Opinion: The Clegg Enigma

Little do we know of the leaders we elect. “We don’t do God” said Alastair Campbell, in his most successful big lie ever. Thus it was that Britain voted for that cheerful scamp from the Ugly Rumours, who didn’t believe in anything much except doing “what works”. What we actually got was a religious fanatic, with a messianic self-belief which led him crusading into the morass of Iraq.

These reflections came to mind recently, when Lib Dem Voice readers recently suggested my comments on Nick Clegg must be due to personal conflict. I can only say that I don’t know Clegg well enough. Our paths did cross when he lived in my constituency, Rushcliffe, as East Midlands MEP 1999-2004. But I never saw that much of him, and can’t remember any clashes.

Others clearly knew him better. What was striking was the loyalty he inspired in close colleagues. He always seemed to take a nice line in self-deprecating humour, in almost deliberately struggling to put his sentences together, and in blurting out candid truths rather than trying to flannel an interviewer. It was an act that was easy to like. Whether it would always command respect was perhaps a different question. Very often, enough intelligence and sincerity shone through to ensure that it did.

Of course, Clegg was often away in Brussels, leaving his columns in the Guardian to tell us what our MEP was doing. Those columns revealed a questioning, independent mind, and a mixture of enthusiasm and irritation with the arcane processes of the European Parliament which he had to master. As time went on, there was less enthusiasm for the EU’s potential to do good, and more irritation at its rigidity and bureaucracy. A notable result was Clegg’s strong contribution to The Orange Book. This helpfully moved us away from starry-eyed Euro-idealism toward a more pragmatic, even sceptical, pro-European position. In hindsight, perhaps this was how a committed anti-statist was born.

Then Clegg changed horses for a Westminster seat, and the flurry of ideas died down. There was a somewhat self-effacing campaign in 2006 as a kind of John the Baptist to Ming Campbell. There were hints of flirtation with right-wing ideas, but little in print to lend substance to such rumours. Then Campbell resigned. The Press, who began by portraying Clegg versus Huhne as a clash of the clones, found to their surprise that there might be real differences.

Chris Huhne argued that:

(Clegg) has given journalists the impression that he is in favour of school vouchers. …. We do not know where he stands on the NHS because, in an interview with the Scotsman, he says will not rule out the question of continental health insurance models, and then he says he is happy with party policy. We cannot have uncertainty.”

The Press generally dismissed all this as the last gasp of a loser. Clegg smiled and joked his way to narrow victory.

Over a year on, we still have massive uncertainty. Clegg promised to “end state intervention in schools”, but without making clear what that means. He told us that the “people’s health service” means top-up payments. And he has spoken repeatedly in favour of “big permanent tax cuts”. While everyone else knows that taxes must soon rise, Clegg has perversely kept up this dog-whistle. It surely implies “big permanent cuts in state spending”. But what cuts, and to what ends?

Now, when I post an off-message opinion on LDV, I know someone from Cowley Street will always pop up to tell me the error of my ways. Ha, I said to myself recently, I can exploit this by posting off-message guesses about party policy. That way, I will get Cowley Street to tell me if my worst fears are unwarranted. So I recently wrote: “Clegg … might, or might not, want to push through swingeing cuts in state spending, “free” schools that select, charge, and make profits, and social insurance top-up schemes for the NHS.” I was, of course, speculating wildly. The silence from Cowley Street was deafening.

If I was an orange Tory economic liberal, I would be really upset by all this. Here we are, with radical wide-ranging policies to take the dead hand of the State out of health and education and free up individual enterprise – and we are not presenting those policies to the public! We are gifting the Tories the chance to get in first. We are missing the opportunity to lead public debate, flesh out how our ideas would actually work, and enthuse a grateful nation about our brave new competitive world.

If I was a political weathervane party-unity zealot, I would be pretty upset as well. OK, having tacked to the left with the penny-on-tax ten years ago, now could be a good time to veer back to the right and take the penny off again. So let’s spell out a mild policy shift that everyone can stomach, and then go knock a million doors. Less cynically, let’s also give people a clear enough picture of what we intend to offer them. This mild redistributionism we espouse, for example. Do we actually aim to reduce extremes of wealth and poverty? Or are we just trying to compensate, in part, for the social and economic polarisation our new policies will bring?

Actually, I’m pretty near the centre of this party, or at least I was, under Ashdown, Kennedy, and Campbell. I’m rather concerned too.

