Nick Clegg unveils Council waste and incompetence

wasteToday Nick Clegg launches the Liberal Democrats’ local election campaign with a fascinating round-up of Tory and Labour ‘achievements’.  As he writes:

If you want to understand a political party’s values, look at one thing: when they are in power, how do they spend your money?

Here is a sample of the worst or daftest excesses:

Labour Councils

Tory Councils


Needless to say, the report also lists the many exemplary achievements of Liberal Democrat run Councils, name checking Bath and North East Somerset, Eastleigh, Oadby and Wigston, Hinckley and Bosworth, Eastbourne, Bedford, Portsmouth, Sutton, South Lakeland,  Watford, Stockport, Three Rivers, Colchester and Kingston, plus the opposition group in Southwark.

You can download the complete pdf document here: Council waste & incompetence

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  • Bill le Breton 6th May '14 - 12:16pm

    I wonder whose bright idea this was?

  • To be fair, Bill, each of these incidents will carry much more weight in the areas where they are happening, but sadly many excellent LibDem councillors are paying the price for the actions of the coalition nationally.

  • When lobbing stones, it’s best to be prepared for some comeback so I hope Clegg is prepared for the onslaught of revelations about LD councils.

    Grown-up politics – what a joke !

  • Tony Greaves 6th May '14 - 1:10pm

    Whatever the rights and wrongs of these particular examples (and it is impossible to know without knowledge of each case) this is an utterly stupid publicity stunt.

    (1) It’s Daily Mail/Taxpayers’ Alliance stuff – pick on apparently foolish spending of money here and there – with no means of checking out the true facts – in order to give the impression that whole classes of public authorities (in this case Labour or Tory run Councils) – are wasteful or incompetent. With the result of adding to the fashionable slagging off of the public sector and local authorities generally.

    (2) It’s counter-productive. I could easily find (twist or take out of context) similar apparent “scandals” in every LD run Council in the country. They wold be just as invalid as I guess some of these examples are.

    (3) It’s dishonest. Just because Leeds City Council does something stupid does not mean that every Labour Council should be tarred with the same brush. It is very relevant to attack the Labour Party for their stupidity in one place (Pendle Labour Party’s budget this year proposed closing Colne swimming pool in October – I’m pleased to say we voted them down and we are splashing this stupidity in our election leaflets). But local campaigning should be just that – local to the circumstances in each place.

    I guess the answer to Bill le B’s question is that it’s some of the clever but clueless brigade who nowadays seem to hold sway in all the political parties. Anyway I have to tell you that what the Tories may or may not have done in Bournemouth or the Cotswolds, however awful it may be, will have no effect at all on the Council election results in Pendle. Nor, regrettably, will the excellent work done by Liberals in Bath or Sutton, or even South Lakeland and Stockport. I don’t imagine that what we do in Pendle will have any effect on those places either.

    Tony Greaves

  • Not only, that didn’t the people at the back look absolutely bored stuff and almost embarrassed to be there. It seems to say everything. The sooner these elections are over and a change happens the better,

  • Apologies first missive sent too soon,

    Not only that, didn’t the people at the back look absolutely bored stiff and almost embarrassed to be there. It seems to say everything. The sooner these elections are over and a change happens the better,

  • This really is special.

    On page 6, it boasts that Lib Dem Bath and North East Somerset council are installing new LED lighting and then on page 20 it mocks Labour run Houslow for installing LED lighting.

    Hypocrisy, much?

  • On Page 38: “TRAFFORD Having received a sudden influx of asylum seekers, council
    puts them up in a luxury hotel; costing £300,000 of public money –

    Since when were the Lib Dems a party that objects to housing asylum seekers?

  • Does seem that we’re into the silly season again and Nick will put his name to anything and say anything to get a soundbite…

    I can fully understand where Northampton were coming from with the Hamster and Cat welfare courses. I suspect the only questionable thing was selling these sessions as part of their adult learning course programme rather than as part of a schools/family programme. But then some of the sessions, my partner’s business gets funding for, could be described in similar terms, but then the whole programme is covered by the umbrella “independent living skills for adults with learning disabilities”; where for some the ability to remember how to make beans on toast is a success.

  • Tony Greaves 6th May '14 - 3:22pm

    Enquiries should be made as to how far ALDC and/or the LGA LD group are implicated in this stuff.


  • This is odd I find myself agreeing with Tony Greaves, even a cursory look at the first link shows it is a very weak story – it looks like it is committed spending which was unavoidable and having the libraries open would cost more. Not judging if the closure was right or wrong but looks like the implied “waste” is not as clear cut as it is supposed to appear.

