New Torygraph smears against Nick, as Hennessy hits a hat-trick

‘Nick Clegg – no more Government business please after 3pm’ squeals the Torygraph today, delighted that they have managed to link their three favourite things in one story: (1) Having a pop at Nick Clegg (check); (2) Having a pop at the Coalition (check); and (3) Having a pop at ‘political correctness gawn mad’ (check).

If you read the story by the paper’s reliably on-right-wing-message Patrick Hennessy — and it’s almost worth it to see a political editor in full reactionary cry — a few facts become clear. First, that the 3pm deadline refers to the Whitehall practice of ‘closing’ a ministerial red box, and has absolutely nothing to do with the hours Nick works.

Secondly, that the request from Nick’s office is unexceptional. As even Mr Hennessy reluctantly concedes in his article, “It is normal for boxes to be closed early on Fridays as most ministers head home to their constituencies then.”

Thirdly, that it’s simply an efficiency measure put in place by Nick’s newly-bolstered office designed, as a spokesman makes clear, to be ‘a general guide for routine submissions from other Whitehall departments to allow our office to work on them before putting them in the box’.

And fourthly, that if there’s any matter urgent that requires Nick’s urgent attention after 3pm it will reach him: his spokesman again, ‘Our private office takes a pragmatic and flexible approach where our office works with others across Whitehall to ensure that urgent submissions can be put in to the DPM’s box at a later time. This is no different from the system used by other private offices across the Government.’

So, nothing to see here, folks…

Unless you want vague insinuations from the Torygraph about Nick’s stress levels, or predictable right-wing nonsense that the Lib Dem policy of increased paternity leave is just pandering to political correctness. In which case, gorge away.

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  • Poppie's mum 30th Jan '11 - 4:02pm

    Hmm, methinks though doth protest to much.

    What can’t be denied is Clegg’s puffy tired face, and his grumpy defensive self pitying comments over the last few months.

    He doesn’t look or act like a man who is on top of things and the electorate have picked that up.
    That’s why, along with his U turns and propping up an ever increasingly dislike and untrusted government, his personal polling has dropped so badly as well as Lib Dem polling intention.

    He himself fuels the rumours and allegations of stress and not coping well by coming out with embarrassingly ludicrous rubbish like his recent ‘Alarm Clock Coalition’ big idea. Clegg is a figure of fun, nearly every cartoon or comedian likens him to a poodle, quisling or worse.

    Only someone with no self awareness or conscience would be untouched psychologically by the situation he’s created for himself.

  • Depressed Ex Lib Dem 30th Jan '11 - 4:11pm

    Secondly, that the request from Nick’s office is unexceptional. As even Mr Hennessy reluctantly concedes in his article, “It is normal for boxes to be closed early on Fridays as most ministers head home to their constituencies then.”

    The article certainly does NOT say the request is unexceptional. On the contrary, it says “Whitehall experts said they had never heard of a similar example of a minister packing up so early.”

  • Stephen – I have to agree with Poppie’s Mum.

    Why would you feel the need to defend the Dear Leader over this? If you responded every time someone in the media called Cleggy-poos nasty names you’d need web-servers the size of Mars. I would have thought his newly-bolstered office would be capable of defending him anyway.

    If LDV wasn’t such a breeding ground for Coalition Cultists, you might actually agree that the man looks and sounds completely wrecked by the whole experience of being in Coalition with the Tories. Stopping at 3pm is the least of his worries. Being completely torn apart day in, day out by the ravages of his Coalition agreement is his biggest problem.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 30th Jan '11 - 4:24pm

    Is anyone really interested in how many hours Nick works?

    I recall an occasion during my past employment when the unit I was employed in was “enjoying ” a visit from a senior director. In the course of the conversation, one of my colleagueswas foolish enough to say “we’re all working hard … “. To which the great man responded, “I don’t give a f…. whether you’re working hard; are you being effective?”.

    Is Nick being effective or is he completely out of his depth?

  • Poppie's mum 30th Jan '11 - 4:39pm

    Nick[not Clegg]@

    Clegg is not effective & completely out of his depth.
    The sooner he wakes up and realises his delusions of being a great reformer and freeing us from the tyranny of outdated squirrel laws are just that, delusions, the sooner we will be able to start saving our NHS, forests, and public services.