But let’s be fair. What Jackie Ashley calls “confusion and drift” is not confined to Clegg’s Lib Dems. David Cameron is equally “voiceless on big issues”. Labour do not lack voices, but they are mainly squabbling about who takes over after defeat in 2010. It is as if the enormity of our financial collapse, and perhaps our forthcoming environmental collapse, has rendered us all speechless.

Desperate times attract desperate people. The voters want to hear messages of hope and certainty. In the US, a reputable politician has fortunately met the challenge. In Britain, by contrast, the vacuum of leadership is pitiful. But one party is well placed to fill that vacuum, if we can not. A party with simple, clear policies. A new party, untainted by conventional politics. A party that knows exactly who to blame, and what to do to put things right. Cometh the hour, cometh the men. Step forward, the BNP!

* David Allen was until recently was until recently chairman of Rushcliffe Liberal Democrats, and has been a party member for 27 years.

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68 Comments

  • A slightly bizarre take on policy. We already have some top-ups in the NHS (abolishing prescription charges would put cash in the pocket of the better off, while you bemoan income inequality), I thought that our education policy was very clear (pupil premium, free schools) and a lot better than our previous policy, and we all know that we have to put tax up in the long-term, but tax cuts to boost demand (it’s Keynes…) and cutting down on waste (ID Cards, Databases, marketing costs, Trident after the next round of talks etc) is not a right-wing idea.

    As such, this just seems all slightly eccentric.

  • Also, top-ups in health is a lot different to top ups in education. You can overconsume healthcare, as liberals we believe that you can’t overconsume education. The RAND study on co-payments in healthcare should be required reading for those who want to pontificate on top-ups/co-payments.

  • David Heigham 4th Mar '09 - 4:10pm

    Gordon Brown is not an enigma. His first priority is remaining leader of the Labour party and Prime Minister. His second priority is to be seen as a ‘world leader’.(What he means by that is a bit enigmatic.)

    David Cameron is not an enigma. His first priority is and was to change the Tory party sufficiently for him to become Prime Minister.

    Nick Clegg’s clear objective is to get sufficient political leverage to improve British politics and policy. To do that he has to pick and choose on what policy elements to be a bit enigmatic about. All Liberal and LibDem leaders have had to do a bit of that. Because Nick Clegg is more focussed on making a difference, he has to do more – and refuse to get his nickers in a twist about it. I think Chris Huhne is equally serious about making a difference, and if the Leadership election had gone a few hundred votes the other way, he would be doing something pretty similar.

  • Cowley Street Mole 4th Mar '09 - 4:42pm

    David’s analysis is at times pretty poor.

    It reads like someone who has read a few press releases, pulled out the language they want, and then built a huge conspiracy on top of it.

    But then he does admit that he uses this organ to ‘speculate wildly’ and see what it stirs up.

    Example:

    “And he has spoken repeatedly in favour of “big permanent tax cuts”. While everyone else knows that taxes must soon rise, Clegg has perversely kept up this dog-whistle. It surely implies “big permanent cuts in state spending”. But what cuts, and to what ends?”

    It doesn’t inmply big permanent cuts in state spending at all. David has just made this up.

    big permanent tax cuts……..paid for by a permanent remodelling of the tax system to make it fairer so those at the top pay their fair shar and those at the bottom pay less.

    If David sets up these strawmen in order for some Cowley Street staffer to knock them down – may I suggest he just concentrates more – maybe read a policy paper – or even read a press release to the end.

    Speculating wildly is fun – but in a political context – its just stupid.

  • David Allen 4th Mar '09 - 5:39pm

    Nice one CSM. Eleven (at least) separate pieces of pure verbal abuse. One semi-rational argument, to the effect that “tax cuts” actually means “no net tax cuts”, because they are all to be “paid for by remodelling the system”.

    Pull the other one!

  • “big permanent tax cuts……..paid for by a permanent remodelling of the tax system to make it fairer so those at the top pay their fair shar and those at the bottom pay less.”

    Well, if the tax cuts and the tax rises add up to the same amount, isn’t it just a little misleading to describe the proposal simply as “tax cuts”?

    And if the party’s opponents were to attack Clegg’s plans as “big permanent tax rises”, would you be entirely convinced if they defended that description with the argument you have just given?

  • Simon:
    “I thought that our education policy was very clear (pupil premium, free schools) …”

    Just the man I’ve been looking for!

    If you think the policy is clear, please can you answer a very simple, basic question for me?

