LibLink: Nick Clegg: Bickering brexiteers and teenage footballers

Nick Clegg has been telling the readers of the New Statesman all about his week.

As he attended a reception on mental health at Buckingham Palace, he remembered one of his first appearances as Lib Dem Leader at PMQs:

In the evening, I attended a reception at Buckingham Palace to support people who work in mental health, listening to a good speech by Prince William and a funny and moving one by Stephen Fry. Almost exactly ten years ago I raised mental health at Prime Minister’s Questions when Gordon Brown was at the despatch box as PM, and I was a newly elected Lib Dem leader. At the time, it was considered a “brave” thing to do – party leaders never raised mental health in the Commons. So it’s massive progress that mental health is now talked about openly in parliament, in the media, and even in Buckingham Palace. But the gap between words and deeds is huge. The taboo may have been broken, but the problems of poor mental-health provision still exist.

On a trip to Brussels, he learned something quite alarming about Brexit:

I caught up with some senior European Commission officials in Brussels, some of whom I’ve known for more than 20 years, from the time I worked there. One told me that the most striking moment in the Brexit negotiations so far was when UK officials asked whether the EU could provide Britain with “technical assistance” on how to process and transport nuclear materials, tasks presently overseen by Euratom (the European Atomic Energy Community). “Technical assistance is what the EU provides to some of the poorest countries of the world,” my friend told me. “Now the UK is asking for help like a developing nation. Wow.”

Then he went to see Hillary Clinton at the South Bank Centre and had some observations on defeat:

She was relaxed and open – and angry, too. Everyone from Trump to Bernie Sanders, Vladimir Putin to Facebook, Republican donors to James Comey, got a mention in the roll call of people and events Hillary felt blocked her entry into the White House.

I have a small insight into the anguish of political defeat. Nothing like the epic scale of a US presidential election, of course, but crashing out of office after five years as deputy prime minister was still an abrupt collision with electoral reality. It takes some time to digest the reasons why things happen as they do – but, in the end, all you can do is stare defeat in the face, accept it, and move on.

There’s a limit to how much you can rake over the past. I wonder whether Hillary would have written the same book if she had given herself six more months to recover.

There’s also a hilarious account of him being the linesman at a teenage football match, and an account of a speech he gave on John Stuart Mill in Belgium. Oh, and some Tessa Munt.

You can read the whole article here.

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  • paul barker 20th Oct '17 - 1:38pm

    I really hope that Nick reconsiders & tries to make a comeback & that the Party gives him that opportunity. (Maidenhead perhaps ?)
    His big mistake was impatience – taking the opportunity to “Do Stuff” too soon but for a Reformist its an understandable one.

  • Michael Cole 20th Oct '17 - 2:34pm

    Paul, you rightly draw attention to his “impatience” but I believe his big mistake was naivete. He should never have trusted Cameron and the Conservatives.

    In 2010, shortly after the ‘rose garden’, I emailed Nick warning him to not let the LDs be “shafted”. I did not receive a reply; I didn’t expect one – he must get thousands of emails.

    I too would like to see Nick back as an MP. Parliament, more than ever, needs his intelligence and integrity.

  • I believe his big mistake was naivete. He should never have trusted Cameron and the Conservatives……….I too would like to see Nick back as an MP. Parliament, more than ever, needs his intelligence and integrity……

    What trust was required when he voted for NHS reorganisation, tuition fee rise, benefit cuts, bedroom tax, secret courts, etc.? These were contrary to our core beliefs..
    How you can equate naivety with the intelligence needed by a political leader is beyond me and, as for integrity, the list above doesn’t show it…

  • I’m absolutely mystified as to why some liberals still don’t see the sheer political toxicity of Clegg, but in truth, I can’t complain because there is nothing more beneficial for stiffening the resolve of Leavers, than hearing Clegg pontificate on how wrong, stupid and uneducated we were to have voted for Brexit.

    Such is Clegg’s credibility, that if he says that something is White, we can be assured its Black. If he says the sun will shine tomorrow, it’s prudent to take an umbrella tomorrow. If he tells Farage in a TV debate, that it’s a ‘Dangerous Fantasy’ to suggest the EU is planning for an EU army, then we can be sure that Farage was the one telling the truth all along?
    So if Nick says leaving the EU is bad, then we can be certain of the fact that leaving the EU is an absolute necessity.