    Elsewhere on LDV it mentions the date when the non existent ID cards are scrapped.
    How many real people do you hear cheering about that outside of the Lib Dem cabal, ?
    The real issues that face people are the inevitablity of NHS waiting times lengthening, hernia, cataract and hip ops not available on the NHS, double dip recession heading our way, soaring food inflation and fuel bills, jobs under threat.

    Wake up Lib Dems please. Understand what freedom really means.

  • “This weekend a Lib Dem colleague said: ‘Nick is a bit fragile, and needs a lot of rest and time off. He needs to take regular breaks and we need to look after him.

    This, I think, is the most important revelation. Somebody in the party is briefing against Clegg to The Telegraph.

    Never minds accusations of right wing smears, the fact is someone within your own ranks is undermining the deputy PM. All is not well.

  • We’re all in this together. Except Nick who is “fragile” at the moment.

    I thought the comments about Clegg was the most interesting – as opposed to the time he packs up.

  • ps didn’t they say the same things about Charles Kennedy’s problems shortly before he was stabbed in the back.

  • Poppie's mum 30th Jan '11 - 5:10pm

    [email protected]

    Let’s hope the knives are being sharpened for Clegg by those around him who see sense.

    I would not consider voting Lib Dem, at council, Welsh Assembly or Westminster again until Clegg is ousted.
    It was mistrust of him and the Orange Book leadership that stopped me voting Lib Dem at the last minute in May.
    My instincts were 100% correct.

  • I’m going to uncharacteristically come to Clegg’s defence here. I often set early cut off points to encourage people to get information in to me at a reasonable point. As a good example our company expenses cut off leaves a day to allow the late comers to catch up. If it didn’t half of them would miss their payments.

    An earlier general cut off in an understaffed office allows them to hold less important late material over and concentrate only on important briefs that come in after this time.

  • Depressed Ex Lib Dem 30th Jan '11 - 5:44pm

    “Can I point out that in every DPM questions I have ever seen and every PM questions that he covers, Nick is fully briefed.”

    You must have missed the ones where he screwed up – either on points of fact or by forgetting that he was meant to be speaking for the government – and had to issue corrections afterwards.

  • Paul McKeown 30th Jan '11 - 5:57pm

    I would say ‘g’ could possibly be correct, though. After all, weren’t there rumours that it was an LD that might have briefed against David Laws? In general, I have been impressed by the LD’s in Parliament, whether from the right, left or centre of the party, making the best of a difficult situation. They certainly seem to have understood the imperative to hang together or hang apart. If there is an offside snide in their midst, they really should sort that character out. Internal issues should be sorted out by agreement – after brutal disagreement if necessary – but in private, not by briefing behind backs. The voting public can forgive politicians for tough decisions taken, but find it harder to reward dirt, dishonesty and divided parties.

  • Simon McGrath 30th Jan '11 - 5:59pm

    The really important bit is:A Lib Dem colleague said: “Nick is a bit fragile, and needs lots of rest and time off.”
    who is briefing against him? No friend of the party certainly.
    @poppies mum can you explain what you think the Coalition can do about rising food and fuel prices?

  • Eddie Holbert 30th Jan '11 - 6:47pm

    I’m with @Poppie’s Mum on this one. Clegg’s self-pitying is frankly embarrassing. One instance comes to mind, where he was on C4 news and did nothing but blame Labour for *everything*, six times in the same interview. Yes, I counted. He also went on to say “people will blame me for the bad weather next.” It’s not a good reflection on our party when we have a leader who goes down to self-pity so easily. And I fear the public is getting sick of us blaming everything on Labour – they did plenty of good as well as bad while in office. I simply don’t think Clegg is up to the job. He can’t handle the fact that he is now very unpopular and seeks to blame anyone but him and his policies for this. It’s always the public’s fault…we didn’t “understand” the tuition fees issue and now we’re told we don’t “understand” the NHS privitisation, sorry, reforms. We need to get rid of Clegg ASAP if we have any hope of being anything but a laughing stock with 5 MPs come 2015. We simply cannot let this man self-pity us into olblivion.

  • Paul McKeown 30th Jan '11 - 6:54pm

    Could I just suggest to “The Voice” that giving flimsy knocking articles like this the oxygen of publicity on a supposedly pro Lib Dem website, just invites those who don’t like Lib Dems the opportunity to say, “I told you so,” et cetera. The article was empty of real content: surely ignoring it is a vastly more sensible policy.