    Are the “free schools” Clegg proposed last year the same as the “sponsor managed schools” in the recent policy document? If so, is it correct that they would only come into being if they were “commissioned” by the local authority?

  • Ok, I should have said ‘relatively clear’! My understanding is that legislation would be passed allowing local authorities to set up such schools rather than have that dictated from Whitehall.

  • Simon

    The trouble is that the “free schools” policy is a prime example of a Clegg “enigma”.

    When it was first announced, it sounded as though anyone approved by a new independent authority, with no ministerial involvement (and presumably no involvement of local councillors) would be allowed to set up “free schools” and received state funding for them. Much of the press coverage at the time centred on parents being allowed to set up their own schools.

    In contrast, the “sponsor managed schools” appear to be commissioned by local authorities and wholly owned by local authorities. They seem to be a completely different animal, to the extent that I wondered whether the “free schools” policy was yet to come, or had been quietly dropped. I’ve asked several times here whether anyone knew the answer to that, but apparently no one did.

  • David Allen 4th Mar '09 - 11:35pm

    So, will our free schools, or sponsor managed schools, be allowed to select their pupils, to levy charges, and to make a profit? Or not? Does anybody know?

    Or are we just waiting for Michael Gove to tell us what our policy is?

  • David

    To be fair to Clegg, he seems to have been consistent in saying he is against “selection”. I assume that means academic selection, otherwise I don’t know how to make sense of it.

    Otherwise it’s an enigma to me. If there are people who know what the policy is, they can always post that knowledge here …

  • Indecisiveness is a mainstream Lib Dem trait. Comes from all that fence sitting. So why the bitching? There’s nothing you know about Clegg now that you didn’t when you elected him. He’s still mini-Dave and isn’t that what you wanted?
    Run along and play nicely now.

  • Jeremy

    I can’t quite understand what you’re getting at. Of course, what I posted about sponsor managed schools came from the policy document you mention. What I am puzzled about is the relationship between that proposal and “the purer form of ‘free schools’” previously advocated by Clegg, which – as you say – does not appear in the policy document.

    What I’m asking is whether he has had second thoughts about that, or whether some formal policy along those lines is still to come in the future.

    This is apparently supposed to be a key policy area, and it’s a very basic question. But it seems no one can answer it.

  • “So, will our free schools, or sponsor managed schools, be allowed to select their pupils, to levy charges, and to make a profit? Or not? Does anybody know?”

    If only there was a written document setting out our policy. Oh there is – and it took me about 3 mins to answer two of your questions and make a reasonable assumption about the third:
    1) No
    2) What do you mean by “levy charges” – schools currently make charges for a variety of things (out of school classes, trips etc)
    3) Yes

  • Hywel

    There’s no need to be quite so sarcastic. I’ve asked several times what the relationship is between Nick Clegg’s “free schools” and the “sponsor managed schools”, and this is the first time anyone has so much as replied.

    If I understand correctly, your “reasonable assumption” is that “sponsor managed schools” will be allowed to be profit-making. And the policy paper appears to suggest that existing private schools could become “sponsor managed schools” and receive state funding.

    Isn’t that quite an important question, and is it appropriate that the party should have to make a “reasonable assumption” about it, rather than having it spelled out clearly?

  • “I think I did reply to your question previously, explaining the difference between what’s in the paper and the ‘pure form’, though you said to Hywel that no-one had yet…”

    But my question wasn’t about that difference – I can see the difference perfectly clearly, and had pointed it out on a number of occasions.

    My question was whether the “free schools” idea as outlined by Clegg originally had been dropped, or whether it had been replaced by what’s in the paper.

    The answer seems to be the latter. In which case, there is certainly a big difference between what Clegg initially proposed and what is being proposed now.

  • “As it happens, the biggest criticisms I’ve tended to make over the years of Leaders is that they set out exactly what they want and so the party gets bounced into following their precise prescription, because once the Leader’s announced a position it closes down debate. I want the party to debate its own policies – like we did on tax last year …”

    Hmmm. Sounds as though you must have been out of the country when Nick Clegg announced “Make it Happen” before the party voted on it last year …

  • To brave, brave Sir Alex

    If you think that was a “personal attack”, you must have led an extremely sheltered existence!

    But are you really saying that the party conference was able to have a free and fair debate on “Make it Happen”, rather than being “bounced” by all the pre-publicity?

    Or perhaps what you’re saying is that it’s fine for a party leader to “bounce” the party conference provided he has a policy working group and the FPC on his side?