  • John Clough 6th May '14 - 4:28pm

    In another blow to Nick Clegg’s faltering leadership of the party, I see that ‘Bus Pass Elvis’ has announced his intention to stand in the forthcoming Newark by election, with the intention of beating the Lib Dems once more.

  • +1 to what Tony says. Could easily backfire.

    Such campaigns only make the whole political system seem like a waste and can lead to an undesirable anti-politics sentiment. We may have excellent intentions, but even I as a devout Liberal am happy to accept we make the odd blunder 🙂

    Expose the nonsense of opponents by all means, but the forefront of any campaign should be strong Liberal values that set out what we believe. I w as part jot a campaign that run a largely negative message against a very discredited local Labour Party, they trounced us by presenting a positive message. Very much a lesson learnt.

    If we , rightly, criticise UKIP for playing to fear, then surely we should be playing to hope? Goodness knows, of all people right now we Liberals need it!

  • Mark Smulian 6th May '14 - 4:56pm

    I agree with those who have said this is misguided. Some of my professional work concerns writing about local government and one thing I’ve learnt from that is that no party has a monopoly on extravagance, incompetence and worse.

    This sort of list tars the whole of local government with the same brush – since people remember only the lurid example, not the party involved – and in a rather perverse move for the Lib Dems decreases public respect for politicians of all kinds at a time when this is already in short supply.

    The only generalisation I could make – and then tentatively and with exceptions – is that problems arise in places where political control never changes, regardless of which party enjoys such a local monopoly of power.

  • Richard Church 6th May '14 - 6:08pm

    Northampton Lib Dems have been effectively campaigning against the Tories spending £6 million on depedestrianising a section of the main shopping street. A plan the Tories are pushing ahead with despite widespread public opposition and no evidence that it will do anything to help the town centre.

    A far better example of waste driven by a blinkered, ideoligical obsession with pushing an an anti-pedestrian agenda. The hamsters end up a bit flat too.

  • Caracatus
    How bad can things get before Clegg goes. Clegg told Gordon Brown to go because Brown would be a liability in an AV referendum. Beyond parody.
    John Clough
    In another blow to Nick Clegg’s faltering leadership of the party, I see that ‘Bus Pass Elvis’ has announced his intention to stand in the forthcoming Newark by election, with the intention of beating the Lib Dems once more.

    For goodness sake how many MPs does it take to get together and then speak to .Clegg and tell him to go ?

    If they wait it will be too late. Most of them will not be MPs by this time next year if they do not get rid of Clegg.

    Wake up, Liberal Democrat MPs – act now before you too join the list of losers.

  • “If you want to understand a political party’s values, look at one thing: when they are in power, how do they spend your money?”. This is the first sentence in Clegg’s letter at the beginning of the shabby document that he launched today.

    Bit rich from the man who has spent public money on two dozen special advisors reporting to him personally,
    (salaries between £60,000 and £110,000 each).
    As Deputy Prime Minister he also spent public money on the AV referendum and a great deal of time and money on not reforming the House of Lords. The latter being a prime example of his personal incompetence.

    Someone should tell Clegg that as the country’s most notorious incompetent it Is not too bright for him of all people to make incompetence his key election issue. Then they should tell him to go.

  • Tony Greaves 6th May '14 - 11:00pm

    Someone thought to send me a copy of this awful document which extends to 40 pages, together with some “press release templates” which after careful consideration I have decided not to use…

    It is a shocking document. All the examples are referenced and they all come from the media. And there was silly old me thinking that they might have got some of them from local Liberal Democrats!

    If I counted correctly (I kept being diverted by reading some of the stuff and choking on my honey butty) there are 20 references to stuff in the Daily Mail. The Mail! So these fools think that a story in the Mail is truthful evidence of anything? So they “read it in the Daily Mail” and give it to the party leader and DPM to “unveil” as the untarnished and properly researched truth??!!

    And then – another 20 referenced to that well-known progressive and deeply respectable organisation that calls itself the “Taxpayers Alliance”! So now Liberal Democrat pronouncements are based on the bigoted, populist rubbish produced by that gang of right-wing anonymously resourced hicksters, people who make the IEA look like cuddly bunnies!

    This is deeply disgraceful. Whoever put this stuff together should be sacked immediately. It is highly embarrassing and seriously damaging.


  • Tony Greaves 6th May '14 - 11:02pm

    So the comment have just posted, having read this document, has been held while someone decides if it can be published! Should I be surprised?


