this crazy frenzy!
    We all know that we must carry profound collective guilt for dereliction of the duty to care, should we allow the profiteeers to seize control on our watch. Don’t heap contempt on the British public! It’s hurting like hell! PLEASE LISTEN TO THE BMA, THE RCN AND THE TUC AND TAKE NOTE!

  • Stuart Mitchell 11th Mar '11 - 6:23pm

    Bleeurgh, the article makes it pretty clear that Clegg’s “criticism” of Cameron was very much in the spirit of some good natured joshing between best pals.

    Curiously, the BBC were reporting this morning that “Mr Clegg suggested he would disagree publicly with prime minister David Cameron on more issues”. Yet now that paragraph has been removed from the BBC report. For a few hours there I thought Clegg had seen the light but obviously someone from Lib Dem HQ has put the BBC right!

  • So it doesn’t cause the coalition any problems when Nick tells Cameron he’s talking bilge over AV because it isn’t in the coalition agreement.

    In that case he can tell Lansley he is talking bilge over the NHS proposals – which aren’t in the coalition agreement either.

  • Stuart Mitchell 11th Mar '11 - 6:49pm

    “Without the Liberal Democrats, you would not have got a huge restoration of civil liberties;”

    Huge schmuge. Most of what HAS been done was (a) in the Tory manifesto and (b) had next to no civil liberties implications anyway (I’m talking about the scrapping of voluntary ID cards). The rest has been a pathetic rebranding exercise (control orders, child detention). I’m surprised Clegg isn’t trying to claim credit for halving the reported number of CCTV cameras, following the revelation last week that the much-quoted 4.2 million figure was, in the words of the ACPO, “fictional”.

    “a very heavy emphasis on more resources to our schools;”

    Howls of laughter from those of us who can remember “Building Schools for the Future”.

    “the pupil premium;”

    More howls of laughter from those of us who can remember how the Lib Dems derided Tory plans for a “premium” that was simply redistributed money from elsewhere in the education budget. That’s the premium we’re getting, NOT the Lib Dem version.

    “lifting thousands and thousands of people out of income tax;”

    Then snatching it all back through increased VAT.

    “a £10bn levy on the banks”

    £1bn per year less than Labour’s bonus levy.

    “a referendum in May on the voting system.”

    Now he’s boasting that he’s got something which he said last April was a “miserable little compromise” he was not prepared to accept.

    If these are achievements I’d hate to see Clegg fail…

  • Nothing this man can say on Sunday can repair the damage he’s done! Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to go and knock on a few doors in their constituency for a reality check.

  • First thing to say – no doubt about it, bilge is a fine word. Not as good as effluxion, but good.

    More than that though, in the interview, Clegg seems to work on an assumption that the party’s problems are to do with, ‘communication.’ Put another way, keep saying the same thing and the people who are angry – rightly or wrongly – will realise that they are wrong. It may well be that this is indeed true for some.

    Problem is though, as was mentioned in another article today, government can’t just be a tick box exercise where things are crossed off a neat list. Those examples in the article may have been in some form implemented, but their implementation speaks to a coalition where there is a relationship of CONFLUENCE as opposed to INFLUENCE.

    I make no value judgment here on where the balance lies. Some of the identifiably Lib Dem issues are things I like (why is ditching the IHT proposals in the Conservative manifesto never mentioned?) some I don’t like (pupil premium as it stands is just beggar my neighbour) and some are inoffensive as far as they go (rights).

    It’s just that Nick doesn’t seem to realise why good people are unhappy – coalition was not sold as a confluence. Of course, it should never be forgotten that in May the party was in a very, very weak position, The 6:1 ratio speaks volumes. It might be the case that there are Lib Dem influences in this Coalition, I for one don’t doubt it. It’s just that the confluence was not really what was advertised.

  • Stuart Mitchell 11th Mar '11 - 7:24pm

    Duncan: “why is ditching the IHT proposals in the Conservative manifesto never mentioned?”

    Perhaps because it never happened.

    Read the coalition agreement – the IHT cut has only been put on hold for a while, not scrapped.

  • @chaz

    Chaz – I don’t think for one minute that Cameron actually hears anything that Clegg says let alone listens to it never mind take any action on it. I’m afraid Godzilla has become a little overwrought.

    Thought the union poster was great:

    Personally I would be happier if not a single protester turned-up in Sheffield and just showed what an irrelevance Clegg and pledge-breaking MPs actually are. It really will be interesting to see if there any people of principle still left within the LibDems who are prepared to oppose this Tory economic policy that has been adopted by Clegg and his followers.

    I can’t but help smile at the ‘liberties’ Clegg has ‘won’ – personally I would think that having a job, and a home, an NHS and cops on the beat are much higher up my list of priorities than the minimal tinkering and rebranding of civil ‘liberties’ that Clegg hails as a great success somewhat erroneously in certain instances.

    Clegg also stated in the article cited: ”I think there is a lot of absurd scaremongering going on,’ he said.

    ‘We’re basically bringing public spending levels back to where they were in 2008. So it’s not the 1980s. It’s not a return to the 1980s. It’s not a return to the 1930s. We balance the books.’

    So we only need to cut public spending to 2008 levels – seems to me that the ‘absurd scaremongering’ by Clegg and his Tory friends that it was all Labour’s fault must be after 2008 then. But I thought Clegg blamed the bankers after 2008. So who’s fault is it – certainly doesn’t seem to be Labour’s 🙂

  • Oh I just wondered. Does anyone know when the ‘exceptional circumstances’ criteria for universities being allowed to charge more than £6k are going to be published?

