Opinion: What should the new leader do in his first 100 days? #6

Five Lib Dems have so far taken up the challenge to tell Nick Clegg what he should do in his first hundred days: Paul Walter, Linda Jack, David Morton, Mary Reid and Mark Valladares. Now we turn to Simon Titley…

The previous contributors to this series have bombarded the new leader with laundry lists of demands without setting out clear, objective criteria for their choices.

And that’s the problem. Everyone will want a piece of Nick Clegg. He will face persistent and conflicting demands from the party, from parliament, from constituents, from the media, from lobbyists, from Uncle Tom Cobbley and all. Not to mention the more reasonable expectations of his wife, family and friends.

So I have one simple piece of advice for Nick. Take a copy of the party constitution, turn to the preamble and read these words:

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.

This is not just a fine statement of the twin values of liberalism and social justice. It is also a statement of intent.

Now, have this extract from the preamble blown up on a large sheet of paper and stick it to your office wall. And each day, judge every demand on your time with this question:

“Will this use of my scarce time and resources contribute towards the achievement of our party’s basic goals?”

What else has any point?

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  • David Morton 24th Dec '07 - 12:43pm

    I think this is the best piece of advice so far. We have become to managerial at best a “Cult of Focus” at Worst. Put philosophy at the centre of things is a good start.

  • As just an ordinary baby boomer with no strong political affiliations (was a labour voter once, have voted libdem, have never voted tory but could just about imagine doing so)it seems to me that Clegg and the Libdems have everything to play for at present. Labour under the clumsy Stalinist Brown – what worse combination could there be than an incompetent control freak? – are losing credibility with the electorate by the day.

    The challenge for Clegg is to build the libdems into a credible alternative – a party that people will believe would be competent in power if we elected them

    I have no idea how he can achieve that given that none of his cabinet have run anything like government department in their lives. Perhaps he needs to steal a few middle-of-the road defectors from new labour and, perhaps, the tories?

    That would get everyone’s attention. There must be a few candidates on the labour front benches – people who realise their only way of staying in parliament post 2009 is to switch parties.

    This would be just a touch radical, assuming it’s even feasible, but I think Clegg needs to be seriously radical if he’s to succeed. I think he has to be innovative, and be innovative in ways that labour and tory can’t copy.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Dec '07 - 11:29am


    Taking in defectors who are just trying to save their jobs would look opportunistic. As for “middle of the road”, Liberals have a distinct vision of society, we are not just “in between”.

    I do think local government experience, which some of our MPs have had, is a good way of getting some understanding of how organisations work and of removing the fluffy idealism which some politicians who haven’t had “real world” experience have. Leading a major council is surely as much useful experience in this line as holding a minor ministerial post.

    Perhaps we need also to recall that when the Blair government came to power in 1997, it was so long since the last Labour government that few of his ministers had had any government experience.

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