  • Richard Church 6th May '14 - 11:07pm

    No surprise that the usual suspects use this for another ant-Clegg fest. The real issue is shoddy work by researchers embarked on a mistaken project for the local election campaign. The blame for that could lie in many places, not just Clegg, and changing the leader won’t change the malaise that causes this shambles.

  • Chris Manners 6th May '14 - 11:18pm

    Um, the pier in Redcar seems to be a success from the link up there…

  • Tony Greaves 6th May '14 - 11:21pm

    You may well be right, Richard, but this 40-page booklet has a 2-page Foreword by Nick Clegg (who may or may not have read it all in detail). It has been put together from internet sources, mainly the media including 20 examples from that well-known bastion of truth, enlightenment and balance, the Daily Mail. Oh, and 20 examples from the Taxpayers Alliance – we are basing Liberal Democrat campaigning on the kind of stuff churned out by the Taxpayers Alliance????

    The problem with the shoddy-work “researchers” – SPaDs? – is that they work for the Leader/DPM. So if their work is shoddy the buck has to rest with him.


  • Chris Manners 6th May '14 - 11:40pm

    Leeds’ supposedly dreadfully expensive “website” sounds quite pioneering in this trade press article.

    Are you sure these teenyboppers who knocked up the manifesto had any idea what they’re talking about?

  • Paul Pettinger 7th May '14 - 1:07am

    As usual, Richard Church doesn’t want Nick Luther Clegg to take responsibility for anything. He only appoints his staff and senior Party staff.

  • Actually, determining upward-directed responsibility is quite easy. When something goes wrong, leadership can be blamed for anything that they would have taken credit for had it gone right.

  • David wilkinson 7th May '14 - 5:57am

    Every day there is a new Cleggism and this is another.
    The Leeds website link refers to 2011 and the replacement of 75 council websites, what is wrong with that? Even the council Lib Dem leader is not against it in the linked article
    The Hounslow street lights issue, most councils are going down the route of LED lights on the grounds of costs, energy and maintenance life. They are even a bit green, I thought that was Lib Dem policy
    It’s a pity Clegg does speak out against the biggest disaster in Local Government, a certain Eric Pickles.

  • Bill le Breton 7th May '14 - 6:00am

    “Nick Clegg Reveals Incompetence … oh yes and waste … of a Party and of years and years of toil to get to where we were as the 2010 election began.”

    This is not for the sqeamish

  • Nick Barlow 7th May '14 - 7:08am

    Why are we releasing a document that relies on the Daily Mail and the TPA, instead of asking our councillors and local parties for more accurate and relevant information?

  • Surely the real problem with this booklet knocked up in five minutes by the lazy researchers is that if you replaced the LibDem logo with the Tory one on the front cover most people would have thought it was a typical effort by them.

  • Charles Rothwell 7th May '14 - 8:02am

    I have only quite recently rejoined the Lib Dems (I was actually one of those (apparently few) for whom the “IN” campaign worked!) but I am becoming ever more alarmed at the tactics the party leadership is pursuing. I clicked on the first example given in the lead article above and when it took me to the “Daily Mail” (!!!) site, my heart sank. Has the leadership sunk to the level where it has to quote that rag as the source of knowledge and insight??? I agree entirely with ATF. The ordinary voters are sick up to the back teeth with politicians slagging each other off (and the most fed up just now lump the lot of them into an amorphous mass called “the political class” or “the Establishment” and troop along behind the ex-stockbroker Man of the People leading the Kippers. The Party will only recover when it has a POSITIVE message to sell and has the same kind of dynamic, inspirational leadership provided by a Joe Grimond or Paddy Ashdown again. (One thing is for sure, however, the Party Political Conference season is going to be electric for most parties this autumn (apart, probably, from Labour’s, where continued triangulation studies and media vetting will ensure the usual somnolence, no doubt!) Expect serious leadership challenges in two other parties, however?)

  • Paul In Twickenham 7th May '14 - 8:09am

    Meanwhile over on zerohedge there is a neatly apropos quote from Albert Einstein : If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I would use the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I knew the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes”.

    Well the political lives of many good Lib Dem candidates are at stake, but does anyone think that Mr. Clegg and his advisers have determined the proper question to maximize their re-election prospects?

    If there is a route on May 22nd, where does the responsibility lie?