  • @Stephen Tait

    If this was all happening anyway why did Clegg’s office need to send an email to everyone. Either he’s the only one now doing it or was the only one not doing it before.

    Looks to me as though Mr Alarm Clock needs some new batteries 🙂

  • I don’t think anyone can deny that Clegg looks very very stretched. There were comments before he went on the Xmas break that he needed a rest or was looking forward to a rest I seem to remember and again I’m sure the source was unattributed.

    There’s no doubt that only a PM can ever know the pressures of that office – but they are obviously immense. I’m not sure that Nick as Deputy is where the real heat is coming from.

    I think it’s the fact that he has become one of the most hated and despised public figures in Britain – how does his wife cope with that let alone Clegg – and also that his party is turning to dust.

    The figures on membership and finance must be horrendous and then there’s the poll results and the elections coming up in May which will finally torpedo him. He may limp along for a bit but MPs who have tasted Ministerial Power seldom ever want to give it up voluntarily. They know he is become an electoral liability and that’s why he will be knifed from within.

    And I haven’t even mentioned the AV referendum.

    The sad thing is that I don’t actually believe that he started out as a bad person – I do believe Cameron has conned him rotten and promised him the Cosmos and all he is left with is the melt-down of his party and public support and I’m sure he’s asking himself where it all went wrong.

    However he started we are now left with what he has become and that is a danger to the poor and weak in Britain and every working person in the UK by attacking their right to employment protection. He has become if not yet a Tory then certainly one of their creatures.

  • I see no Iceberg 31st Jan '11 - 2:05am

    Would this be the same Nick Clegg who briefed against Ming calling him “mediocre, hesitant and disorganised” ?

    You should recognise the sound of knives being sharpened Mr Clegg as you yourself were one of those who did the sharpening behind Ming’s back.

    What goes around comes around.

  • I think if the briefing had been by anyone significant, the Telegraph would have described it as “a senior colleague,” because they always like to indicate if they’ve got a good source.

    Re. the actual email – I agree with Steve Way that it’s a pretty sensible arrangement. Important things still get through. We need more sensible working practices like this, not fewer.

  • Poppie's mum 31st Jan '11 - 9:53am

    [email protected]

    Last month a ‘senior Lib Dem’ was reported to have said Clegg faced a nrevous breakdown.

    We, the voters can see that Clegg is a man under stress.
    The problem is, he seems to be under stress for the wrong reasons.

    You or I, in the current climate for employment would probably be given a kick up the rear by our boss if we weren’t coping.

    The irony is, under coalition proposals, we’d get the sack without any chance of going to a tribunal if we’d been employed less than a two years. But Clegg appears to get special treatment.

    [ps re the comment posted by LibDemVoice staff above. Are you really saying that you want an anodyne safe comments site just for a cultish brainwashed few ? I’ve never seen an abusive or obscene comment, angry ones yes, ones very critical of Clegg & the leadership. How can you defend an overzealous moderating policy with the site’s constant squawking about freedom and liberty ?]

  • Poppie's mum 31st Jan '11 - 9:58am

    Jim [email protected]

    Were you concerned when the media were reporting unproven stories about Gordon Brown, calling him mentally unstable, on medication etc ?

    Or is it only a case of slur and misinformation when it affects one’s own party ?

  • Matthew Huntbach 31st Jan '11 - 11:12am

    Last month a ‘senior Lib Dem’ was reported to have said Clegg faced a nervous breakdown.

    If this really is the case, I am very sorry for him, but I am not surprised. I have attacked him relentlessly ever since he burst on the scene being promoted (mainly by the right-wing press, but also by others who ought to know better) as “obviously the next leader of the Liberal Democrats”, but I sincerely would not wish him any personal harm of this sort.

    I felt, right from the start, that he was a decent man, but naive and easily led, not much of a creative political thinker, lacking in experience in real hard-nosed politics, and over-promoted for the same reason that many others of his social background are – because society is run by people of that background, they tend to think often unconsciously that someone like that is the best leadership material, and there are many others too who are taken in by the looks, sounds, self-confidence and mannerisms which come from that background.