  • “As you’re bravely anonymous, I have no way of knowing whether you’re being consistent, or inconsistent, or Mr Allen in disguise.”

    Oh dear, oh dear. I think it’s fairly obvious who the “raving conspiracy theorist” is around here.

    You’re very keen on accusing David Allen of making “ad hominem” attacks – to say nothing of “frothings”. Perhaps you should consider the tone of your own contributions before attacking others.

  • Alex

    Actually, I didn’t say anything about David Allen being a “victim”. I simply suggested that as you are making accusations against others, you should consider the tone of your own contributions.

    But apparently the only response is yet more name-calling. (“Mini-me”, indeed!)

    It’s interesting how hostile, defensive and downright rude so many people here are in response to views that differ from their own. Why is that? To my mind, it speaks of pretty severe insecurity.

  • David Allen 5th Mar '09 - 6:08pm

    Alex,

    Words like “quasi-Thatcherite” may or may not strike you as fair comment about a tax cutting policy, but they’re not just pure abuse. They convey meaning. That’s what political debate is for.

    Words like “frothing” convey nothing at all except your anger and hatred. That’s what I mean by “pure verbal abuse”.

    I’m not “sobbing” or “wailing” about it, mind you, nor do I think I’m a “victim”. On the contrary. Blatantly unreasonable attacks on my views tend to lend them more credibility, I suspect!

  • David Allen 5th Mar '09 - 6:30pm

    Rob Knight,

    “The big secret is that when we say “tax cuts” we’re basically being… economical with the truth.”

    Yes, right. Doesn’t sound too good, does it? What’s more, it’s a line which has been completely been overtaken by events.

    Cast your mind back as far as last September, in the BC (before crunch) era, and yes, the Press printed their “understanding” that we were going to make net savings of £4M and hence net tax cuts of 2p in the pound. Sadly this was left as a journalist’s “understanding”, while our spinners continued to oscillate between “maybe no net tax cuts at all” and “vast bulk of £20M will go to tax cuts”. This is what I mean by an enigma.

    However, the credit crunch then put all these debates firmly into the past, neatly illustrating the folly of posing as a “big permanent” tax cutter. At the next election, three facts will become horribly clear to the voting public:

    *** Taxes are going to rise (and message to Nick – Anyone who says otherwise will look a complete fool)

    *** Public spending is going to be cut (and message to self – Anyone who says otherwise will look a complete fool)

    *** The election is, simply, to choose who should implement those policies.

    People won’t want to choose a Neil Kinnock, who would talk himself out of making the necessary spending cuts. People also won’t want to choose a Keith Joseph, who would thrill to the opportunity to make savage spending cuts in the guise of necessity. And if Nick Clegg looks like a quasi-Thatcherite zealot, then people won’t want him either. It’s up to Nick to define himself.

    People will want a leader who can make the necessary cuts on a rational basis. They will want someone who clearly hates doing it, and who will minimise the pain it causes. David Cameron is posing as such a person. Vince Cable could beat him for credibility. Nick Clegg has a long way to go to catch up with either.

  • David Allen 5th Mar '09 - 6:54pm

    On education – Well, we seem to be a little further forward. The new policy is a bit different from the Tories, but important questions such as whether profits are allowed are still somewhat up in the air.

    Now, I can see the attractions of free schools, but there are surely huge pitfalls for the unwary. For a start, there is going to be tremendous pressure for back-door selection, whether academic or social. No doubt ways and means will be found, such as having an expensive uniform, or asking for “voluntary” donations. If this were to spread throughout the sector, we could end up with poor parents scraping together a few bob so as to send their kids to St Notterriblygoodes, while the poorest who have no money at all send all their kids to St Sinke’s School. Do we want that?

    I have a suggestion. Let’s not pretend we have worked this all out, when we haven’t. Let’s say that we have quite enough on our plate if we scrap the national curriculum and bring in the pupil premium. Free schools, or whatever, are to be considered for our second term of office!

  • David Allen 5th Mar '09 - 7:01pm

    Go on Alex, provide the urls, why don’t you? Your readers will find that quite a few of my words were only used in jest, and most of the rest were used to describe policies rather than people.

    And “evil”? I was quoting Google’s motto “Don’t be evil”. You know that, of course, but you don’t want your readers to know.

  • Alex Wilcock

    “Oh, and it was your mini-me above who, like you, complained about abuse while abusing my mental health

    Oh, please, please! Of course I did no such thing.

