Leadership Platform 2: Nick Clegg writes…

Last week Simon Hughes and I spent an hour and a half or so talking with a group of 20 students at South Bank University

I was so struck by how alienated they all felt from political discussion, and from the political classes. The idea of getting involved in politics had never even occurred to most of them – though I think we managed to change that. Two of them told us they’d be joining the party that afternoon!

You can watch the video here:

If our party is to reach out beyond the narrow debates of Westminster, and become the mass membership movement Simon and I have been talking about, it’s people like these who we have to be connecting with.

It’s important, of course, to be winning debates in the House of Commons. To best ministers and score debating points. But I want us to win the debate in the country far more. Being in politics isn’t just about relating to other politicians – it’s about relating to people.

That’s why I’ve tried to focus my campaign on Britain, on the challenges that face Britain, and how our party – our party alone – offers the answers Britain needs.

Diversity will be at the heart of that. I’ve said on many occasions that it’s a fantasy to imagine we can represent contemporary Britain if contemporary Britain is not represented in us. I’ve set out my plans in detail on my website and I hope you will all support me in raising a serious amount of money to support diversity. I want to establish a permanent academy where we can train candidates, and aspiring candidates – as well as inspiring people who haven’t thought about standing before to have the confidence to put themselves forward.

As I’ve made clear, if my emphasis on support and training doesn’t work over two elections, we may have to consider, however reluctantly, positive discrimination.

It’s only by reaching out, by stretching beyond the Westminster-centric politics, that the Liberal Democrats can become a rallying point for everyone who wants a more liberal Britain. Only then can we be the voice of the voiceless, the champions of the ignored and the neglected, the liberal party that Britain needs.

That’s my ambition, and I hope it’s one you share. I’d love you to sign up at my website www.nickclegg.com if you do.

Thanks for reading,


[Editor’s note: Lib Dem Voice is giving both leadership candidates two slots each week (Tuesdays and Saturdays) to make their case to the membership for the duration of the contest.]

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This entry was posted in Leadership Election and Op-eds.


  • Is that out on the stump with the same Simon Hughes who made a very rash pledge to double the party membership as president. Nick should beware making similar unthought through claims.

  • Rob Blackie 13th Nov '07 - 9:12pm

    Chris – just to point out that Nick hasn’t made that claim!

  • Hywel Morgan 13th Nov '07 - 10:41pm

    Nick has pledged to double our number of MPs though. Without (unlike Simon) putting a time frame on it.

  • Cheltenham Robin 13th Nov '07 - 11:54pm

    Went to the Bristol Hustings tonight where Nick demonstrated his ability to talk to the public as well as the party.

  • Letters From A Tory 14th Nov '07 - 7:45am

    And how exactly do you propose to become the ‘voice of the voiceless’ when the media won’t even give you airtime during a leadership election?

    If you read the front pages over the last fortnight, one could be forgiven for forgetting that the leadership contest was even happening (which says a lot about the state of the Lib Dems, in my humble opinion).

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Nov '07 - 9:31am

    This is all so trite.

    Why is politics dominated by a certain sort of person?

    Because to get on it it, you have to have a certain sort of personality – extrovert, dominating, over-confident. This is a sort of personality which is more likely to be found in males – and more likely to be found in people from privileged backgrounds who went to expensive private schools.

    THAT is why politics is so unrepresentative, and to fail to tackle that, but instead tinker by putting in quotas for women won’t change it – you’ll just create extra opportunities for that small number of women who have dominating male-like personalities.

  • Letters from a Tory wrote: “(which says a lot about the state of the Lib Dems, in my humble opinion).”

    But says nothing about the state of the media, of course.

    Difficult to deny the considerable positive publicity the party has gained through the selection of Brian Paddick as candidate for London Mayor, and for Norman Baker’s sterling efforts in proving that Dr David Kelly was murdered.

  • Or Steve Webb’s success this week in boosting pensions for women who looked after kids. Good effective work at giving voice to the voiceless!

