Lib Dems as ‘The Party of IN’ – Clegg’s pro-European strategy starts to pay off

nick clegg v nigel farageKudos to Nick Clegg and his team, including his director of strategy Ryan Coetzee. The gambit of issuing a personal challenge to Nigel Farage to debate Nick on Europe has been accepted not only by the Ukip leader, but also now by the media. As Caron Lindsay reported here this morning – #NickvNigel – We have a date and #NickvNigel: We have 2 dates – any more for the Tour? – the two leaders will face-off both on TV and on radio within the next month.

Though the stakes are high for both – any live debate has the potential for a gaffe or ‘mis-speak’ – in reality neither has much to lose. True, the debate won’t be prime time in the way the three 2010 debates were, but they will still be treated by the media as major events.

For Farage, that’s a welcome profile boost. He may seem ubiquitous to those of us who follow politics closely, but he is the least well-known among the general public: one-third of voters have no opinion about him, according to Ipsos-Mori’s leadership tracking poll.

For Clegg, the debates achieve two things. First, a national platform to make the positive pro-European case that the Lib Dems are ‘The party of IN’. Note the definite article there: implicit within the ‘the’ is the point that only the Lib Dems have the cojones to make that case, with both Cameron and Miliband staying aloof (sensibly, from their perspective, but still).

Secondly, the debate will help frame the European elections in exactly the way Clegg wants: as a direct choice between the pro-European Lib Dems and isolationist Ukip. As I pointed out in my ConservativeHome column, ‘Farage is a useful enemy, a clear and present danger who may yet galvanise the one-third of voters who want the UK to remain within the EU to consider casting their vote for the Lib Dems on 22nd May – a new kind of protest vote.’

When the debates take place, all sorts of progressive voters who have taken pleasure in damning the Lib Dem leader for every possible Coalition mistake (perceived or actual) will find themselves – perhaps to their discomfort and embarrassment – cheering him on and agreeing with Nick once again. And maybe not just pro-European voters either. Here’s Jeremy Cliffe in this week’s Economist:

Strangely, strategists also hope that this self-styled “party of in” could attract Eurosceptic voters as well as Europhile ones. The party’s big problem, according to this logic, is not that its policies are unpopular but that U-turning on pledges (most notably a commitment to axe university tuition fees) has made it seem spineless and phoney. But Mr Clegg is authentically, unwaveringly pro-European. He has a Spanish wife, is half-Dutch and worked in Brussels for years. Party bosses hope that seeing him talk passionately about a subject he cares about will win him respect, no matter how unpopular his position.

Mr Clegg may be on to something. Voters rarely engage with the details of parties’ policies (even on Europe, their views depend on the wording of the question). Instead, they vote for politicians who look sincere and seem to know their own minds. Being proudly anti-EU has helped UKIP create that impression. Being unambiguously pro-EU might do the same for the Lib Dems. When viewers watch Mr Clegg and Mr Farage tussle over the merits of EU membership, they will be looking at two men following a similar strategy.

We don’t yet know if the British public will reward this strategy. But – and here I speak as someone who’s on the Eurosceptic wing of the Lib Dems – it’s good to see the party (1) fighting on an unabashedly pro-European platform it genuinely believes in, and (2) basing its campaign strategy on how best to promote its policies, and not the other way around.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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53 Comments

  • Stephen: ‘and here I speak as someone who’s on the Eurosceptic wing of the Lib Dems’

    What?! Are you a mole? How many more are there of your persuasion in our party? As a percentage, do you estimate?

  • We absolutely have to get our arguments checked and double checked. The idea that 3 million jobs would be lost if we left the EU is not credible. The author of the original study Professor Iain Begg is not supporting our argument. We lose considerable credibility if we continue to bang on about 3 million jobs.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newsvideo/uk-politics-video/9822434/Claims-that-3-million-jobs-will-go-if-Britain-exits-EU-a-false-perspective.html

  • I am afraid Joe is right we need to take care.

  • I too am on the Eurosceptic wing of the party, in the sense that I am against any further integration but would like the EU to do better what it does already.

    However, as long as Nick Clegg sticks to sensible arguments based on real evidence (not this flimsy 3 million jobs claim), then I am behind him all the way on this debate.