  • Try following the linked sources and reading them. It’s revealing. I’ll pick out just two examples:

    On the Hamster thing:- ‘The spokesman said: “We love hearing people’s suggestions for courses and we’re happy to test out new ones, as we’ve done with the hamster care course. The courses do have to pay for themselves though so there’s no drain on the public purse. In this particular case, we actually haven’t had any bookings so this course won’t be going ahead.” -: So a course that wasn’t run, and wouldn’t have cost money if it was run is the top example of Tory waste?

    The first line of the ‘vertical pier’ link says:- ‘A CONTROVERSIAL tourist attraction is proving its critics wrong after welcoming almost 30,000 visitors in its first two weeks.’ -: Wow, that’s damning for the council.

    Did the people responsible for this document not read their own links? Or did they just assume that no-one else would?

  • @ Caracatus and John Tilley et al.

    “How bad can things get before Clegg goes?”

    The answer is much worse unless people stop blaming and moaning and actually come up with a proposed *name* for an alternative viable candidate and good, solid reasons why they would do better than Clegg when faced with the inevitable onslaught of press hostility and aggression.

    And please don’t just reply with stuff like “Oh, there are 56 other MPs to choose from”, or “just about anyone else”.

    Those are *not* answers.

    By the way, if anyone thinks this campaign launch is bad, how about Hilary Benn’s contention that because council tax increases are higher in Conservative areas, it “costs you more” to elect Tory councils, making zero reference to the changes to central government funding? No sympathy with the Tories overall, but Benn’s figures do take the biscuit for selective use of statistics.

    However, I agree with ATF and Adrian Sanders. We need to be emphasising the positive things Lib Dems can do in local government and basing our message on hope and aspiration.

  • If ,as some are implying, the Party leader is solely responsible for sanctioning this sort of thing then,we;re asking for trouble no matter who’s in charge,especially if that individual has also to hold down a key role in Govt.Seems to me it’s the procedure by which these decisions are reached which needs changing.I’d be more impressed with an argument for leadership change if those calling for it were prepared to hold their preferred alternative to account for his role in Govt,instead of airbrushing him out of all responsibility.I don’t think their myopia will be shared by the Press,our political opponents and the voters.

  • Richard Church So Nick Clegg just uses stuff produced by various aides uncritically? That’s hardly demonstrating much managerial grip, let alone political judgment! I think you should revisit your last post!

  • daft ha'p'orth 7th May '14 - 10:43am

    That Redcar pier was ‘part funded by the council, former development agency One North East and the European Regional Development Fund’ so a good part of it is European waste and incompetence, if it is deemed an act of incompetence. Butt-ugly as the construction may be, it seems to have attracted a good number of visitors and a midrange TripAdvisor score. So, not a great target there.

    Courses on animal welfare, well, as others have said, what do you have against animals? Not to mention that
    a) participants on the course would’ve paid £9,
    b) in the words of the council, ‘the courses do have to pay for themselves though so there’s no drain on the public purse’ and
    c) ‘in this particular case, we actually haven’t had any bookings so this course won’t be going ahead’.

    The £5.5m on McDonald’s story is based on a misreading of the Daily Mail(!) article, which actually makes the far more reasonable claim of £5.5million over 50,407 transactions on 862 cards, which included a mere 147 visits to Maccy D’s and KFC. I don’t find it implausible that there may have been 147 reasons within a financial year to buy junk food.

    I’m quite glad that Brent Council are maintaining empty library buildings. I would certainly prefer that they do not just leave them to rot. Of course, overall I would prefer that Ed Vaizey be replaced by somebody capable of doing his job, so yes, let’s talk about libraries and what happened to them and the way that you are shrugging that off, t’ain’t us, guv, it’s the local councils, Everybody join in for a chorus of What’s wrong with Ed Vaizey?

    Bloke breaks his ankle in vicious hole in pavement? Strikes me that the real WTF is not the lack of 2am streetlights but the fact that nobody had bothered to keep the pavement in reasonable nick, but either way it may be traced back to cuts, or to ‘elf ‘n’ safety culture and council bureaucracy gone mad making it a slow and expensive nightmare to repair paths , or to some other issue close to the kipper’s heart…

    The BBC claims that the i54 park has so far brought in over 2,000 jobs, which intriguingly is the same number of job losses that Wolverhampton Council recently announced as a result of £123 million savings over five years, so I suppose the free market types should be happy that the money appears to have gone from the public sector to fund an expansion within the private sector?

    As for selling off infrastructure and then renting it back at an exorbitant cost, yes, do please continue to remind us how stupid an idea that is. Just before an election is an excellent time for a good, thorough, critical examination of privatisation and its deleterious effects.

    Overall, I’m not sure whether to describe this effort as ‘scraping the bottom of the barrel’ or ‘shooting yourself repeatedly in both feet’. Score: C– Must try harder.