    Here’s hoping the various Media give Nick [the bastion of truth and credibility], a regular platform to keep up the splendid work of ‘supporting’ Leave, right up until March 2019.

  • @ Paul Barker “I really hope that Nick reconsiders”. Yes, I had that very thought as long ago as May, 2010.

    But Maidenhead ? Really ?

    If he won that it would be the most remarkable come back since Lazarus.

  • Clegg came from a political bubble with limited inter action with normal people. He also seems to have fallen into a trap one of my colleagues does of assuming if a man dresses well and speaks well he’s a good chap and to be trusted often to the detriment to him and his fellow team members. Cameron may well scrub up well as do many other Tories but basing trust because they are therefore must be good chaps is naive in the extreme unless of cause you agree with their aims (and i’m not sure he didn’t and certainly some of the Yellow Bookers did).

  • Sheila,

    Time ticks on and everyday the leave case is shot to pieces. As reality bites the only thing that seems to be keeping Leavers going is a blind faith they are right. Arguments they have none only faith. you believe Tinks will save you and any pain will be due to the evil Europeans. The problem is no matter how fervent your believes or how many entireties too believe or faeries will die reality drives on and Brexit becomes more and more expensive. Very well alone you cry, problem with that is not everyone wants to be poor and lonely which is all Brexit can deliver. Of cause if you believe black is actually white well Brexit makes sense.

  • Ed Shepherd 21st Oct '17 - 9:32am

    All this talk of visits to Buckingham Palace and hobnobbing with chums in Brussels or Strasbourg or listening to the anger of Hilary Clinton is not going to persuade the leave voters I know that they were wrong. Bernie Sanders blocking Hilary Clinton’s path back to the White House? Maybe Bernie Sanders could say that Hilary Clinton blocked his chance to enter the White House. It’s called democracy and there should be no question of entitlement.

  • Arnold Kiel 21st Oct '17 - 9:45am

    you have added another bizarre contribution to an already astonishing list of spectacular points of view. Either you are confusing Nick Clegg for Boris Johnson, or you have lost your capability to tell black from white. I begin to grasp your logic: Brexit is good because poor is rich.

  • Arnold,
    Sheila has a point. I always felt that the leave campaign was hopelessly misguided.
    It was fronted by Cameron, Osborne, Clegg, Blair, Mandelson and assorted media luvvies who think they are more deeply loved than they actually are like Izard and Geldoff.
    I found myself shouting at the screen in despair. The campaign should have featured European families in Britain and British families living in Europe. It is the British nature to (perhaps) resent ‘immigration’ as a topic but it always melts away when they meet actual immigrants when they immediately befriend them and won’t hear a bad word spoken about their new neighbours or workmates.
    The number of times that clown Osborne appeared in hard hat and hi-vis drove me to tears. It really centred on ‘Project Fear’ – that is economic blackmail and “You will all lose your jobs”. It should have been Project Friendship.
    Sheila is right. As an advocate for the EU you probably couldn’t do worse than Nick (with the obvious exception of Tony Blair).

  • p.s. for “leave” read “remain” – sorry.

  • Yes. Possibly the main reason why Leave won the referendum was the appalling parade of unpopular characters who fronted remain. Politicians who are widely regarded as selfish, greedy and dishonest with warfare or austerity as their main planks of policy and personal wealth as their primary motivator. elebrities who live in a bubble of bubble and think they can insult lesser mortals. This obscured the economic arguments about the EU referedum. As soon as Bob Geldof flicked the vees at the fishermen, it was clear that Remain would lose.

  • I understand: those with real talent who assume responsibility in difficult times and try their best to steer this listing ship (and learning some useful lessons in the process) become “toxic”, so the incompetent seducers who shout (seemingly) inconsequential nonsense from the sidelines, and have never lived up to any meaningful responsibility, shall have the command. Good luck, Great Britain!

