Nick Clegg launches campaign, pledging to take Liberal Democrats “beyond our comfort zone”

You can find an introduction to Nick’s leadership bid on the web site of his local paper (thanks to Andrea for pointing out) – no campaign web site yet.

He began by sending condolences to the friends and family of Jonathan Matondo. He then paid tribute to Menzies Campbell.

He said the party would have to be “bold” and “move “outside our comfort zone” as “three party politics was in the balance.”

He said “we cannot test the patience of the British people” and that a long term commitment must be made to liberalism.

Clegg said the party should “extend our reach” and “broaden our appeal.”

In a personal address he said he was a Liberal by “choice, conviction, and temperament.” He said that Liberalism has “the best answers” to the problems people face. He said the Liberal Democrats had the opportunity to break “the stifling grip” of two party politics.

He said the party should be a “gathering point for everyone who wants a different type of politics in Britain”. Communities, not beaurocracies should be given power. “We have always put our power in the faith of ordinary men and women to shape the world” – these instincts would be at the heart of his vision for a Liberal Britain.

In questions, he described the Liberal Democrats as an “anti establishment” party, the choice of venue demonstrating a break from Westminster politics.

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39 Comments

  • Rob Blackie 19th Oct '07 - 1:12pm

    Good stuff but there are in fact at least two websites so far:

    nickclegg.com
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=22384540224

  • Hywel Morgan 19th Oct '07 - 1:58pm

    “Could Clegg really be the guy that connects the 50% of people who call themselves ‘liberal’ to the Liberal Democrat party?”

    The problem with this analysis (and it wasn’t one that Nick appeared to use) is that I’m not sure that that figure translates to 50% of people who would naturally support us.

    Eg I’ve seen figures suggesting that around 40% of Daily Mail readers self define as “liberal” so I have a few doubts that they would all be natural bed-fellows.

    The problem with such an analysis is that it leads to the conclusion that our strategy should be one of getting the votes of people who already are in tune with our values – rather than reaching out to change attitudes.

    The difference between those two approaches (taken at their starkest) is, in my view, between a party that seeks to maximise it’s votes in the ballot box and one which seeks to be a force for social change by what it says and does.

  • Hywel Morgan 19th Oct '07 - 1:59pm

    Ooops pressed enter too soon!

    That said it’s a decent enough opening from Nick – as could be said of Chris. Though to be blunt if you can’t launch your campaign with a decent speech you pretty much shouldn’t be bothering!

  • The Liberal Democrats ” Shot themselves in the foot ” when they caused Char
    les Kennedy to resign rather than take a Sabbatical to conquer his problem. He it was who, by his straight talking approach, gave the Party a chance to compete on a level with Labour and the Conservatives.

    Ming Campbell is a wise and statesmanlike Foreign Secretary. There is sterling support from M.Ps of the calibre of Vince Cable and Chris Huhne. Bring on side someone with the character and strength of Clare Short and you will have a strong back up team.

    But Charles Kennedy has the Charisma needed to win back the support of the voting public. Face it! Without him the Liberal Democrats don`t stand a chance.

  • What does Nick Clegg mean when he says that 50% of the UK electorate is “liberal”?

    With all due respect to Nick, this sounds to me like a lazy, unattributable statistic of the kind used by salesmen and management gurus, and is quite unhelpful.

    It is rather reminiscent of the quote ascribed to Roy Jenkins (at least by the 1970’s FCS) that “80% of people in Britain are basically Tory”.

    If Roy Jenkins actually did say that, what he probably meant is that polling evidence shows that people tend to favour qutie extreme social authoritarian measures such as capital and corporal punishment, conscription, child curfews, raising the legal drinking age to 21, etc, etc.

    Having said that, there is evidence that public opinion has mellowed substantially with regard to issues of race, gender and sexuality.

    I think it is time we stopped assuming that the Daily Mail is Britain’s worst newspaper. That is far from true.