    I merely repeated your own phrase – “raving conspiracy theorist” – back to you, because you suggested I might be David Allen in disguise.

    What about giving all this silly personal stuff a rest, and talking about the issues?

  • “The moral is, don’t heap ludicrously hyperbolic abuse and then whine that people are just being nasty to poor little you.”

    Oh dear. It’s all a bit rich coming from a man who complains about “personal attacks” when someone has the temerity to point out an inconsistency in one of your posts!

  • David Allen 6th Mar '09 - 12:33pm

    Alex,

    Yes, having suggested that Google’s “don’t be evil” would be a good motto for the new Social Liberal Forum, I did indeed say:

    “It would be evil to carry on supporting a party which had abandoned many of the key principles it has held for decades. It would be evil to carry on working for a party of cheerleaders for big spending cuts, the increasing marketisation of health and education, and the inevitable resulting increases in poverty and social inequality”.

    But I haven’t “stuck all that on Nick”. I have simply argued that he has lamentably failed to rule out that potential interpretation of what his long term aims may be. That is not “vitriolic abuse”, it’s a call for some clear statements of position.

  • David Allen:

    “It would be evil to carry on supporting a party which had abandoned many of the key principles it has held for decades.”

    Please define these principles, and how you suggest Nick has abandoned them.

    “It would be evil to carry on working for a party of cheerleaders for big spending cuts,”

    Again – please define “cheerleader” and “big”

    “the increasing marketisation of health and education”

    Please define what you mean by “marketisation”. Please also discuss how those right-wing distopias such as Sweden, France and Germany choose to organise their health and education systems.

    “and the inevitable resulting increases in poverty and social inequality”.

    Assertion. You provide no evidence to back up this statement. I refer you back to the previous point.

  • “but important questions such as whether profits are allowed are still somewhat up in the air.”

    I don’t think they are. All schools, state or private are allowed to make profits under the current system and have been for many years. Even charities make a profit – that’s how they create reserves for future investment. What you mean is a profit for shareholders.

    Nor is the idea of the state paying private providers a new or particularly radical innovation per se. It existed in the assisted places schemes and today in the NHS by paying for operations.

    I tried not to get involved in this thread when it started from the position of “Cowley Street won’t deny it therefore it must be true”.

    As it has now moved into the territory of presenting Alex Wilcock as the leadership’s loyal mouthpiece I think we are very much not in Kansas any more.

  • Formerly Anonymous 6th Mar '09 - 4:47pm

    “I don’t think they [important questions such as whether profits are allowed] are [still somewhat up in the air].”

    If all you can do is make a “reasonable assumption” about them, I think David’s point is made.

  • Alix Mortimer 6th Mar '09 - 5:10pm

    [Mod hat on]

    Could folk please stick to one name or pseudonym (be it Anonymous or anything else)? Otherwise it’s hard for other readers to keep track of who’s arguing what. Thanks.

  • David Allen 6th Mar '09 - 5:18pm

    “What you mean is a profit for shareholders.”

    Oh sorry. I’m making a trivial distinction, clearly. Charities, state schools, Eton, Dotheboys Hall, they’re all much the same to our brave NuLibDems. No need to bother to think about how things might change if private profit is involved. (And look, I’m not an ideologue, I would agree that sometimes things run better when run for private profit. But when private profits are involved, you do have to think about how you are going to regulate differently! If you want to cope in the real world, that is.)

    “presenting Alex Wilcock as the leadership’s loyal mouthpiece”

    You’re right, I asked him to come along and pour a bucketload of abuse over me, and to say anything in response except “thank you” is just inexcusable.

    “Cowley Street won’t deny it therefore it must be true”.

    If Joe Bloggs MP is called a racist, and he says that he won’t bother to confirm or deny the accusation, do you think he has put himself in the clear? Think about what Labour will do at the next election. If they have the slightest bit of fight left in them, they will portray Clegg as being to the right of Cameron, and suggest that they are the only home for voters with even the palest of pink tinges. Then you’ll wish you’d listened to me and put some clarity in place.

  • Formerly Anonymous 6th Mar '09 - 5:43pm

    Alix:
    “Could folk please stick to one name or pseudonym (be it Anonymous or anything else)?”

    Would love to, but your site seems no longer to be accepting anonymous posts!

  • Just call yourself Baldevar or Ronaldinho or something. Then stick to it.