  • Arnold Kiel 21st Oct ’17 – 9:45am….Sheila, you have added another bizarre contribution to an already astonishing list of spectacular points of view. Either you are confusing Nick Clegg for Boris Johnson, or you have lost your capability to tell black from white. ……

    Arnold, The best way to avoid confusing Nick Clegg with Boris Johnson is that Boris isn’t advising voters to join other parties…

  • Michael Cole 21st Oct '17 - 1:11pm

    expats 20th Oct ’17 – 3:02pm,
    I am not trying to justify Nick’s actions but merely trying to understand them. His book ‘Politics, between the extremes’ is a very readable account of his time in coalition.

    Sheila Gee 20th Oct ’17 – 3:05pm,
    “I’m absolutely mystified as to why some liberals still don’t see the sheer political toxicity of Clegg …” That’s exactly what our opponents want us to believe.

  • Arnold Kiel 21st Oct '17 - 2:50pm

    Come on, expats,

    people engaging in political parties is always a good thing. Is anybody seriously suggesting, Nick wants LibDem-supporters to switch allegiance? This is malicious and illogical: firm remainers already have a home with LibDems. He was speaking to Labor- and Tory-voters.

  • Arnold Kiel 21st Oct ’17 – 2:50pm….Come on, expats, people engaging in political parties is always a good thing. Is anybody seriously suggesting, Nick wants LibDem-supporters to switch allegiance? This is malicious and illogical: firm remainers already have a home with LibDems. He was speaking to Labor- and Tory-voters…..

    Not quite, Arnold…He was suggesting that those who were NOT members of a party and who were in the ‘Remain’ camp should join the Labour/Tory parties rather than us…As for your “firm remainers already have a home with LibDems”? 48% of those voting in the referendum voted ‘Remain’ (and, I’d suggest, that many who are remain at heart didn’t vote) so, if this is their home, why are we still only around 7%?

    BTW my Boris/Nick comment was rather tongue in cheek…

  • David Evans 21st Oct '17 - 6:54pm

    Michael Cole, I’m sad to say it, but Nick was the personification to a great many non-Lib Dems and ex-Lib Dems of everything that the Lib Dems did wrong in coalition, and to a significant number of Lib Dems of the good things we did. Hence to many non-Lib Dems he is toxic, but to you, people who say that, are our opponents who want to do us down.

    Sadly for you facts, not just opinions come into play. As the stats show, we lost more seats at all levels of government under Nick than any other leader. In opinion polls he was the most unpopular leader ever.

    You and a lot of Lib Dems may never own up to the fact that Nick is toxic, but he was, is and ever shall be to most of the British electorate.

    As for from my viewpoint – the man who lost us so many MPs that there weren’t enough to stop Cameron and his Brexit Referendum bungle.

    What’s not to like?

  • Katharine Pindar 21st Oct '17 - 8:31pm

    Arnold, you are up against unreason and extremism here, but there are many of us who do agree with you. As Frankie almost said above, ‘no matter how fervent your beliefs or how many entreaties to believe, or faeries will die, reality drives on and Brexit becomes more and more expensive.’ Out in the real world, I heard Wera Hobhouse MP speak encouragingly today at the NW Regional Conference in Lancaster, of how she and colleagues had helped to ensure a large Remain vote in Somerset, and about the ceaseless successful persuasion going on in her constituency of Bath with their weekly street stalls. Wera’s own story is amazing, but seems to have been brought about more by constant hard work than by luck. With other speakers including local councillors on the same theme, there was a sense in the conference of purposeful work going on which is helping turn the tide in the fight to Exit Brexit.

    As for the Coalition and Nick Clegg, Mick Taylor wrote the best precis I have heard yet, in a comment on my thread on October 15. He pointed out that the Coalition was not an unmitigated disaster, ‘since we did succeed in getting many of our policies implemented, and we shouldn’t be afraid to claim credit for that.’ He continued, ‘ The problem was the total naivety with which we went in to coalition, the avoidable mistakes we made, and the failure to tell our story.’ See Michael Coles’s comment above (October 20, 2.34 pm), along the same lines. Mick Taylor continued, firmly: ‘For some people on LDV to go on and on about the failures and not to accept and promote the successes is very bad politics. We are in politics to take and use power.’