  • Keith House 7th May '14 - 10:50am

    Really pleased I was elsewhere and couldn’t get to the launch event. Embarrassing misstep. Talking up example of good Lib Dem practice is fine, and campaigning on bad examples of other parties’ performance is a key part of any campaign, but this just comes over as shallow and amateur. I’d not seen the content until press stuff was emailed round last night.
    How does this relate to a strong economy in a fairer society? I thought we were meant to be a grown-up party now?

  • Steve Griffiths 7th May '14 - 11:09am

    This is not a good document for a local election campaign, for the reasons given by people above (many of whom are very experienced and have a proven track record in such matters). I have written, produced and delivered many over the years for my own local election battles as candidate or agent and I would want this anywhere my local campaigns.

    It is clear that the persons/committees/ groups producing this type of stuff do not have the right backgrounds themselves in producing winning literature and that whoever appointed them has excluded the people in the party that have all the relevant experiences. Someone needs to get a grip, otherwise there will not be much of a party left.

  • Steve Griffiths 7th May '14 - 11:11am

    Sorry, typing in haste.

    Would NOT want this anywhere in my local campaigns.

  • @RC
    Politicians often blame the press but that is no reason to rule out a change of leadership. I look for the claims that politicians make to be credible. Nick Clegg, by backing this report, is signalling that he is more interested in style than substance.
    If the Lib Dems really want to reach out and expand, then they need to take this on board. The fact that people like Huppert are not acting against Clegg, is worrying

  • Melanie Harvey 7th May '14 - 12:17pm

    As someone who has been on the receiving end of a LA’s waste , inappropriate action to the point that an upper tribunal judge not only stated I had a strong case, was in agreement the LA had been “having me over” and had every sympathy for me and; given he could not award in my favour on official error as it was not seemingly LA mistake but purposely done to obtain monies from both me and it would seem central gov by their actions and/or was just an out and out malicious action on the LA’s part, which incidentally began under Lab gov and LA, (but now Con), further since my exposing them for such (which I consider fraud) and, the constant harassment by them, refusal to deal with any matter correctly within law/policy. I fully support this type of exposure of wrong doing by LA’s.

  • Tony Greaves 7th May '14 - 12:35pm

    Well, one can only hope that since the Liberal Democrats are now so irrelevant and Clegg is such a joke in the media, that no-one bothers to take this dreadful document apart. Meanwhile two 8s and a 9 in the latest polls, and no-one near the top of the party has the slightest idea what to do about it.


  • daft ha'p'orth 7th May '14 - 1:23pm

    @Melanie Harvey
    Sounds like your case may well be a much more relevant and substantive example of wrongdoing than the stuff that has been picked for inclusion in this document.

  • @Voter

    “Politicians often blame the press but that is no reason to rule out a change of leadership.”

    I’m not ruling it out, I’m just asking who people would like in place of the current leadership. Or maybe they’d rather we didn’t have a leader at all. I don’t know. I can’t get any answers.

  • It warms my heart that the comments are so universally negative on this ridiculous leaflet.

    On the question of who if not Clegg. I’d start by narrowing down to the 21 who honoured their pledge on Tuition fees (see and then consider their background and voting record on issues like benefits and gay marriage. Julian Huppert seems like a decent candidate on that basis but I’m sure there are others.

  • Chris Manners 7th May '14 - 6:00pm


    I’d add to that, someone who comes clean on the “taking the poor out of tax, we’ve kept our promise” nonsense.

    Supposed to be funded by a Mansion Tax. Not by taking money off the poor in other areas.

  • Ray Cobbett 7th May '14 - 8:44pm

    I was writing stuff like the quoted examples in Focus 30 years ago and winning seats. 2014 is a very different place and we’re at the wrong end of public opinion without seemingly being able to do anything about it.

  • I read all the comments and thought, “it can’t be that bad, surely?”. I then read it and thought, “it’s worse!” Really naff – this should not have got past concept stage and as for that idea of a launch event, I really can’t say what I think in any forum, public or private!
    Irrespective of the personalities, will someone in future please check out these so called brilliant moves before they become real. Some of us are trying to win elections.

  • RC You have written enough to more or less convince me you are not an insider trying to root out plots, but I would still say exactly the same to you – you cannot declare candidates in advance like you are suggesting, and expect them to withstand the attacks which would come their way. You have still, after at least 5 or 6 promptings, not answered that question, and justified your repeated demands for names.