  • Running total of Eurosceptic Lib Dems so far declared:
    Stephen Tall,
    RC

    Running total of pro-EU Lib Dems:
    Joe King
    Edis Bevan (presumably)

    Hmm… Anybody else like to declare? It would be interesting to have a larger sample size in order to get a feel for the percentages. Thanks.

  • I’ll declare. I naturally support Nick because I am pro-EU. However, I am still in a terrible quandary because I strongly believe it is up to the voters (not career politicians) to decide. Therefore, while being pro-EU, I am also pro-referendum. That worries me a lot because I really do not know which way to vote. I thought I was a LibDem voter, but now I am not sure and now I am verging towards “the right to decide”. I will have to think hard about which takes priority. OMG this is a difficult decision!

  • “For Clegg, the debates achieve two things. First, a national platform to make the positive pro-European case that the Lib Dems are ‘The party of IN’. Note the definite article there: implicit within the ‘the’ is the point that only the Lib Dems have the cojones to make that case, with both Cameron and Miliband staying aloof (sensibly, from their perspective, but still).”

    If Clegg’s priority was to make the pro-European case, he would be eager to emphasise the breadth of support for Europe across the parties. That suggests to me that he doesn’t care if the effect is to damage the pro-European case, provided he can achieve some short-term electorate advantage for the Lib Dems.

  • Stuart Mitchell 5th Mar '14 - 10:10pm

    If today’s pre-debate skirmish was anything to go by – Clegg unwisely attempting to rubbish Farage’s European Parliament voting record despite the fact that it’s vastly superior to Clegg’s Westminster record – then Farage will make mincemeat of Clegg.

  • Martin Lowe 5th Mar '14 - 11:23pm

    @Stuart:

    Those in positions like Deputy Prime Minister have a day job running the country, and are paired with an opposite number to ensure that democratic votes aren’t unduly skewed.

    Whereas Farage is a rabble rousing backslider who betrays every single one of his voters by not doing his job, and only turns up often enough to not dip below the magic 50% attendance threshold that would cut his expenses.

    However, this is an example of how Clegg could lose the debate – by being technocratic and by not being a fighter. Because you need to be a fighter to combat fundamentally dishonest people like Farage.

  • I am certainly encouraged by this initiative. There has been a dearth of support for the EU, with the exceptions of Ken Clarke and Peter Mandelson and occasionally one or two others, both Labour and Conservatives have avoided voicing support for the EU.

    I am sceptical of using a referendum. I fear that the numbers keen on a referendum are much greater than the numbers who are likely to be happy with the outcome, worse, I fear that a referendum would resolve very little. Be it for or against, , a close result either way is unlikely to hold back the losing campaign. A referendum could very well only perpetuate and inflame the in fighting. You could imagine a thin OUT vote followed by stock market and bank jitters leading to calls for a repeat referendum, also it would be hard to imagine the Europhobes quietly backing down if the vote if their campaign lost narrowly.

  • Julian Tisi 5th Mar '14 - 11:33pm

    This has been a superb strategy and it’s really paid off. Well done to all concerned.

    I think Joe King is right that we need some really solid facts and examples to back them up. That said, I would err against being too cautious. I think we have less to lose if we really go for UKIP with some gusto. Partly because this is about being seen as passionate, trying to win round some hearts not just heads. But mainly because IMO we’ve got so much on UKIP that we can really go for them. For example…. UKIP’s voting record is appalling and we need to mention it. As is their refusal to publish accounts despite years of promising to. As is their track record of MEPs. We can say that of UKIP MEPs elected last time and the time before, about half have either defected, been thrown out or in one case jailed. This needs to be mentioned.

    I didn’t hear Clegg talking about Farage’s woeful EP voting record but I did hear Martin Horwood against Farage on radio 4 this morning. Farage was beaten up. The voting record point came right at the end, Farage got the last word (that Clegg’s voting “attendance” is lower) and Horwood didn’t get to respond, but Farage’s point is easily rebutted. Clegg is Deputy PM. Farage only has one public office – MEP.

    Oh by the way – count me as Pro European.

  • Thank goodness to see us fighting the cause and I’m all for this debate but Nick must bear in mind that his main objective is not to “defeat” Nigel Farage but rather to gain as much credence as possible for the “in” case. Therefore he should steer away from attempts to discredit Farage’s or UKIP’s appalling record in the European Parliament. The essential is to damage severely the UKIP case for leaving the EU.