  • Katharine Pindar 21st Oct ’17 – 8:31pm………Arnold, you are up against unreason and extremism here, but there are many of us who do agree with you….

    Is it ‘extreme and unreasonable’ to actually go with the facts regarding our time in coalition?
    We lost hundreds of councillors, 9/10 MEPs and the GE of 2015 was the electorate’s verdict on our performance. Pretending otherwise and that ‘the voters didn’t understand us’ is the reason that we are, after 2+ years still languishing on 7% despite offering a haven to those 48% who voted remain….
    Yes, I am critical of Clegg and the performance of our MPs during the coalition years; until we accept that is how the voters still see us, 7% may be our destiny especially if Labour are seen as offering hope on Brexit…

  • David Evans 21st Oct '17 - 9:42pm

    Sadly Katharine, Nick took and used power and destroyed the future of Liberal Democracy at the same time. Perhaps you are happy for the good bits of coalition, but I would suggest that leaving the EU will be a much bigger loss to the UK as a whole than all the gains claimed for us in coalition.

    Truly some are solely in politics to take and use power. They are usually called Conservatives. Sometime you have to be in politics to stop your enemy abusing their power, and not just for five years of fun but for ever. That was our failure from 2010-2015 – we celebrated our present, but sacrificed the next generation of Lib Dems’ future.

  • I dont know what the future holds & neither does anyone else. Our Party has been damaged, not destroyed. We still have 100,000 members, probably more than The Tories.
    Our National Polling has gone up by 1% in the last 3 Months, a painfully slow improvement but still an improvement. Our performance in Local Byelections seems to be getting better slowly.
    On the wider field of Politics the balance of opinion has shifted against Brexit & The Government carry on fighting like rats in a sack, we still have a Year to stop Brexit.
    We are not dead yet.

  • Arnold Kiel 22nd Oct '17 - 9:34am

    Thank you, Katharine; with your much appreciated support, I shall keep up the fight. We have another 17 months.

    Admittedly, I have no well-informed judgement on the LibDem performance in coalition. From abroad, the UK was perceived as well governed 1997-2015 (except Iraq, naturally), not governed until June 2016, and horribly ever after. The leading politicians of the time, Blair, Cameron, Brown, Clegg (all of whom much better than anybody in power today), each made one(!) big mistake. Tragically, the better the man, the bigger the mistake.

    A country discards its experience-hardened politicians as toxic at its peril. All were and are right on the question remain or leave the EU. It is shocking and saddening that your country is now steered by the bottom-tenth of your political class into a direction chosen by the older, less educated half of the population.

  • David Franks 22nd Oct '17 - 9:36am

    so Clegg has a “small insight into the anguish of political defeat.” How quickly he has forgotten the thousands of councillors whose seats were sacrificed on the alter of his ego, the dozens of MPs & MEPs the Liberal Democrats used to have. He has forgotten the people in the party who offered the benefit of their years of experience of working with other parties whilst he grossly miss-managed the coalition. He has forgotten that the surge in Liberal Democrat membership came after he ceased to be leader. And yet there are party members who want him back. do they think we still have too many MPs? Too many councillors?

  • From 2011 his leadership was a party disaster. Did he bother to write a letter to all the councillors who lost their seat because of him, all the deposits and monies we have lost, for what. Please stop publishing his efforts, he name is anethema to most on the centre and left of politics. He had many opportunities to resign or pull us out of the coalition, David Steel handled the agreement with Labour far, far better, getting out at the right moment etc. Forget him please.

  • Paul, it is difficult to know where you get some of your facts from, but it isn’t the mainstream. In June we polled 7.4%, with opinion polls giving us between 5% & 10%, in July opinion polls gave us between 5% & 9% and in August was between 6% and 8%. September was between 6% and 9%, and October so far is showing a range of 5% to 8%. So no change there then. No gone up by 1% as you claim over the last three months, just flatlining.

    Likewise your by election performance, which you consider is getting better slowly, is in fact lamentable. We always do better in by-elections so, a very occasional gain is quite simply nothing like enough. If we are to even stay level next May we need at least two net gains a month in principal councils, and we are barely close to that right now.