  • Matt (Bristol) 8th May '14 - 12:07am

    As someone who works for a local authority, I can’t believe a party which wants to build a longterm powerbase in local government, and to govern those local authorities in tough and tight financial situations with the respect and trust of local government employees, would produce a document that in any way risks pandering to the general supposition of so many ignorant people that local authorities are hotbeds of waste and indolence where you can’t trust anyone because they’re all incompetent.

    I suspect anyone who did read this would be also at risk of saying, well if that’s what they’re like I won’t vote for any of them; how is this addressing the serious democratic deficit and lack of voter participation in our society?

    Cheap shots in tabloid language for short-term gains? Let’s not do this too often, eh?

  • Simon Banks 8th May '14 - 9:26am

    I agree with Mark Smulian.

    It can be useful to point to examples of other parties acting against their image – examples of Tory waste or Labour cuts, especially if you’re involved in some tough decisions they’re attacking along these lines. But this list looks weak and poorly-researched. Moreover, what is the overall message? That the main distinguishing feature of Liberal Democrats in local government is that they attack other people for waste.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th May '14 - 9:41am

    There is only one name mentioned as responsible for this pamphlet in the pamphlet itself, and that is Nick Clegg. On the party’s website, the booklet and the local government campaign is covered in a way that mentions just one name, and mentions it repeatedly, and that name is Nick Clegg.

    We are a democratic party, we should be run by our members, not by our leader. Our leader should be the servant of the members, he or she should do what they want him or her to do. It is quite clear that is not happening here.

    A pamphlet like this which is fundamental to our party’s image, it is the thing people will find if they go to the party’s website to find out about it, should be produced through the democratic mechanisms of the party. We have elected committees and an association of councillors who should be doing this sort of thing, it should NOT be the personal responsibility of the leader and who he or she chooses to appoint to personal positions. The model of “democracy” which involves electing a Leader and then making that Leader a dictator who has absolute control over all aspects of the party is NOT a liberal model. It is the OPPOSITE of a liberal model. It is the model used in parties run under philosophies that were popular in the 20th century – in Italy, Germany, Russia, China and so on, but it is AGAINST ALL THAT TRUE LIBERALS STAND FOR. Someone who acts in this way so contrary to liberalism should not even be in this party let alone leader of it.

    Who are these SPaDs and things, what are their roles in the party, where do they appear in its constitution? Why should the democratic mechanisms we have be overruled by them? If there is public money available to appoint such things, and it is permitted for it to be used for party promotional purposes, then let us make sure these SPaDs are appointed in a democratic way, even if by law they are appointment by the leader – the leader can just rubber stamp what the party democratically has chosen, as the formal leader of this country does with decisions made through its democratic mechanisms.

    How could a party which is supposed to be about promoting liberalism be trusted to do so when its leader seems to have no concept of liberalism in the way the party is managed? We are seeing senior and experienced members of the party coming out and condemning this book forthright. Good. Let us all be clear, THIS IS NOT IN OUR NAME! Let us rebuild our party and restore liberalism, and we know how to do it – get rid of this thoroughly illiberal leader, say NOW that we have no confidence in him, he must go.

  • Paul In Twickenham 8th May '14 - 10:15am

    @Matthew Huntbach – hear hear! This document displays a bunker mentality: a highly toxic mix of hubris and a total disengagement from the rank-and-file of the party and those who have decades of experience of successful local election campaigning.

    It is hard to imagine more damning evidence of the extent to which the leadership is now (as Tony Greaves says in his insightful comment) so isolated and clueless: “Meanwhile two 8s and a 9 in the latest polls, and no-one near the top of the party has the slightest idea what to do about it.”

  • Peter Chivall 8th May '14 - 11:21am

    There’s still no confirmation that anyone in ALDC or LGA LD group was involved or even consulted about this document. If not, and the comments of Kieth House suggest this, and given that the so-called ‘launch’ was staged weeks after most of us had started canvassing, suggests that there is no-one in ‘Team Clegg’ that has any knowledge or experience of Local Government. Even worse, this suggests a breakdown of relations between Team Clegg and 95% of the active Party.
    At Conference in 2009, I wondered who all the lookalike young men in dark suits and white shirts talking earnestly to each other (but not to we peasant Party members) were? I now know they were Team Clegg in waiting – neoliberal but otherwise valueless. Indistinguishable from the ‘bright young things’ working as SpAds or researchers to the Labour and Tory front benches, they were entryists with Orange Book tendencies waiting to take over our Party from the top. The process of hollowing out our Party in the interests of those whose only values are money and power (for its own sake) had begun.
    You know them because they often talk about ‘liberalism’ but never about ‘Liberal Democracy’. The sooner they and their figurehead are gone, the sooner we can start to rebuild our Party

  • Melanie Harvey 8th May '14 - 12:01pm

    @daft ha’p’orth Thank you for your considered acknowledgement in regards to my experiences. I do not doubt that senior party members have likewise recognised and acknowledged my plight. One would like to hope that this is the first step in the right direction for changes and amendments so as this may not happen to others.

