Opinion on Nick Clegg’s first anniversary: Martin Land – Has it really been one year?

Clegg’s first year: Clegg on Clegg | Tall on Clegg

Well, it has been a year. I’m sure its felt even longer to you Nick. Take some time over the holidays and quietly reflect. I know you’re busy, so let me help you:

The good bits

1. You have had a good year. Sure the odd slip-up, but no leader is ever surefooted straightaway. You’ve had the odd ‘baseball cap’ moment, but public recognition is increasing and I think they like what they see. Try to get angry more often though. After all, you are only human. Let people see it.

2. You have a new Party President, Baroness Ros Scott. I didn’t vote for her, but it’s an opportunity to reach out to alienated and ignored parts of the party that you simply don’t have the time to reach. I think she’s someone you can work closely with.

3. 19% in the latest ICM poll. That’s about as good as it gets between elections.

4. Whatever you may (or may not) think, you have a good team. Cameron would kill for your frontbench team. So, I suspect, would Gordon. If only parties had transfer fees like footballers. Think what we could get for Vince!

5. You perform well in the media. You are relaxed and in control, where Cameron just looks manic.

The bad bits

1. All political parties are having a rough time, but you need to take charge of ours. The strategy we have pursued over the past 15 years looks more and more like a scorched earth policy for local parties. Membership cannot be allowed to decline any further and we must stop bleeding local parties to death for the sake of strange ‘targeting’ strategies, which owe more to egos than demographic or psephological analysis.

Tell it like it is for the Lisbon Treaty.

3. You need to pay more attention to activists and campaigners, and less to staff. Promote ALDC. It’s the thousands of councillors who are backbone of the party, not MPs and staffers.

4. Try to visit a few small local parties, not just the target seats – see what they think and listen to them. Do the Maths; if you want to be PM we need 330 MPs. Got 330 fully functioning local parties? Doubt it!

5. Get on top of the little things. I’ve won some elections this year; taken seats off the Tories. It would take 30 seconds for someone in your office to send an email every week to candidates and agents thanking and congratulating them. Even in May it would not be a monumental task, with ALDC’s help. Let the ordinary members know that you know it’s their party too.

You’ve done well. You are proving to be a good leader. I think you can be a great one. Hey – I voted for you!

* Martin Land is a Cambridgeshire Lib Dem activist and campaigner and blogs at New Model Army.

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • I think that Nick does OK in TV interviews and he does ‘exasperated’ fairly well. I would like to see a bit more humour and a little charm. Whether we like it or not, people do tend to pay a huge amount of attention to leaders. They have to feel that they know Nick, and I don’t think that he is relaxed enough to convey that impression.

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 18th Dec '08 - 4:26pm

    “19% in the latest ICM poll. That’s about as good as it gets between elections.”

    You’re joking, of course?

    Even under Clegg ICM has put the Lib Dems above 19% as often as below it:

  • David Morton 19th Dec '08 - 4:05am

    19% in ICMm is not as good as it got in the last parliament which is the one whoes results we will be defendng/building on.

    also if we are picking polsters then why pick the only one out of the 5 nationals that is showing a passible result at the moment ?

    The points about membership are well made. However it would have strengthened martins argument had he linked this to the growth of list PR. We don’t seem to be flourishing on the London, Wales, Scotland and Euro lists because the system is the antithesis of the “Local Champion” model.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Dec '08 - 10:04am

    With the GLA elections, it became clear quite early on that our candidate didn’t stand a chance. The early hope that perhaps just we could persuade anti-Ken people to vote Brian first and Boris second, and anti-Boris people to vote Brian first and Ken second didn’t materialise. This was in part because the mathematics involved (primary school level) was beyond arts-educated journalists, so this line received no coverage and it didn’t seem possible even to get the journoes to understand it.

    We could then have really pushed the idea that with Boris or Ken at the top, we needed more LibDem GLA members to do an effective job scrutinising him. Perhaps that could have worked, though again getting it into the media might have fallen down on the inability of the British journalist to employ any reasoning involving mathematics and/or logic.

    Most London activists worked out there really wasn’t much point in putting much time, energy or money into the GLA elections, far better to save it for future Westminster and London Borough elections.

    FPTP elections do seem to work for us because the challenge to put in the effort to win a single ward or constituency fires us, and we can see and immediate and dramatic effect when we do it. With list elections, generalised campaigning over the whole area rather than concentrated campaigning in parts of it, and with the ultimate aim to push our overall percentage up to win extra seats overall rather than winning individual local seats, just doesn’t fire us as much to go out and commit time and energy. Going out and pushing in my patch because I know we can win in my patch by that pushing works, going out and pushing in my patch when my efforts will just be pooled and we won’t do that well because so many other patches go unworked doesn’t, it actually leaves me lacking in motivation to work even my patch.

    STV may work better for us, because what that actually involves is going out and winning a quota of votes for an individual candidate. We can effectively draw up our own constituency from the multi-member constituency, whichever parts of it we think most likely to be worth working to build up that quota.

    Constituency with list top-up is a sham, because the only effect of working hard to win a constituency is to knock one off the list candidates elected. It’s hard to get across the message and way of thinking that only the list votes really count because they determine the party balance. Even Germans, at least in my relatively limited experience of discussing this with them, seem to find it hard to understand despite years of experience with the system.

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 19th Dec '08 - 10:14am

    “This was in part because the mathematics involved (primary school level) was beyond arts-educated journalists, so this line received no coverage and it didn’t seem possible even to get the journoes to understand it.”

    But one of my gripes was that it didn’t get any coverage in Lib Dem literature. Although the “blond buffoon” strategy was misconceived, the election was still, to some extent, a contest of unpopularities, and we should have been hammering home that there was no danger of a vote for Paddick “letting the other one in”. Instead we carried blithely on as though it was a first-past-the-post election.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Chris Moore
    Peter, good stuff, but as you're aware, many Tories see the EU as a socialist affront to free enterprise. The reality does not match up to your or their ster...
  • Peter Martin
    @ Martin @ Chris @ Leekliberal, I've always been puzzled why so many who claim to be on the left seem to have fallen in love with the most neoliberal of capi...
  • David Raw
    @ Alex Macfie "We were never even in contention in most of the Blue Wall seats we are now targeting". ...... and what makes you so sure they won't return t...
  • Cassie
    Tories lied to farmers ('you'll be better off out of the EU/CAP'). And the likes of Coffey showed an ignorance of rural life only matched by Labour's prejudice ...
  • Martin Bennett
    Chris Moore (and Leekliberal): P Martin is left wing on his say so, however in a choice between maintaining living standards for the worse off and Brexit, he go...