  • Formerly Anonymouse 6th Mar '09 - 5:52pm

    Julian H

    I think Alix would be down on me like a ton of bricks if I changed my name again …

  • Well, I still don’t really understand it all, but so long as what you’re seeking to ensure gets ensured, that’s the main thing …

  • David Allen: I note today that “evil orange-Tory” Nick Clegg has launched an outspoken attack on …. Margaret Thatcher.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/thatcher-put-money-ahead-of-morality-says-clegg-1639258.html

    Perhaps you’ll now write an apologia. But then again, why let the facts get in the way of a good argument?

  • David Allen 7th Mar '09 - 8:25pm

    Tabman,

    Yes, a good speech by Nick. Not before time, one might say. But you’re quite right, the speech did put a lot of distance between Clegg and get-rich-quick Thatcherism. That’s progress.

    There is still, of course, the opportunity for Cameron to claim that his is a kinder and gentler form of conservatism that liberals could be happier to vote for. That claim will also need to be countered.

    As far as I’m aware, Clegg also said nothing specifically last night about the marketisation of education and health, how far we intend to travel down that road, and how we are going to reconcile that with our commitment to “fairness”. That too still needs clarifying.

    But sorry, this may perhaps disappoint you but, I am very happy to recognise progress when I see it. If you want purblind adherence to a line of argument even when the facts change, you’ll have to look to some of your fellow commentators on this posting!

  • Tabman

    One thing that’s clear enough is Nick Clegg’s propensity for telling an audience what he thinks it wants to hear …

  • … although I have to admit he is the most thoughtful and plain-speaking of the three main party leaders.

  • … not

  • Whoops! Not that thoughtfulness is a highly rated virtue by those who long for the certainties of the BNP, the nasty parts of the Tories, or the preachy tendency of the current government.

  • Haha! When will you learn? Don’t feed the troll!

  • OK. I give in. I’ll distinguish myself by a number in future.

  • David Allen 8th Mar '09 - 1:16pm

    OK, time to sum up.

    Half of my opponents on this posting think I am crazy to be worried about bringing a wholesale free market policy into health and education, because it apparently works OK in (selected, highly socialised and/or high-tax) foreign countries, so we are absolutely right to push it forward vigorously. While the other half of my opponents think I am crazy to be worried about bringing a wholesale free market policy into health and education, because there is not much in official writing to say that we really stand for it more than a little bit, so therefore we don’t.

    Marvellous stuff, guys!

  • Steve – its well known that Mr Allen thinks that NC is the Spawn of Satan. When Nick says something that could be construed as “right wing”, then his point is proven. When he says something contrary, such as his speech against Margaret Thatcher, then that is evidence of his perfidy in duping innocent party members to vote for him.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Mar '09 - 11:07am

    There was a view during the leadership election campaign that Mr Clegg was part of the process where all the major political parties were moving towards unquestioning acceptance of the economic orthodoxies, initiated by Mrs Thatcher, which had led to such economic success for our country. These were that economic regulation was best light or non-existent, and that businessmen and bankers were much more intelligent and able people than politicians, therefore direction of public policy and supply of services should largely be ceded to them from government.

    Under that view, Mr Clegg could be seen as Mrs Thatcher without Clause 28. That is, as sharing the economic views of the 1979-97 Conservative governments, but without the residual social conservatism of those governments.

    I think those of us who were worried about that had a right to be worried. Firstly because we didn’t want that sort of politics, and Mr Clegg hadn’t said enough to convince us it wasn’t where he wanted to take the party. Secondly because we thought the economy might just be in for an almighty crash, and it would be good if the party had positioned itself to be able to respond to that crash, rather than in taking and unquestioning attitude to the orthodoxies which were leading to it being seen as an ancillary to it.

    Recent events have forced Mr Clegg to clarify his position, and I think it rather clear that much of what he said in his conference speech would not have been said had the crash not yet happened.

    Those of us who were pushing Mr Clegg to clarify his position and make clear he was not “Mrs Thatcher without Clause 28” have been vindicated. It would have been better had some of those things been said presciently before it became more politically acceptable for them to be said, but nevertheless they have now been said. That vitriol is still being poured on us by the right-wing of the party for our insistence on these things being said is, rather sad.

  • “I am not a fan of the politics of David Laws who chaired that group, but I think he did a very good job.”

    You fought the Laws, and the Laws won?

  • ” … 1 front bench MP hinted that the public spending cuts may have to be funded by scrapping and not replacing Trident …”

    Now that is interesting.

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    We ALL "acknowledge we are leaving the EU now". It is a simple statement of fact. In the same way, we all acknowledge that Boris...