    Seems as though this might be another pledge that is going to disappear into oblivion.

  • EcoJon – I don’t know, but I would guess that an 80% cut in teaching funding counts as a pretty exceptional situation.

  • Tony Greaves 11th Mar '11 - 9:02pm

    Matthew Oakeshott (note the spelling, dear) did not get sacked by Clegg, who had no powers to sack him. This is not a party in which the leader has the power to decide every little thing. Matthew resigned from his position within the Lords party.

    Tony Greaves

  • Tony Greaves 11th Mar '11 - 9:04pm

    Oh and there is not an 80% cut in teaching funding at universities. Common sense should tell anyone that such a cut would be impossible anyway, but there is no common sense from people who just want to lash out in an ignorant and abusive way. (But the Labour Party was ever thus!)

    Tony Greaves

  • @Tony Greaves

    This lashing out in an ignorant and abusive manner, couldn’t be used to describe Clegg and LibDems claiming before the election, that Labour wanted to saddle students with crippling debts, and ruin their chances of University education. Something that only a vote for LibDems could avoid? Just asking.

  • Tony if there is not being an 80% cut in funding, then why are the damn fees being tripled

  • Can someone please explain to me what civil liberties exactly have been “restored” due to Lib Dem influence? Control orders have been kept, as has child detention. And a Tory majority government was always going to scrap ID cards… it was a populist and easy way to make a quick saving.

    By the way, I’d suggest the Lib Dems made their own bed on theircommunication problems on tuition fees… you lot have been going around for the last 10 months saying we need to get rid of the whole deficit in the next few years because all debt is evil – so you can’t exactly be surprised when it’s impossible to communicate to young people that it’s OK for them to be in huge amounts of debt due to fees. If Clegg wants to start convincing them, he’d better stop spouting “bilge” about Britain being bankrupt and his absurd fallacies about not wanting our children to pay off our credit-card bill.

  • @Tony Greaves
    The Prime Minister was given the opportunity to correct the 80% figure at PMQ’s a while ago and decided not to do so. As the actual figures do not seem to be readily available in the public domain (or at least have not been published widely by the media) he should have chosen to break the habit he has inherited from Brown and Blair and actually answered….

    The fact Tuition fees will rise in now history, there will be a price paid in May and possibly this price will still be being extracted in 2015. There is a real ongoing problem though in that the maximum figure was voted through without the meaning of “exceptional circumstances” being clarified. A number of Universities have now stated they will charge the maximum amount and yet still there is nothing. I have an awful feeling that “exceptional” will join “pledge” in having a different meaning to MP’s then it does to us voters….

  • @Duncan

    I don’t think you have understood what I was getting at – Vince Cable repeatedly made it clear that he expected £6K to be the norm charged by Unis under the new system although in exceptional circumstances. He and just about every other Lib Dem in the Parliamant and Commons supporting the increase in tuition fees trumpeted that the £9K could only be charged in exceptional circumstances and they said that these circumstances would be revealed.

    It is now beginning to look as though they have been quietly forgotten about by the LibDems – but if anyone is at conference perhaps they could ask the hierarchy what’s happening on the issue.

    On the surface it looks as though more and more unis are going to charge £9K which creates an interesting issue as to whether the government will actually be able to fund the student loans. £6k was always a bit of a low-bar because of the cutback in funding for uni teaching – which off the top of my head was 80 per cent if I remember correctly – and the minimum fees figure being touted by tghe unis at the time was in the region of £7.5k.

    An all we seem to have is some kind of wishy washy ‘understanding’ that any uni charging £9k will have to put £900 of that towards poorer student participation. Problem there is that most unis already do try to do this so I think that what will happen is now they will just factor-in the cost of these existing initiatives to meet the new targets and actually no new money will go towards assisting students from poorer backgrounds.

    Every time the LibDems claim they are putting new money into education it seems to end up just a stirring of the existing pot.

    @Tony Greaves

    As you seem to be up in these matters Tony perhaps you could tell me what the actual cut in uni teaching funding is. I try not to rely on commonsense when politics are involved as the commonsense used by politicians is seldom on the same wavelength as that used by mere mortals.

  • Oops first sentence should read:


    I don’t think you have understood what I was getting at – Vince Cable repeatedly made it clear that he expected £6K to be the norm charged by Unis under the new system although in exceptional circumstances £9k per annum can be charged.

  • Depressed Ex 12th Mar '11 - 9:01am

    Oh and there is not an 80% cut in teaching funding at universities. Common sense should tell anyone that such a cut would be impossible anyway, but there is no common sense from people who just want to lash out in an ignorant and abusive way.

    An 80% cut – from £3.5bn to £0.7bn a year – is precisely what the Browne review recommended.

    Whether it works out more or less than that in the end, obviously it will have to be something of that order. The speculation is that if fees are higher than anticipated, then direct funding may have to be cut further.

    I wish people would check their facts before they accuse others of being ignorant.

  • Stuart Mitchell 12th Mar '11 - 10:39am

    Rich: “a lot of people just don’t get how important civil liberties are to lib dems”

    What people don’t get is the way Lib Dems seem perfectly relaxed about such things as the kettling of protesters, and the continuation of control orders, child detention, and even (in standby form) 28-day detention.

    When in opposition, Lib Dems told us that all these things were completely beyond the pale. Now you offer us some minor tweaks and a bit of rebranding and expect us to credit you with delivering a “huge restoration of civil liberties”. Please tell me in what ways my civil liberties have been enhanced over the past ten months, because thus far it’s all looked like spin and no subtance.

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