    Firstly, it isn’t owned by Rupert Murdoch. Secondly, it opposed the Iraq war, is suspicious of US foreign policy and has given welcome publicity to Norman Baker and his investigation of the murder of Dr David Kelly. Thirdly, it has spoken out against attacks on civil liberties (espcially the right to trial by jury). And fourthly, it gives fair coverage to psychical research, ufology, alternative medicine and the New Age movement, which none of the other rags does, least of all the Grauniad.

    Find your way past Peter Hitchens and Melanie Phillips, and the Mail has some good articles.

    An example of a really dreadful newspaper is the Sunday People, whose attack on Justine McGuinness is down there with the lobster pots. So Justine charges £350 per day, and expects to be paid expenses when she travels to Portugal? Wow! Most solicitors and doctors charge a good deal more. And Sunday People journalists, I don’t doubt.

  • Can anyone tell me what moving “outside our comfort zone” will actually mean in practice?

    If it means making policy changes that the membership will be uncomfortable with, in order to increase the party’s electoral appeal, then I think Nick Clegg should be really “bold” and spell out what he has in mind.

  • 10. I am sure it will mean “bold” and many much more…its only day one for him, he has time to set out his stall, he’s not just going to blurt it all out in his first speech. I think sometimes people expect too much, it took the Tories 2 years to come up with ione policy so give the man a few days to start coming up with the goods…which he will.

  • Bonkalot Jones 19th Oct '07 - 6:28pm

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/cartoon/

    Great cartoons of the Lib Dem leadership candidates including Chris Hu-hne..

  • Andy Mayer

    So: (1) it could mean almost any kind of change, (2) he can’t be expected to explain what it means because that would be giving hostages to fortune, and (3) the consequence is that if he’s elected no one can complain when he puts it into effect?

    I certainly hope that isn’t the way Nick Clegg himself sees things, because it would make the whole process of having an election rather pointless (unless it really were being viewed quite literally as a beauty contest).

    What would be wrong with the candidates setting out straightforwardly the changes they think will be necessary – in general terms, of course – and then debating whatever differences they may have?

  • Hywel Morgan 19th Oct '07 - 8:36pm

    The thing is Andy if Nick is seeking election on the basis of ”
    We will have to move outside our comfort zone” then he has to set out what he means by that. You can’t run that as the major plank of your campaign and not set out what you mean. He will be in a far strong position to make such changes if he’s been elected leader with a clear mandate.

    Given we are having a leadership election because the previous leader caused us to tank in the polls – running on a “nothing need change” platform seems a little illogical.

    Until he sets out what he means it’s just a meaningless phrase so I can’t really tell what I think.

  • I agree with Hywel.

    Nick’s rhetoric is good, but where’s the substance?

    I’m happy to vote for change, but I want to know what change I’m voting for.

  • Can anyone point me towards video footage of the speech, or a website that is more detailed than just asking for my contact details? I was genuinely undecided, I am now moving in Nick’s direction, but I actually need to see/read some information. Can’t find any at the mo. All help gratefully received!

  • Hywel Morgan 19th Oct '07 - 11:15pm

    It’s certainly not very impressive that Nick doesn’t have a meaningful website on the day he launches his campaign! I assumed it would evolve at some point during the day

  • Andy

    I’m mystified. Aren’t we “definitively liberal” at the moment? Do we not already “reach out to people”?

    If these aren’t just meaningless platitudes, they are in some kind of code – and if so I’m pretty sure it’s a code that will go over the heads of the bulk of ordinary party members.

    I did use the word “straightforward” in my post!

  • Peter Welch 20th Oct '07 - 9:26am

    I watched the video and liked the message about reaching out beyond the party and using the campaign to speak to voters rather than hacks (I joined the party as a result of the Pardoe/Steel contest…). I hope both candidates (and a third if we get them) will direct their argument at Lib Dem voters, and I hope local parties will contact all their definites and poster sites, tell them about how they can follow the campaign, and how they can join.

