New Deputy Leader Sir Malcolm Bruce hits the airwaves.

On Sunday, our new Deputy Leader, Sir Malcolm Bruce was despatched on media rounds. His first appearance was on John Pienaar’s show on Radio 5 Live. Pienaar said that this was Malcolm’s first interview since his election. I beg to differ.

This interview was strongly focused on the future of the coalition, the economy and the forthcoming European and general elections.

On the coalition, Pienaar painted a Godfatheresque picture of a coalition at war, behind the mattresses, all the Liberal Democrats round Malcolm’s house with meatballs on the stove and machine guns under the beds.

The essence of coalition politics is working with people on a professional basis that you don’t agree with. You influence each other in some ways where you agree and there are others where you disagree and from time to time these tensions will become difficult but to suggest that it’s total armed combat from dawn to dusk is unrealistic. There’s much that goes on in the coalition that you don’t hear about. We feel as Liberal Democrats we’ve been able to implement policies that wouldn’t have happened without us and of course we’ve had to accept Conservative policies we’d rather not.

We’ve signed on for 5 years and we’ll deliver to the end. We won’t make artificial divisions but we will highlight where we’re coming from. We’ll try and inform electorate what the political debate is about.

He added that the Tories were fixated with cutting taxes at the top while Liberal Democrats wanted to reduce the tax burden on ordinary working people. He also pointed out that the Tories didn’t want to increase Capital Gains Tax but they did.

We joined this coalition to tackle the deficit and get the public finances back in order. That still remains our task, to make sure that this recovery continues. To sustain the recovery, you need to keep the Liberal Democrats in Government.

Asked whether Nick Clegg could face a leadership challenge, he acknowledged that poll ratings weren’t great, but where we were working, in our areas of strength, our vote is holding up much better than the polls suggest.

The party understands we have to work together. On Europe, arguments are opening up that will give us a clear platform. Labour are all over the place, the Tories are setting us up to leave the EU but we are quite clear that we want to reform the EU, but we are unequivocally in favour of staying in. I think there are people out there who think that’s worth waiting for.

What, Pienaar asked, did he want his legacy to the party to be.

I hope I can contribute to securing a good result that will keep the Liberal Democrats in a prominent place in British politics. My track record has been on building and projecting our economic policy. My colleagues feel I can add value to that. I hope that after the election people will say, you know what, the Liberal Democrats are a serious party of government and they did make a difference. If I can get votes out behind that, I will be very satisfied.

You can listen to the whole thing here. 

Then Malcolm turned to television for the Andrew Neil show.

On the OFSTED row

Malcolm agreed that David Laws was furious.

OFSTED is an impartial body that inspects all schools and it shouldn’t be subject to some sort of political direction.

He said the point of concern was the rumour that it was a Tory backer who would replace Sally Morgan.

David Laws is the schools minister who has the engagement with OFSTED. He is being undermined and challenged by the Secretary of State and that isn’t a happy scenario.

He added that the Education Select Committee should have a say in these sorts of appointments.


Neil asked him what he as a white, male, middle class 69 year old could bring to a party with diversity problems.

I don’t think that’s what my colleagues were voting on. They felt that I had a wealth of experience would be valuable in the run up to the general election, not least because of my experience in developing economic policy.

I want to persuade people that the Liberal Democrats have made a fundamental difference to economic recovery and that keeping the Liberal Democrats in the government is in the national interest.

Pressed on diversity he added:

We do only have seven women and that’s an issue we have to address. But out of these seven, two are ministers, one is a whip and two are PPSs.

At that point the line between London and Aberdeen broke and he disappeared to be replaced with a high pitched wail. When it was restored, he mentioned that of the 7 seats where MPs are standing down, 5 have selected women and 1 a BAME man.

If you want to see the Liberal Democrats with more women, go to those winnable seats where there are women candidates and help them win.

You can watch the whole thing here.


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One Comment

  • Liberal Neil 4th Feb '14 - 6:16pm

    Excellent as Malcom Bruce is, he is actually the Deputy Leader of the Lib Dem Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons, not ‘our’ Deputy Leader.

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