    As you rightly say we are not dead yet, but with most of the UK an electoral wasteland for Lib Dems with less 4% of the vote in 2017. This perpetual “things are improving, honest” narrative is simply a fiction, to avoid us having to face up to our real problems.

  • Michael Cole 22nd Oct '17 - 2:47pm

    David Evans 21st Oct ’17 – 6:54pm: Along with you, I was devastated with the electoral disaster during and post 2010-15. We should have abandoned the coalition at least six months before the GE in 2015. I also thought at the time that a major row with Cameron (there were pleny of important issues from which to choose) would have done Nick a power of good.

    Remember that there was massive hostility from the Conservative and Labour newspapers as well as much spiteful denigration from those Parties themselves.

    Hindsight is wonderful, but Nick himself acknowledges the mistakes he made in coalition.

    Compare the political stability of those five years – in very difficult circumstances – with the mess that has been created since 2015.

  • David Franks 22nd Oct '17 - 6:13pm

    Michael Cole. When has Clegg acknowledged the mistakes he made in the coalition. I’ve heard nothing of the sort. The party is stuffed full of people with experience of working with other parties and reports I had from some close to the centre tell me many offered adbice and he would not listen to any of them. The first rule is maintain your party identity and he threw that away with his demand that all Liberal Democrats should ‘own’ everythkng the coalition did. He was altogether much too close to Cameron, was told this was dangerous and ignored all advice. The sooner he goes away and lets us try to rebuild the better.

  • Katharine Pindar 22nd Oct '17 - 7:17pm

    A funny little snapshot for you. In church after the service this morning I was chatting to an acquaintance, a lady more than 80 years of age who has trouble walking, so we had sat down with our drinks. She asked me what I had been doing, so I said I had been to a conference yesterday, and on being asked, What conference? said it had been a Liberal Democrat regional conference. Oh, she said, what do the Liberal Democrats think about Brexit? (Silent gulp on my part – this intelligent lady didn’t know!) She talked about the awful state of the world, including the dreadful Brexit, and said it was a pity our party didn’t have any power. To cheer her up, I told her how Wera Hobhouse MP had lifted us all in Lancaster with her story of work leading to repeated success, and about her continued efforts for Remain, which had contributed to the 70% Remain vote in Somerset and now includes weekly street stalls in Bath. ‘Oh!’ said my elderly friend, ‘People do have to be able to learn the facts, the real facts, in detail. I’m not political, but if you have a street stall here in Keswick, I’ll sit and hand out leaflets for you!’

    People are out there to be told the facts, friends, and help us defeat Brexit. Let’s get on with our outreach, it will surely be rewarding.

  • Michael Cole 22nd Oct '17 - 7:31pm

    David Franks, Have you read his book ‘Politics Between the Extremes ?

  • “70% Remain vote in Somerset” – which vote was this? Bristol managed 60%; Bath 57% – outside these areas the rural constituencies all voted Leave.

    Clegg is toxic before the wider public – as are Blair and Cameron. I despaired at the choice of figures to front the Remain campaign – it was a campaign for an electoral victory, not a moral one (and too many still appear oblivious to that distinction – let Clegg continue is their argument: it doesn’t matter whether he wins over voters, it only matters that he’s right).

  • Katharine Pindar 22nd Oct '17 - 11:57pm

    Correction accepted, Bolano, I may have misheard. But Wera’s record of success over several years is undeniable. She evidently had a great record in local office in the north before she and her husband moved to Somerset, carried on working for the party regardless of not getting accepted as a PPC for years, campaigned against Brexit, was late in the day accepted as PPC for Bath, and as its MP is still campaigning against Brexit. The exact details must be easily found, but what we heard yesterday was inspiring. And the point of this little tale was to show that with a little encouragement we can get unexpected support for opposing Brexit from people whose political views we have had no idea of.

  • Katharine Pindar 23rd Oct '17 - 12:34am

    Compare and contrast, ‘We are in politics to take and use power.’ vs,’Truly some are in politics to take and use power. They are usually called Conservatives.’ No, David, that second quote is not I think a reasonable deduction from Mick’s original. The solution for us lies I suggest in Chris Cory’s comment which I used in summing up for my piece on whether activism is good for us: ‘The only reason we should seek elected office is to change society for the better.’ That’s a noble aim, and one I think Nick Clegg will have intended when he led the party into Coalition.