    He must also stress the need for reform but make the case that this can only be achieved by leadership from within the Union.

  • The typical UKIP voter will not be at all concerned that the UKIP MEPs are not voting very much. Why bother in a parliament which they do not regard as legitimate anyway?

    If Nick uses this UKIP MEP voting record as a key plank of his argument it will be very easily kicked away. It just sounds like a pathetic playground taunt, we have to have far more robust arguments.

  • Martin 5th Mar ’14 – 11:25pm
    ‘I am certainly encouraged by this initiative. There has been a dearth of support for the EU, with the exceptions of Ken Clarke and Peter Mandelson…’

    We have to be really careful who we associate with. We must avoid contaminating our brand.

  • Alex Macfie 6th Mar '14 - 9:00am

    If I were a Eurosceptic voter, I would want MEPs who worked constructively in the European Parliament towards a looser EU, not messing around like the UKIP lot do.
    And please (I’m thinking of Theresa-1 here) however you decide to vote in the European election, make your choice based on the work of MEPs. Referendum and in/out are domestic issues, MEPs don’t have any influence over them.

  • @Alex Macfie “however you decide to vote in the European election, make your choice based on the work of MEPs. Referendum and in/out are domestic issues, MEPs don’t have any influence over them.”

    A very good point that needs somehow to be clearly communicated in the upcoming EU elections…

  • @Julian Tisi “This needs to be mentioned”.

    Sorry Julian I could not agree less. If Nick tries to mention your points in this debate he would simply be resorting to childish mud slinging, which has no place in any formal debate. The subject of this debate is solely the merits or demerits of EU membership. Both Nick and Nigel should focus exclusively on the issues and leave it at that. This debate should not be an opportunity to score party political points one way or the other. I believe Nick should leave juvenile insults for another time.

  • If we do not use this campaign to push forward the arguments for “in” , the devil will continue to have all the best tunes and the case for “in” will go down the tubes. The campaign for the potential referendum is in effect already running and our side must continue it energetically for as long as necessary. Of course we must also stress what our MEPs can do for people but let’s not get caught up in semantics as to the degree of influence MEPs can exert over the issue of UK membership. Our opponents certainly have no such inhibitions.

  • Phil Rimmer 6th Mar '14 - 11:30am

    Sorry Stephen but I completely fail to see what Nick Clegg or any of his team should gain any “kudos” for suggesting a TV debate with Nigel Farage. We are the only fully ‘in’ party contesting English seats in the European election and they are the largest fully ‘out’ party. There was never any chance that Farage would say no and one of Clegg’s few undisputed strengths is his public speaking.

    As an unapologetic European Federalist, I see the considerable risk, one which few in the party seem willing to consider, that Clegg might be seen to have lost the debate(s). In spite of the lunatic, racist, homophobic, sexist and xenophobic tendencies of much of his party, over the last couple of years, Farage has shown himself to be an excellent public speaker and skilled political operator, well capable of carrying his party to its target audience almost single handedly.

  • @RC – “I too am on the Eurosceptic wing of the party, in the sense that I am against any further integration but would like the EU to do better what it does already.”

    RC, your position is basically identical to that adopted by Merkel’s CDU at their party congress around two years ago. Hence, you fall into the Angela Merkel wing of “Eurosceptic”-ism !!! 🙂

    Seriously, though the tasks that all the member states have set as the EU’s objectives are more than enough to keep the EU busy for decades to come, so it will be a case of “do better” for long into the future.

  • Nick Collins 6th Mar '14 - 12:51pm

    A brilliant move by Clegg: giving Farage another media platform and equal billing on the home page of the LibDem website!!!

  • @Nick Collins

    We can’t deny the reality that UKIP did well in May and likely to do very well in the European elections. Ignoring them is not an option and frankly their recent election result history means they have earned their media platform, as shown by them being awarded an increased number of party election broadcasts. They exist, they are wrong and should be challenged and I for one am glad that this party is doing so.

  • @Nick Collins: It would be very nice to simply ignore Farage and UKIP. And if they were polling at 5% or under that’s just what I’d recommend. But in fact UKIP have been polling at an average of 13% compared to the Lib Dems’ 9% and have been consistently ahead for months. UKIP pose not just a threat to the Liberal Democrats, but a serious threat to core British values. I don’t see Labour or the Tories standing up to challenge them; I am glad that Nick Clegg has done so.