    When the leadership election happened, I felt so much that we needed someone completely different to lead us. It was so difficult to get that across and the reasons why I felt that so strongly, without it seeming to be an attack on him as a person or due to some sort of prejudice on my part. He has made mistake after mistake after mistake since then, but I do not think it is because he is a bad person, I do not even think he is consciously part of a right-wing plot to destroy the Liberal Democrats as our party used to be, though I think he may well be being used by people who are consciously using him in that way. If he is finding this stressful to the point of being damaged in this way by it, then I will take that as a sign that underneath he is a decent man, who has been used or is just out of his depth.

    It’s a very difficult situation for the party, as we found out with Mr Kennedy, to have someone at the top who is experiencing serious personal problems which are exacerbated by his being there. Sentiment and the fear of the short-term damage it would cause, mean measures to move the person out are not taken until well after they ought to have been taken.

    Others will know how true these rumours are, if they are just unfounded hearsay, well, if I am give positive proof of that I shall carry on attacking the man as before. If there is some truth in them, the party needs to be planning for what is then necessary to move forward without him at the top.

    I myself since the general election have made a careful distinction between defending the formation of the coalition, and defending the way the party had been led since its formation, as I believe these are two entirely separate issues. Both those at the top of the party and our opponents have good reasons to try and get them melted together so the two cannot be separated. It seems to me that the way forward for our party is to establish more clearly a recognition of the distinction between these two things. To get this done properly it would be better it Mr Clegg were to step down gracefully, and if his leadership position is causing serious personal stress, that would, I think, be the best option for him and the party.

  • I’m sure they could all do with a break. What I think this is, though, is that recently Clegg has been gaining a reputation for The One With The Guts, and this is just a fairly unsubtle attempt to counter that and make him out to be The One On the Verge of a Breakdown.

  • “it would be better it Mr Clegg were to step down gracefully,”

    While I think this would be best for the libdems as a political movement, it would destroy your chances of being taken seriously by the main electorate again. After Kennedy, Campbell ousted (whether fairly or not) having another leader with personality flaws would make it really easy for the red tops to undermine the next.

    Unfair of me to pick one line out of your excellent post, but this really is a problem with no easy resolution.

  • @Poppie’s Mum: Yes, boo hoo for Gordon Brown too, I felt so bad for him too, being subject of a smear campaign must have been terrible. If only he had some PR advisors to keep the media in line, or something. Oh wait, you mean *Gordon Brown*?

  • the right wing telegraph hates clegg,the right wing murdoch papers love clegg. its a strange world.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 1st Feb '11 - 2:04pm

    According to today’s “Daily Mail” some 97% of the 200,000 new posts created since the economy came (allegedly) out of recession were part time. Perhaps Clegg’s was on of them.

  • Ed The Snapper 2nd Feb '11 - 11:40pm

    If Nick Clegg is usffering severe stress problems then I am not surprised. He was once popular and now seems despised by large numbers of the electorate. He has supported policies that are resulting in unrest and seems to have been bamboozled into a coalition that he does not understand. I have no doubt that he is beginning to realise that people like George Osborne and David Cameron are not cuddly characters by any means. Nick Clegg strikes me as someone from a rather protected background who did not develop toughness by fighting his way to the forefront of politics. Maybe he has some core of beliefs but not strong enough beliefs to sustain him. But there is no need to feel sorry for him. Even if he turns out to be a total disaster as a politician, he will still retire as a multi-millionaire with cushy directorships and maybe even an easy life as unelected EU commissioner. Meanwhile, millions of workers will be dismissed with little recompense or compensation within the next 5 years.

  • I cannot actually believe what I am reading here. All those LibDem ‘supporters’ lining up to have a go at Clegg.
    There’s been several significant ‘wins’ for the liberals in this govt, such as pupil premium, raising the tax threshold, no cap on visas and the AV referendum. Even on tuition fees the Tories have had to concede on the terms that universities can increase their fees by forcing them to admit students from poorer backgrounds. Don’t think for one minute the Tories would have made such policies on their own. And what exactly would the Lib Dems achieve by staying in opposition with fifty odd MPs? Worthless point scoring once a week at PMQs as the Tories carry on regardless? Even at the height if cleggmania the electorate chose elsewhere. At least at the end if this parliament the party can say they made real policy, real change and actually saw some of their manifesto become govt policy. After coming a distant third in may 2010, you should be grateful for that – isn’t coalition about give and take? Progressive politics. So if the Lib Dems get a yes vote on AV, we can expect more of the same can we? In government as the junior partner, yet bemoaning their lot as they cannot have their own way all the time…

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