  • Old Liberal 8th May '14 - 1:31pm

    Daft ha’p’orth – you really are, aren’t you. The Redcar vertical pier achieved the lowest Trip Advisor score of all of the eight attractions is Redcar, with a three out of five, but achieved fourth place because five and six, although scoring higher, had insufficient reviews; while seventh and eighth had no reviews at all. Also your middling score of three is actually appallingly low for almost any attraction on Trip Advisor. For example every one of the 16 attractions in Dudley scored more than 3 out of five. Finally, regarding its so called ‘good number of visitors’, these seem to be inflated by the council counting people in the total who only use the ground floor toilets. A total waste of Council Taxpayers’ money. Bet it’s shut in five years.

  • @ Paul

    “If there is a route (sic) on May 22nd, where does the responsibility lie?”

    1. There is no “if.” It WILL be a rout.

    2. As someone who only wishes ill on your party, (although not its individual members) can I just say that I fervently hope your leader survives! Severely weakened but still in post.

    He has such a dissonance with the country now. It is almost as if, whatever he says the electorate decides to think the opposite, just because he has offered his opinion.

    I actually agree with his (your) policy on knife crime intellectually. But in political terms it is another “calamity.”

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th May '14 - 3:48pm

    It would be very embarrassing, would it not, if it turns out that some of these things had been supported by the council’s Liberal Democrat group. Given that there seems to have been no consultation with members in the places quoted, and that the quotes seem to be mainly the usual twists and distortion we get from the Daily Mail and the TPA, that is highly likely. Here is a great way for Labour and the Tories to administer us an almighty kicking – point out that what our local members have supported was condemned by their own leader. A little bit of research on the part of Labour and the Tories could cause us great damage here. So not only is the way this was put together highly illiberal, it is also, unless I am wrong about the lack of consultation, as a tactic highly incompetent.

    I first took against Nick Clegg when as a backbench MP he wrote a pamphlet in which he gave his support to the idea of executive mayors, quoting with approval the efforts of Lewisham Borough Council to introduce one – it was the first council that tried to do it, even in advance of the Blairite legislation that formally permitted it. He didn’t think to consult me on this issue, I was then the Leader of the Opposition in Lewisham, had instinctively been appalled at the idea when it was being put forward, and had been its principle opponent, speaking out fiercely against me. Instead Clegg quoted Labour Party propaganda about the Mayor idea and its popular approval, such as the “Citizens’ Jury” that had been set up to approve it – a Jury which was presented with only one side of the case, I was not invited to give the other and neither was anyone else. This could have been extremely embarrassing to our local campaigning in the borough, seeing as how we had made a big thing of our opposition to the executive mayor idea, though fortunately Labour locally obviously never got sight of Clegg’s pamphlet supporting them and attacking us.

    I had hardly even heard of Nick Clegg then, but it became clear to me at this point that he had no liberal instinct, because everyone I know who does have a liberal instinct finds does not need to be persuaded of the arguments against executive mayors – it is crystal clear to them that abolishing shared power by elected representatives and putting all power over the authority in the hands of one person is against what is at the heart of our beliefs. It also became clear to me that he had no feeling for local campaigning as he did not realise the potential damage this could have done to the party in Lewisham, which at that point had just begun to take off and build up to displace the Tories as the major opposition force across the borough. And it became clear to me that he had a contempt for ordinary members of the party, because surely if you are in a prominent position – he was not leader then, but he was an MP – if you have any feeling for party members as a whole, if you are writing about the political situation in some other place with your LibDem label, you have a duty to consult the local party there.

  • Paul in Twickenham 8th May '14 - 6:35pm

    @simon – autocomplete works it’s magic again. I agree with you. The Brent by-election was a huge success for the Tories because it finally pushed them to ditch IDS.

  • @ Paul

    Yes, you need to have a palace coup. How likely is that though? I never understand your procedures, everyone I knew was talking about Charles Kennedy’s (ahem) tendence to become tired and emotional years before it came to a head with you guys. So I don’t know.