  • Nick Collins 6th Mar '14 - 4:24pm

    @ David 1: Do you seriously believe that this debate will harm UKIP’s prospects for the elections this May?

    I agree that there is a real risk that the main story following those election will be UKIP coming top in terms of both vote share and MEPs elected; by giving Farage a tv platform, Clegg is simply making that outcome more likely. There is only one party which has a realistic chance of beating them; that is Labour. That is why anyone who wants to see UKIP beaten this May should vote Labour.

    The Clegg/Farage tv debate is pure opportunism (an attempt to boost prop up the LibDem vote by attracting the “in” vote) on Clegg’s part. But Clegg and the LibDem MEP candidates are sadly an irrelevance.

  • Isn’t it worth considering the democracy bit in all this? The EU is low on the priorities of the public. It is a very complex and very serious issue which has and is being successfully over simplified by UKIP and the right wing press via a proliferation of euro myths.
    This is at least one opportunity for the issues to be confronted with the likelihood of greater public understanding.
    Every time I see Farage on Question Time he is trounced by those who understand the subject – most notably by Vicky Price.
    Clegg s taking a risk but I can think of no politician for whom it is less risky and he is doing it for the right reasons.

  • @ Nick Collins, “….anyone who wants to see UKIP beaten this May should vote Labour”.

    Scotland and parts of the North might vote Labour. Labour does get a bit of support in those places. However, Labour will get nowhere south of Watford where UKIP gets substantial support. UKIP’s only realistic opposition in the South will be we LibDems and (cough) the Tories.

  • Yes, I seriously believe that this debate has a chance to move views, and better, to get people to start thinking about the issues that will be discussed. If I believed that everyone’s views were fixed and inflexible I wouldn’t involve myself in political discussions at all.

  • Granville Barker 6th Mar '14 - 6:53pm

    As I have a wealth of information which demonstrates the total corruption of the EU Project and the failure of its objectives I really believe that the pro ‘ EU ‘people have much to learn , Nigel is the leader of UKIP but many more members with impressive credentials have looked at the whole scenario and concluded that we are better of OUT !
    I am more than happy to debate with anyone , including Nick Clegg.
    Granville Barker

  • Nick Collins 6th Mar '14 - 7:49pm

    @ Theresa-1 I think you’re wrong there. Under PR, with the polls and the party strengths as they are now,Ii think that
    even in the South, Labour are likely to return more MEPs than the LibDems who will struggle to avoid a wipe-out.

    Taking the nation as a whole, the race is likely to be between Labour and UKIP for first and second place, with the Tories a distant third, then a race (if one can call it that) between Liberal Democrats and Greens for fourth and fifth place.

    I

  • @jedibeeftrix – Apart from minor treaty changes (e.g. the Croatian accession treaty), the EU Treaties haven’t changed nor has anyone formally proposed changing the existing ones. As it is, there is no doubt plenty of room to change the treaties as needed to achieve the CURRENT set of tasks assigned to the EU by all its member states, so there is no obvious need to come up with new tasks for it.

    PS As we are happy to get involved in “block votes” with like minded allies within the EU when it suits us, we can hardly complain when others do so. Likewise, if we exclude ourselves from parts of the EU, we also exclude ourselves from related voting blocks. That though is our “fault” (or choice), not anyone else’s.

  • Shirley Campbell 7th Mar '14 - 1:15am

    I am fearless and I am in. I have subscribed to the on line campaign. I am in,in, in and I support Nick. I would go to the ends of the earth to support Nick in his quest to secure our membership of the EU.

  • Judging by yesterday’s local by-election results, Nick Clegg also needs to challenge the leader of the Bus Pass Elvis party to a debate!

  • @Nick Collins “…. then a race (if one can call it that) between Liberal Democrats and Greens for fourth and fifth place”.

    That is why we need to get our message out to the electors. They need to know exactly what we stand for. So we will have to campaign harder then?