    Obviously Clegg has to put some bones on this – but I hope Huhne takes a similar approach. The campaign last time around was too inward-looking in my view.

  • Geoffrey Payne 20th Oct '07 - 10:04am

    Well I suggested not replacing Trident, and that seems to be out of the comfort zone of many.
    For the sake of argument only (because I do not think he plans to do this), if Nick had that in mind, wouldn’t that effect the way you vote?
    If Nick does not spell out what he means during the leadership campaign, then whatever he has in mind will not have any democratic legitamacy.

  • Bonkalot Jones 20th Oct '07 - 10:46am

    But Clegg is taking his orders directly from Camp Cameron – to ensure that the lefties don’t take over..

  • Andy

    But please, can you give me a clue as to what you think he meant when he said the party should be “definitively liberal”?

    If it implies policy change, what do you think the direction of that change would be, broadly speaking?

  • This is the most critical decision. Let us do what Nick Clegg asks and get outsde the comfort zone.
    This is the very LAST leadership contest that we can afford for a VERY long time. So look to the long term. Where is politics going? There is a danger of making a decision, as Brown did, on a short term reading of the polls [with potentially worse results].

    The Tories are mentioned on this site with much greater frequency than the Govt. Is that because they are the main threat? Certainly the Labour Party seems threatened by them. And so they should. The Tories “resurgence” is still fragile, but the Govt’s gradual decline is not temporary. They may still have the odd boost but something has fundamentally changed.

    They have lost the support of the Press. The later now want the Tories to do well. The Telegraph and Mail have had their tantrum and have now gone home. The Guardian has is not entirely unsympathetic to Cameron and the Inde. regularly has a flattering piece.

    Moreover, I guess you all caught the interview with Murdoch’s “representative in earth” in the Guardian. He contrasted Cameron’s [and I quote] “brilliant speech both on terms of content and presidential style” with the naffness [my shorthand] of Brown’s who, he says, obviously ignored the national interest. He had just come back from visiting Chequers! Ouch!

    As a further sign of the fat lady singing, he went on to say that his Boss would have to be a fool not to recoginse a profound change in British politics. My guess is, he is saying he is not. What they chose to write can so often come true.

    The short nature of the leadership contest will leave critical questions unanswered . Is the Party bleeding straight into the Tories or is the picture a lot more complicated? Are Labour losing some of the Blair fans to the Tories and we are bleeding into them [or into both of them].
    Where does our survival lie? In attacking the Tories and all their new found friends or, as the Govt. run to block off their right flank, attack from the rear.
    Oh, you cry, it is not that simple, we can do both. It is not fair to pidgeon whole us like that! No, but since when has it been fair. Air time and a willing audience? Dream on. A magic prince exists to provide both. The Tories thought it was that simple. It was not.

    Nick Clegg says step outside the comfort zone. He is right and that means stop dreaming that he is not being painted as anything other than a reaction to Cameron. Let us not pay the Tory leader the ultimate compliment and let him be seen as defining us. Let us be bold and define ourselves.
    We have an opportunity to choose someone who is very representative of the whole party and who is best paced to kick into the biggest open goal in British politics. What is more, those on the left and the right will thank us for it. He is also extremely tough. He will need to be.

  • Andy

    I am baffled by your reticence. When you brought up this “definitively liberal” thing, you said it was a position that had faced opposition within the party. Presumably you understood something by it!

    One other thing I didn’t pick up before. When I referred to the bulk of ordinary members not being clued into these coded messages, you responded with a reference to “armchair members”. Actually, that isn’t what I meant at all.

    Obviously there are a lot of members who contribute money but don’t have the time to do more. But there are many more who deliver leaflets, organise fund-raising events, stuff envelopes, help on election day and all the rest of it – but aren’t highly “political” and certainly don’t follow the minutiae of policy debates within the party.

    They (and the real “armchair members”!) are the ones who will decide the result of the leadership election, and if the candidates are talking in code that’s not comprehensible to them, then they aren’t even “reaching out” to their own members, let alone the public at large.