  • David Evans 23rd Oct '17 - 7:37am

    Sadly Katharine, what you think Nick intended when he led the party into coalition is precisely the opposite of what Nick actually achieved.

    That is where we differ, you judge people simply on what they say and intend irrespective of the facts (e.g. your comments on the referendum results in Somerset), I judge them on what they do, and base my views on a detailed understanding of those facts. It’s called evidence based policy making.

  • David Evans 23rd Oct '17 - 7:58am


    I see you consider Nick’s book “Policy between the Extremes” as Nick acknowledging his mistakes, but does he acknowledge or even more appropriately apologise for destroying 50 years of hard work by others building the party up from the ruins it was in back in the 1940s? Does he apologise for repeatedly refusing to take advice when offered it by those less credulous about the Conservatives than himself? Does he apologise for surrounding himself with a mass of people even less politically aware than he apparently was, to bolster and support him? Does he apologise for refusing to learn form the failures of May 2011, May 2012, May 2013, and even May 2014, refusing to resign even when his calamitous failure was clear for all to see? Does he even apologise for all the dodgy polling data the party produced for MPs showing that if they got rid of Nick they would lose, but if they stuck with him, they would survive?

    If so, let me know and I will shell out the £3.75 to get a copy.

  • Katharine Pindar 23rd Oct '17 - 3:28pm

    Hi, David, I expected you might come back with ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions’! But you for once are unfair in your comment in reply to me. You are judging me by saying I decide on the basis of what people say and intend, not what they do. You have no evidence for such an accusation; as a reasonable person, I try to consider all aspects. And as for ‘my comments on the referendum results in Somerset’, as you well know what I was commenting on was what Wera had told us, which was relevant to the point of my comment, and remained relevant even though I misheard the actual figure of Remainers in Somerset. She was telling us her story, which included constant work against Brexit, and had so many elements of success that I was inspired by her and managed to encourage my church friend in turn. To pick out from this account an irrelevant mistake, easily understood since this was aural information not written, and if misheard could be corrected later as it was – that is unworthy of you as a fair-minded person. This snippet was to share encouragement on our urgent work of persuading people that Brexit is self-harm for the country and must be stopped, and I do beg you now to concentrate with us on that aim.

  • nvelope2003 23rd Oct '17 - 8:07pm

    The collapse of the Liberal Democrat party during and after the Coalition Government is not just the fault of Clegg and his colleagues. During the leadership of Sir Menzies Campbell the party’s poll ratings had fallen to about 12% and it was failing to gain seats in local government elections. The Labour and Conservative parties have had disastrous leaders but despite setbacks they did not collapse. At the 2010 election Clegg revived a declining party by giving the impression that it was offering a new and radical programme when in fact it was repackaging stale and establishment policies. The electors saw through this, realised the Liberal Democrats were a busted flush and switched their protest votes to UKIP.
    Almost all the people I hear going on about the alleged wickedness of the Coalition are Labour supporters who have never voted Liberal or Lib Dem except possibly tactically and never will because they generally support leaders like Jeremy Corbyn who is anathema to most Liberal Democrats, except those who post on here.
    If it is any consolation I have noticed that Liberal Democrat local council candidates have started to benefit from the collapse of UKIP as the protest voters look for another hopeless cause to make their protest. Just do not go into any more coalitions !

  • nvelope2003 23rd Oct '17 - 8:17pm

    I am amazed that any MP could imagine that Somerset voted Remain in the referendum when it was one of the more astonishing Leave votes considering that local industries were beneficiaries of EU money, just like places such as Wales and Cornwall. When the Plaid Cymru leader suggested that Wales should get special help when we leave the EU the BBC interviewer quite rightly said why on earth should they as they claimed to have known what they were doing when they voted Leave. Actions have consequences, sadly not just for those who take those actions. It is becoming clear that this might be a disaster, not just for the UK but also for the EU as it will run out of money. Maybe the only good thing to come out of it will be a United Ireland. England and Wales will have to rely on the backdoor of Scotland.

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