  • Alex Macfie 7th Mar '14 - 12:56pm

    Talk of which party is best placed to stop UKIP is missing the point and irrelevant because: (i) this is a PR election, and (ii) it is an EU-wide election for an EU-wide legislature. Point (ii) means that who obtains the most votes and seats in the UK is not as important as how well the EU-wide party groups do. Of course I hope the Lib Dems do well here, as that will contribute to a strong showing for ALDE across the EU, meaning that the European Parliament will vote in a strongly liberal direction. But it is the latter that’s the more important. There is no meaningful sense in which any UK party will “win” this election; the significance UKIP winning the most UK seats is mainly symbolic. We need to stop looking at this election as a purely UK affair and recognise its EU-wide significance.

  • Who are we kidding, probably ourselves, no amount of TV debates , which most will not watch, can alter the fact that the party is in a diabolical position, that seems, amazingly to get worse with each passing week, 38 votes yesterday at Ramsbottom, 56 in Nottingham, behind Elvis, and the pits have been reached when in Ashford the magnificent total of 13 yes 13 votes are obtained. The Euros will be a wipe out, will we then wake up and change the leadership, one thing is for sure we can’t do worse or can we?

  • “… the pits have been reached when in Ashford the magnificent total of 13 yes 13 votes are obtained.”

    Though in percentage terms, at 1.7% that wasn’t the worst result of the night.

    I can never work out how it’s possible even to field a candidate in those circumstances. Does one have to rely on non-supporters feeling sorry for the party in order to get the nomination papers filled in?

  • Chris Manners 7th Mar '14 - 5:36pm

    I know it’s sometimes hard when your opponents are talking tripe about the EU, but can you tell Clegg not to do that “3 million jobs are at stake” rubbish.

    Just get over that we pay anyway and obey the rules anyway if we leave, and have far less say in setting them.

    Also get over that what matters is the amount of exports per head in each direction.

  • Chris Manners 7th Mar '14 - 5:49pm

    “Of course I hope the Lib Dems do well here, as that will contribute to a strong showing for ALDE across the EU, meaning that the European Parliament will vote in a strongly liberal direction.”

    Fianna Fail and the German Free Democrats?

    No thanks.

  • More than one mention here of the Bus Pass Elvis Party. On the Daily Politics on BBC2 today, Ed Davey seemed unaware of the election result that put the Liberal Democrat behind Bus Pass Lvis.m. Or maybe he is so busy positioning himself for a run for the leadership after Clegg goes that he does mind the fall behind. Elvis.

    Mind you — the piece in today’s London Evening Standard where he talks about being offered a job as a spy and posing on the roof of his office because it was once used in a James Bond film is a bit bizarre. I guess he thinks it wil impress somebody. Leadership elections throw up all sorts of odd media reports. This one has just come early..

  • @jedibeeftrix – The EU Treaties, as agreed to by us, clearly specify that the Euro shall be the currency of the Union. The other member states are working towards that goal when they use and modify the rules of the EU. It remains our choice as to whether we work towards that goal or not. If we refuse to do so, then we are excluding ourselves from such decision making.

    As such we are akin to a local councillor who refuses to participate in his local council business then gets upset when his council adopts positions he doesn’t agree with – even though it is his choice, not anyone else’s, to refuse to attend. The council is there to handle council business, just as the EU is there to do EU business – which includes the Euro.

  • When out canvassing I am starting to get people asking about the ‘Real referendum’ petition that Nick Clegg backed in about 2008 (if my memory is correct).

    http://www.ourcampaign.org.uk/user_files/euro-referendum-flyer.pdf

    They are asking why it is that we do not support a referendum now, and yet then just a few years ago we did. I do try to explain the difference, but it just goes over their head, I can see that they are thinking I am just making excuses, even being dishonest.

    Does anybody have a really effective response?

    I have to say that Nick Clegg has made some serious errors of judgement, and the whole party is suffering as a result. Could somebody please take him in hand before it is too late? The party is bigger than any one person.

  • “I do try to explain the difference, but it just goes over their head,”

    The explanation is that in the last parliament Clegg thought it would a smart electoral tactic to try to attract Eurosceptic voters, and in this parliament he thinks it will be a smart electoral tactic to drape himself in the European flag.

  • Paul in Twickenham 8th Mar '14 - 9:07am

    In my opinion Jedibeeftrix is correct. The Liberal Democrat position on Europe is incoherent and inconsistent. because it is driven by a Euro federalist agenda that cannot be reconciled with domestic politics and economic reality.

  • @jedibeeftrix – “the EU makes space for sovereign countries with sovereign interests”

    The EU IS a Union of sovereign countries with sovereign interests – interests that they have agreed, in certain cases, to pursue in common as agreed tasks within the EU.