  • Geoffrey Payne 14th Nov '07 - 11:10am

    I am not supporting Nick, but I think this is a very good video and something similar would make a good PPB.
    The issue of cynicism towards politics is a key one.
    We have to fight against a biased media and political satire that add to the cynicism. MPs are often to blame – the cynical way they exploit loopholes in their expense claims is a good example. But they work very hard all the same – and even they started as volunteers. Of course satire is very funny sometimes, but it leaves a distorted impression and many are ready to believe.
    What most people seem to miss is that most people in politics are volunteers. When people complain that they only hear from the political parties at election time (not always true of the Lib Dems of course), that is because they are relying on a volunteer to give up on doing sometime else, and actually going out to deliver a leaflet.
    There is a question of what politicians can deliver these days. In the past, the introduction of the NHS, making health care free at the point of delivery for all, transformed people lives.
    Today the biggest priority is to mitigate the effects of global warming, and already we are starting too late.
    For many it is easier just to not think about it.

  • Dominic Hannigan 14th Nov '07 - 12:00pm

    “We may have to consider Positive Discrimination”!!!!!!!!!!!!???????!!!!!?????????????!!!!!!???????!!!!??????!!!!!!????????!!!!!!?

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Nov '07 - 12:12pm

    Stephen @ 10 – I think the first step is acknowledging the problem. We may then have to go into our parliamentary candidate approval and selection processes to see if there is any bias in them towards certain personality types which should or could be removed.

    I am pretty sure myself that our party has no prejudice against female or ethnic minority candidates once they have gone through all the hoop-jumping that requires them to get to the stage of being potential candidates. So the problem needs to be tackled early on, quotas at the end just won’t tackle it, and supposing they will is a sign that the real problem hasn’t even been noticed.

    I myself, and I write as someone who has a naturally introverted character, think there is a huge issue in the way our society seems increasingly to be enforcing certain personality types as the only way people should be, and closing off the avenues to a happy and fulfilled life for those of us who are of a quieter and more reflective nature. We can see this, for example, in the loud “in your face” type of person who dominates almost all forms of entertainment now, and in the way so many career paths now seem to be encouraging us to be little hucksters, forever selling ourselves. I think we can see it too in the rise in bullying in schools – sometimes misunderstood as “homophobic” bullying, since although there certainly is real homophobic bullying, it’s also the case that a lot of bullying using homophobic terms is actually bullying of heterosexual youngsters who are quiet or introverted.

    I would like to see more quieter and more reflective politicians, and I think the public would too. That means we have to change the very aggressive way politics is practised. I mean not just the silly games-playing and name-calling between parties, but also the aggressive Paxman way that politics is dealt with in the media.

    Stepping out and talking about this is a start, and I would hope a start to something far more constructive than anything which could be achieved by quotas.

  • 13. Dominic – God forbid we should even talk about positive action if we fail to get any BME MPs, and a more equal number of female MPs into parliament ‘after 2 general elections!!’ (in 6/7 years time)
    I think many of us would like to see that as a last resort, but given our track record on this, it’ll be interesting to hear at the EMLD hustings on 5 December, what both candidates views are on this subject.
    One thing is certain: the status quo is not acceptable.

  • 15. Alix makes a valid point. Our female MPs are either young with no children, or older with children that have grown up. Draw your own conclusions but we have no women MPs, as far as I know, who have school-age children. There are obviously plenty of male MPs who do, but then they have wives to care for them….!

  • Nick is making two very big assumptions – That this time round our MPs will support whoever is lected leader beyound two Parliaments (ermmm Really?) and that the ethnic minority members is prepared to wait for almost another decade for this Party to reflect in Parliament the community it serves in the country. I am not sure he is right on that either.

    The idea that we need an academy to develop ethnic minority members to a point where they will be turned into acceptable material for election to Parliament I personally find rather insulting.

    Incidentally I have not ruled out supporting Nick yet – so these comments are not meant as a criticism of him.

    In 1997 Paddy paraded 17 ethnic minority PPCs –

    Here we are a decade later trying to say there are not enough individuals from ethnic minority communities capable of representing us in Parliament. I just don’t buy that.
    Fact is when it comes to craeting opportunities in positions of power for ethnci minority members – the leadership at every level just do not wish to know.

    I want to hear that our next Leader will do do whatever it takes to demonstrate to the public and the Party that Liberal Democrats are not afraid to be represented by any mixture of minority.

    If that requires positive action than I want to see the new Leader advocate positive action . If he can achieve the same results in another way that is fine too. But most of all I want the new leader to start to make things happen now. The next general election has to be the very last one in which there there are less than 10 % ethnic minority candidates amongst our taget seats

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