    Have you seen your response to Labour’s attack ad? Once again it puts us at the centre of things, dominating the agenda. Shaping the debate.

    It is as if the Lib Dems are a driverless car nowadays…

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th May '14 - 2:30am


    I never understand your procedures, everyone I knew was talking about Charles Kennedy’s (ahem) tendence to become tired and emotional years before it came to a head with you guys.

    Yes, this is a big problem with this illiberal fascination with leaders. If the leader were seen as he or she should be, as a servant of the members, it would be no great thing to replace him or her. We need a mentality in which it is considered unremarkable to change leaders, to remove one who does not seem after experience to be quite the right person for the job, without all the dramatic language about “back-stabbing” and the like that accompanies any such discussion now. Without that, it is very hard to replace a leader, even when it is fairly obvious a replacement is needed.

    RC keeps asking for names of possible replacements for Clegg, but the replies to him are quite right – as soon as names get mentioned, and particularly if there are one or two obvious names that keep getting mentioned, or perhaps even more a less obvious name who once mentioned people think “Ah yes, s/he would be good”, we get all this media talk about “plots” and the like, as if this is some dreadful thing, and the person named is held up as some dangerous enemy of party unity and hence a bad thing. It stifles the sort of sensible discussion we should have.

    Charles Kennedy actually turned out to be a very good leader for the party BECAUSE of the tendency you mentioned. The result was that he was not able to dominate the show, more prominence was given to other leading members of the party, so the party came to be seen not as the tool of one person, but as a party with a wealth of talent and a range of ideas. We were never the “Charles Kennedy Party” in the way we had been seen as the “Paddy Ashdown Party” or the”David Steel Party” and are now seen as the “Nick Clegg Party”. No, with Charles Kennedy’s laid back (for whatever reasons) leadership, we became what we should be – the Liberal Democrat party. That was a good thing and we can see how the party prospered for it.

    We very much now need the sort of leader who stands back and lets others do their thing, who respects the way the party contains a variety of viewpoints and does not try to dominate it personally. To me, that is how a liberal party should work. It is not, and should not be seen as, the party of its leader.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th May '14 - 2:44am

    I have found in politics that it is quite a problem that people new to it often can’t get out of thinking of politics in terms of how it is presented in the national media, so their image of how a political party should act and present itself is stuck in a particular mode, they seem to find it hard to see that politics doesn’t have to be like that. That was one of the biggest problem with the SDP and the Liberal Party, with many new recruits to the SDP who simply could not get out of thinking of the conventional idea of political party as all about leaders and glossy centralised campaigns, and so found it hard to understand the different, but very effective, style of campaigning that the Liberal Party was experimenting with then.

    So it is with SPaDs and professional public relations people. Their idea of how a political party should work is fixed in one way, so their suggestions stay fixed in that way. That may be one reason why professional PR people, whose job it is to find ways to promote the party, and who presumably being professionals should be good at that, often seem to get it so spectacularly wrong.

  • @Simon “I actually agree with his (your) policy on knife crime intellectually. But in political terms it is another “calamity.”
    Which translates as,don’t bother doing the right thing just pander to popular to misconceptions and fears you’ll get loads of votes.UKIP in a nutshell.

  • @ Matthew

    If the leader were seen as he or she should be, as a servant of the members, it would be no great thing to replace him or her.

    I hear you, but all the same I think that is naive when you are a party of Government. Nick Clegg is the Deputy Prime Minister of our country, of course it is a “great thing ” to replace him.

    If you go back in the history of your party are you saying that Lloyd George’s snatching of the crown from Asquith, when were engaged in a war of national survival, was no great thing?

    Going back still further, the struggle for power between Gladstone and Joe Chamberlain which Gladstone won, but at the cost of splitting the party was also a “great thing.”

    Now Nick Clegg is no Gladstone or Lloyd George, that is for sure, but he still holds a high office of state, and is not just the leader of your party. Removing him would be a big step, and he knows the strength of that position.

    You (and we) are stuck with him I am afraid. I can even see him remaining in office, leading a rump Lig Dem party after the next election if you hold the balance of power.

    Wouldn’t that be marvellous , sigh? But at least he would get to continue with the red boxes and the ministerial car, so it is not all bad…

  • @ Dean

    Which translates as,don’t bother doing the right thing just pander to popular to misconceptions and fears you’ll get loads of votes.UKIP in a nutshell.

    No, we want to do the right thing and it happens to be popular.

    THAT is UKIP in a nutshell.

  • Tony Greaves 9th May '14 - 2:17pm

    UKIP are used to occupying nutshells, of course.


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