    Parliament has given a mandate to the EU to do so and that is what the EU is doing.

    To use my previous example, if a councillor who refuses to attend his local council resigns his seat, the council is not going to stop its business – the only effect is that the councillor has then no opportunity to participate in and influence the votes of his local council.

    Resigning a council seat on the basis that other councillors MIGHT out-vote you on issues may be good theatrics but it is dreadful politics.

  • jedibeeftrix 8th Mar '14 - 12:08pm

    As has been shown, time and again, the EU is BECOMING a Union of post-sovereign countries with A federal interest, which is a point only of interest to us in how this evolution will effect non-federalising states such as Britain.

    Let me restate the previous in an effort to make the message even simpler:

    “The EU, in considering the further fiscal convergence of the eurozone, must make space for non-euro countries with sovereign interests… or, we leave.
    The EU has a value as well as a price, it is only the comitted that cannot weigh one against the other.”

    I really don’t see how it can be possible to be clearer than that!

  • @jedibeeftrix – “As has been shown, time and again, the EU is BECOMING a Union of post-sovereign countries with A federal interest, ”

    No such thing has ever been shown. The EU was and remains a Union of Sovereign member states.

    In the novel Don Quixote, the Don’s delusional fantasies that windmills were really giants didn’t make them giants, they only made him look and act a fool. Likewise, delusional fantasies about what the EU might become and what it might decide are just delusions. We would be foolish in the extreme to use them as a basis for our (UK) decision making.

  • @theakes “Who are we kidding, probably ourselves, no amount of TV debates, which most will not watch, can alter the fact that the party is in a diabolical position, that seems, amazingly to get worse with each passing week, 38 votes yesterday at Ramsbottom, 56 in Nottingham, behind Elvis, and the pits have been reached when in Ashford the magnificent total of 13 yes 13 votes are obtained. The Euros will be a wipe out, will we then wake up and change the leadership, one thing is for sure we can’t do worse or can we?”

    I think you are wrong that “most will not watch”. IMO, there will be a huge audience for the TV debate. The TV debate will be a superb opportunity for Nick to make clear the Liberal Democrat position on the EU to millions of voters. I am sure the voters will reward him by voting for us, so I am not sure “the Euros will be a wipe out”. However, at the end of the day, it is up to the voters to decide. Up until now, all the indications have been that our position on the EU has very little support in the real world, so it is up to Nick to convince the voters or to fall on his sword like every other failed football manager.

  • Paul In Twickenham 9th Mar '14 - 12:19am

    Paddy Power are offering betting on the number of MEPs returned for each party in May. The betting is in the form “less than x MEPs”/”more than x MEPs” – a simplified spread bet. The value of x is 26.5 for Labour, 23.5 for UKIP, 14.5 for Conservative and 0.5 for Lib Dem.

    To me it looks like there has been a lot of money put onto zero Lib Dems being elected. I think that’s wrong. Unless the Bus Pass Elvis party intervene I think the Lib Dems end up with 3 MEPs and it might be worth a punt, but it’s an interesting indicator of expectations for May.

  • I am seriously concerned by this statement by Nick Clegg: “We’re not in Europe for Europe’s sake, we’re in it for Britain’s sake.”

    In what way does this make him any better than Nigel Farage? In what way does it make him different from Farage? Now Farage will absolutely slaughter Clegg in the debates. Does not Clegg understand that? Having acknowledged that he is only interested in our selfish national interest, Clegg has no more arguments left other than to argue the extent of our withdrawal from the EU. The reality, with this statement is that he has conceded the core argument to Farage already.

    The whole point of the EU for me is that we are a brotherhood of countries. The weaker are supported by the stronger, the wealthy give to the poor. A community spirit where we help each other, and that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Not the selfish and self-seeking “we’re in it for Britain’s sake.” I know that Fascism is a dirty word now, but the original meaning that individual twigs can easily be broken, whereas a bundle of twigs tightly bound together in a Union cannot be broken is still very much true and always will be.

    I have said it before and no doubt there will be occasion to say it again: can somebody seriously take Nick Clegg in hand and make sure that he does not say anything else that is seriously mistaken? He is a loose cannon, and unfortunately is well on the way to destroying our party.

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