Nick’s second ‘Letter from the Leader’: featuring PMQs, Leveson Inquiry & tax-cuts for the low-paid

Nick Clegg’s second letter to members and supporters has hit my inbox… This week’s email focuses on two issues. First, the impending Leveson Report into what form of media (self-)regulation will be needed to ensure newspapers don’t continue to abuse their power in the way that was exposed so forensically during Sir Brian’s inquiry. And secondly, on re-inforcing the Lib Dems’ number one achievement from the Coalition: raising the income tax threshold so that millions of the lowest paid in society have more money in their pockets.

It’s only been one week and this email already has the distinction of being mentioned at Prime Minister’s Questions.

With the PM abroad I was standing in on Wednesday and sure enough, Harriet Harman quoted my words about the crippling cost of childcare back at me. Who knew she had signed up as a supporter of the Liberal Democrats?

While I have a regular Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions session in Parliament the preparation required for PMQs is a bit greater. This is because Harriet Harman gets six questions not two; there is more time on topical issues than at DPMQs; and, of course more people are watching.

Luckily you get some help in preparing for the bear pit. Downing Street provides a briefing team who bring huge experience, patient good humour, encyclopaedic knowledge of every policy and a depressingly large number of briefing documents to be read and memorised.

They are joined by my team, including my PPS Duncan Hames, as we predict questions, come up with jokes and so on. It can be a time consuming process, and it’s easy to see why Tony Blair felt it made sense to shift the two sessions a week Prime Minister’s used to have to face into one, longer, appearance.

The event itself is intense, but fun. I know people watching on TV go cold at the sight of MPs shouting, but it’s only when you visit parliament and see it in full cry that you appreciate the noise made as MPs attempt to make their point. What looks like aggressive shouting on TV is often a genuine attempt to simply be heard.

You can watch my appearance here, but for me a few moments stood out.

The first was my exchange with Harriet Harman over the Leveson Report. We don’t yet know what Lord Justice Leveson will say, but to me it’s blindingly obvious that if he recommends something workable and proportionate we must seek to implement it.

Of course whatever he says will provoke controversy. And there’s a difficult balance to strike to make sure that ordinary people are treated fairly by the media while our press remains free, raucous and independent. But I believe we can strike that balance and get agreement across the political parties.

We need to be able to look the parents of Milly Dowler in the eye, and other victims who have had their privacy trampled on, and assure them that in the future there will be a permanently independent system of recourse, sanction and accountability able to act when things go wrong.

Secondly I took the opportunity to once again remind people of our major achievement in cutting income tax for ordinary people. By April next year 24 million people will have received a £550 tax cut thanks to us – we must make sure everyone in Britain knows about this great Liberal Democrat policy.

To find out more about it and what you can do to get our message across go here.

A number of you got in touch about last week’s email with many positive comments. Some had suggestions about childcare, others wrote about what they wanted me to cover in future messages. If there’s something you want me to talk about do get in touch here.

Best wishes,

Nick Clegg

Last week, I suggested a few format improvements to make the letter more readable, and it’s good to see these being followed up. Running through my list:

1) Break up the text. DONE through the use of a photo and hyperlinks. (Though I still prefer sub-headings to signpost key points clearly.)

2) Links to stories and campaigns the party is running. DONE through a link to the party’s Fairer Tax campaign.

3) Some form of call to action. DONE (see above).

4) Make it easy to sign-up to the ‘Letter from the Leader’. NOT DONE with no links still either from the Lib Dem homepage nor Nick Clegg’s own site.

5) More encouragement for people to engage directly. DONE (ish) with a hyperlink to reply direct to the Leader’s letter. I still think can be more open, less conditional: ‘Please do get in touch’ rather than ‘If you want to’.

* 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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  • Max Wilkinson 10th Nov '12 - 12:49pm

    He should put the financial stuff in an everyday context. I might look at £550 and think it’s not even one month’s rent for a small flat in the regions. If he says: ‘that’s the equivalent of seven weeks of free shopping for the average family’, it carries a bit more power.

  • “He should put the financial stuff in an everyday context. I might look at £550 and think it’s not even one month’s rent for a small flat in the regions. If he says: ‘that’s the equivalent of seven weeks of free shopping for the average family’, it carries a bit more power.”

    That’s a bit risky, knowing Nick Clegg. What if he said “That’s the equivalent of 18 weeks’ pension”?

  • “More encouragement for people to engage directly. DONE (ish) with a hyperlink to reply direct to the Leader’s letter. I still think can be more open, less conditional: ‘Please do get in touch’ rather than ‘If you want to’.”

    I got in touch after the last letter and I’ve not had a reply or acknowledgement. Mind you I’ve not received this weeks letter either! (and I wasn’t rude 🙂

  • I didn’t receive the first letter, not sure why.
    My assumption is that this will be sent to EVERY member who has an email logged with the Membership Dept, automatically… but then what about the 50% of members who haven’t given the party an email address?
    One can easily start to think that if you are not on here, facebook, or ‘connected’ in some way then you don’t count, you will be left to rely on the good old British ‘free’ but biased press for information about the Party.
    We are best, most democratic party in the Uk, which should be instinctively supported by the majority, yet we don’t get more support in the ballot-box because of the drip-drip effect of the press, lazily copied by many broadcasters, in the same way that Europe is derided..
    We need to look to our strengths, and ensure we promote and keep to our own internal standards, keep ALL our members fully informed. No-one else is going to do it for us, and we cannot ask our ordinary members to constantly scan the website for information, we need to ensure that they get it.
    The new magazine is a good idea, but only if it goes to EVERY member, and not just the select few who can afford to buy it.

  • I didn’t get this!

    Got the first one, why not this one??

  • Tracy Connell 12th Nov '12 - 10:09am

    Nick did an absolutely fantastic job at PMQs last week and also at previous DPMQs. Many many kudos to him and his continuing great performances at these. Also, many thanks to the team that help him prepare. This looks like something in the party that is actually working very well. Keep it up guys!

  • Austin Rathe 12th Nov '12 - 12:41pm

    Hi all,

    This email is sent to all members for whom we have an email. If you didn’t get it, please email [email protected] and copy me in (a dot Rathe at libdems dot org dot uk) and ask them to add your email to the membership database.

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