Nick Clegg’s Letter from the Leader: “It’s not perfect, but then no government is.”

It’s been a big week for Nick Clegg: the launch of the Government’s Mid-Term ‘Ronseal deal’ Review and his first ‘Call Clegg’ radio phone-in. His latest letter to supporters focuses on these two issues, but also makes a broader point: that coalition government is starting to become accepted, even by the media; that there’s a recognition two parties can disagree on some issues while pursuing a shared agenda on others.

This email would have been the ideal way to share more widely the party’s (excellent) booklet, ‘What have the Liberal Democrats ever done for you?’ — it’s not mentioned at all so here’s the link. For some reason I find baffling there appears still to be a deep-seated reluctance to align these emails with party campaigns or calls to action: the result is Nick on transmit mode, not receive. That’s a shame because the letters are an excellent initiative, and whether actually written by him or not, they read like Nick, are authentic.

libdem letter from nick clegg

This week the Prime Minister and I published the Coalition’s Mid-Term Review – setting out the progress the Government has made so far and our plans for the remaining two and a half years of this Coalition.

Two things really stand out in my mind. First, how much we’ve done and how much has changed in the 32 months since we took office. It’s a bit like when I go walking with my family in the Peak District near Sheffield – you’re heading up a steep climb, and thinking about every step, every loose stone or puddle on the path. And then, at a certain point, you turn around, look back, and you see how far you’ve come. You can see your car – just a metallic glint at the end of the track. And even though there’s a long climb ahead, you feel ready to face it, knowing the view is going to be even better from the top.

Of course, government isn’t much like Stanage Edge. But it was great to take the opportunity to remind myself of the achievements our party is proudest of – like boosting apprenticeships, cutting income taxes for people on low incomes and increasing investment in our school children. It really has given me new enthusiasm about the coming two years, and what we can achieve.

The second big realisation I had this week was during the press conference. To be honest, it was pretty uneventful, leavened only by a couple of rather lame politicians’ jokes about varnish (if you’re intrigued you can watch a clip here).

But in fact it was the rather predictable questions and predictable answers that made me realise that a great victory has been won: I think, finally, the media are just starting to understand how coalition works.

They understand that we can be two different political parties, with different ideas and ambitions, and still work together in a common cause for the good of the country. So they understand that even though there are many reasons for the Prime Minister and I to disagree – the Leveson Inquiry, climate change commitments, mansion tax and more – we can still start the new year with a joint plan for how we govern in the next two years.

In other countries this would not be news. They are used to coalition government. Let’s face it: this is the first peace-time coalition in Britain in more than 80 years, and it takes time to adjust to the idea of political parties compromising with one another. It’s not perfect, but then no government is. And in my view it’s a darn sight better than a majority government run by either of the two other parties.

I honestly believe that the more we can spread the word about the realities of coalition – the real benefits that come when compromise and negotiation trump ideology and extremism – the more we can rebuild people’s faith in the Liberal Democrats. To do that we’ve got to get out there and talk to people much, much more.

I’m doing my bit by starting a new weekly radio phone-in, on LBC 97.3FM. You’ll be able to listen online on Thursdays at 9am. Do encourage friends and family to tune in.

Best wishes,

Nick Clegg

Do you know someone who would like to get Nick’s weekly email? Forward this message and they can sign up here:

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

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  • Tony Dawson 13th Jan '13 - 1:44pm

    “the media are just starting to understand how coalition works.”

    The media may or may not be just learning to work out how this Coalition Government works. That is not, however, ‘how coalition government works’. Some of the policies of this government would clearly have commanded nothing like majority support from those who voted in the last election and no decent coalition set-up would have permitted them to proceed. Significant (and unnecessarily costly) changes have been brought in in some fields which would not only fail to carry a majority of support in the country but would appear to have been permitted in order to allow certain ministers to ‘feel like they were in government’. There has literally been too much government and not sufficient concentration on the most important things: getting the economy right and making the people of this country feel like the government really is trying to govern in favour of the population as a whole.

  • Richard Dean 13th Jan '13 - 4:12pm

    … and not doing well is not an excuse for not doing well.

  • Elizabeth Patterson 13th Jan '13 - 9:46pm

    Just finished watching two episodes of Borgen; perhaps it will be to the coalition years what The Thick of it was to the Blair/Brown years; and perhaps it will help to educate journalists about how coalition works, in Denmark anyway.
    I always loathed Thick of it, if ever I was tempted by the general adulation to look in on it; of course much of my loathing was based on their inability to find more than one adjective in the English language; and the characters were more Monty Python than real. Borgen is very sophisticated by comparison.

    On Nock’s emails, are you sure all members get them? I don’t.


  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jan '13 - 1:35am

    Tony Dawson

    The media may or may not be just learning to work out how this Coalition Government works. That is not, however, ‘how coalition government works’. Some of the policies of this government would clearly have commanded nothing like majority support from those who voted in the last election and no decent coalition set-up would have permitted them to proceed.

    Yes, the balance of the two parties in the coalition is seriously distorted by the electoral system used in this country. If it reflected the balance of votes cast, as it would if we had a proportional system, there would be about one and a half times as many Conservative MPs as Liberal Democrat MPs. Instead, as we have an electoral system which distorts in favour the largest party and against smaller parties, we have five time as many Conservative MPs as Liberal Democrat MPs.

    This is something we should KEEP pointing out. We should make clear that the government is very much more biased towards the Conservatives than towards the Liberal Democrats than we think it should be according to the way people voted. We should say that if people don’t like the way this government seems very much a Conservative Party government with only a little Liberal Democrat influence, we AGREE with them. We should be saying this government is NOT our ideal, it’s NOT what our constitutional reform policies would lead to, in fact its distorted nature is a good example of WHY we want those changes. What’s wrong with saying this sort of thing? It’s just party policy, and one of our most long-standing and important party policies.

    Nick Clegg is doing enormous damage to our party by NOT mentioning this, and making himself look so happy with a position in which he and the party he leads are seriously weakened by an electoral system we regard as deeply flawed. He should be saying “Yes, we agree to this government because it’s the only stable one that could have come from the Parliament elected in May 2010, but we AREN’T HAPPY with it – both because it does not properly represent how people voted, and actually also because apart from the distortion of how they voted, we would have preferred more people to have voted Liberal Democrats so then WE would be the lead party”. What’s wrong with saying that? Isn’t it our position? Isn’t that something someone who is supposed to be leading us, to be our main spokesperson explaining our point of view should be saying? I.e. “Vote Liberal Democrat”. Why can’t Clegg say that? By not saying it he comes across as a Conservative Party apologist.

  • Andy Boddington 14th Jan '13 - 8:38am

    I’ve signed up for the Letter from the Leader twice. I still don’t receive it. This gives the impression of an omnishambles behind the scenes. Surely not?

  • What happened to the message sheet this week?

  • Andy Boddington 16th Jan '13 - 7:15am

    Finally got subscribed to Letter from the Leader on 3rd attempt on 14 Jan. ” You’ll find the latest email from me below…” Nick says cheerfully, before wishing me a “a wonderful Christmas and New Year”!

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