  • Hywel Morgan 20th Oct '07 - 3:07pm

    “Nick Clegg says step outside the comfort zone. He is right”

    You this sort of ill-defined, lets generate a conflict to look hard, sort of stuff is what disturbs me.

    If for example stepping outside the comfort zone meant backing changes to the Human Rights Act to support deportations of people to countries where they would face a real risk of torture then I’d have some difficulty with that.

    Nick’s got the rest of the campaign to set out what he means by this and depending on how he does that will affect whether I’d vote for him. If he doesn’t and just leaves it hanging as an “aren’t I daring” soundbite then I definitely won’t vote for him.

  • For what it’s worth, the impression Clegg gave in his appearance on the Andrew Marr show today was that the “comfort zone” comment related to presentation rather than policy.

    I must admit some of my prejudices were confirmed when Clegg and Huhne were asked to name their political heroes. Huhne gave an earnest little appraisal of Lloyd George, and also mentioned Keynes and Beveridge. Clegg produced something more in the way of an effective sound-bite about Clarence Henry Willcock, the “small man” who hastened the abolition of ID cards in the 1950s – but got his name wrong!

  • Whoah there, Angus! What do you mean the Mail isn’t that bad?

    Certainly it’s not as puerile as the Express, and is indeed not Murdoch owned, but we are still talking about a paper that liked Moseley! It’s a reactionary rag, and I prefer people not to bring it into my house.

    When Geoff told me there are too many Daily Mail-reading “economic libertarians” in the party these days I laughed – I didn’t really believe there were any. Obviously the Tory infiltration is further advanced that I thought.

    As far as I am concerned, it’s the Guardian, Mirror and Independent for me and the Torygraph to see what the enemy is thinking.

  • Geoffrey Payne 21st Oct '07 - 11:42pm

    I just heard Nick being interviewed and it seems that the “Go beyond the comfort zone” is more rhetoric rather than substance, and frankly I am relieved about that.
    He also gave an emphatic condemnation of Thatcherism, and I found that reassuring as well.
    Still supporting Chris, but the gap between the 2 is not that wide.

  • Martin Land 22nd Oct '07 - 4:46am

    I’ve still not heard what I want to hear; I’m not even convinced I’m going to vote yet!

    I’m afraid I’ve always been an instinctive Liberal and have always been suspicious of ‘policy-wonks’.

    However, I am an organiser and I want to hear what they intend to do about the state of the party.

    What strategy and tactics they might adopt? What are they going to do to strengthen local parties and increase not just the number of MPs (and I’m afraid any number between 1 and 325 doesn’t really interest me!) but also the number of councils we control and the number of councillors we will get elected next May.
    I want to hear about real work to structure the party organisation to help local parties and not just to help themselves. I want to see a candidate determined to practice community politics not just to talk about it. I want to see a new localism; I’m tired of seeing vast areas of the country turned into an LD desert. A new realism about what we can and can’t achieve – including the BELIEF that our hard-working local councillors and campaigners are making a real difference to people today, something, as yet, which our MPs have no power to do.
    If they are just going to spout the same nonsense we have heard from the parliamentary party in the past and advocate the same ‘Rennardista’ strategy which has now run out of steam, then please don’t trouble me; I’m busy fighting for success next May!

  • Geoffrey Payne 22nd Oct '07 - 11:59am

    37 Martin
    Ming had a reputation for doing a good job in this regard. If that is the case, then maybe that is why there is no debate: simply continue what is already happening?
    If you have your own ideas, why not email them to the contenders and see what they think?
    In my opinion it is simply a case of going back to first principles; recruit more members, raise more funds. It is likely that with a new leader and a better public profile this will get easier.

  • Geoffrey Payne 22nd Oct '07 - 12:04pm

    37 Martin
    Yes I agree with you about Community Politics. Again I would like to see an emphasis on first principles, it is not just about winning elections, see

    http://www.cix.co.uk/~rosenstiel/aldc/commpol.htm

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