“Prime Minister David Cameron’s Liberal Democrat deputy has quietly emerged as the more successful Whitehall operator”

So writes Paul Goodman in the Daily Telegraph:

That Clegg persuaded his party to cohabit with the Conservatives is a tribute not only to his powers of persistence and his colleagues’ appetite for office, but also to the Coalition Agreement itself. Its importance can be over-stated. The Government has done things that aren’t in it, such as housing benefit cuts. And it won’t do things that are in it, such as postal ballots for primaries. But its carefully crafted terms, approved by a Liberal Democrat team apparently surprised by the co-operation of the Conservative one, achieved many of the party’s objectives. Planned Tory inheritance tax cuts were shelved, as was any EU renegotiation. It is perhaps futile to quibble about who won out, but one academic study has found that “the agreement was closer to the Liberal Democrat manifesto than to the Conservative one”, adding that “the Liberal Democrats’ achievements in the negotiations were impressive”.

But what may matter more than what the party gained – tax cuts for the lower paid, Lords reform, the AV referendum – is what it blocked, then and since: the repeal of the Human Rights Act, an end to the 50p rate, clear agreement on immigration control, Andrew Lansley’s original health reforms. Clegg’s role has been crucial. In public, he has disagreed with the Prime Minister about talking to extremists, NHS reform and – most recently – the Human Rights Act itself.

You can read the full piece here.

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  • Flattery will get you everywhere, if you pick on someone who is desperate for some praise.

  • A few choice quotes from Paul Goodman’s full piece:

    “While Tory dissenters, for example, have been dropped few crumbs from the Downing Street table, Liberal Democrat rebels have fared better. Consider the preposterous appointment of Simon Hughes as “Advocate for Access to Education”. ”

    “Yesterday, Nick Clegg returned to Tottenham, which he visited immediately after the riots. One can forgive him for not making a return trip to Birmingham, which he also ventured into during their aftermath: he left to cries of “go on, run, run, run”, as he steered a prudent return towards the safety of his ministerial car.”

    “(Clegg’s) one-man masochism strategy is also a marathon strategy, as he strains towards the day when voters will thank him, however begrudgingly, for his role in the great mission of deficit reduction. If they don’t, there’s always the EU. After all, he’s unlikely to press to be Mayor of Birmingham.”

  • exposing the NHS to competition law; allowing private companies to be paid to work on NHS commissioning; eroded political accountability for the health service; and money wasted on costly procurement procedures.Gee just as well he is such a great political operator.

  • billgave – they’d have done all that and a lot worse if they were in power alone
    Lot of Tories already hacked off that the Lib Dems are blocking things they want, when we only have a fraction of the parliamentary seats they do.

    Nice as it would be to stop everything we don’t like, voters chose a mostly Tory Parliament. It would be undemocratic of a minority party tail to wag the dog too much. However desirable that would be from our pov.

    And if our MPs ‘gang up’ with Labour to oppose everything, it would bring the whole thing down. Leading to a general election, followed by either: a Tory government able to rule without us and do as it liked; a return to Labour; or one or the other again obliged to see a coalition. Which Labour didn’t want in 2010.

    And the NHS reforms aren’t a done deal yet, AFIK. And the Lib Dems HAVE helped them down a bit already.

  • @Simon McGrath – it matters, I guess, if you’re an ideological purist. Thankfully the Lib Dems have not taken that approach, and as a result the lowest paid working people are seeing their taxes cut, pensioners are seeing guaranteed decent rises in their pensions, and schools with the most children from poor households will be getting lots more money. All of that is only happening thanks to Lib Dems being open-minded enough to work with people who are our traditional opponents.

  • Tony Greaves 1st Sep '11 - 2:28pm

    This article in the Torygraph will result in a lot of foaming at the mouth amongst both the retired colonels in their rural retreats and the modern wave of right-wing headbangers that make up the ranks of most younger Tory activists.

    ConHome will be fun.

    All good grist to the mill and to be encouraged. (By the way the basic assessment of Cleggy is right though the idea he might run away to Europe is silly nonsense.)

    Tony Greaves

  • I am deeply sceptical of simply working out who has had the greatest number of gains. Rather, I think it’s important to look at the qualitative value of each gain. For example, blocking the HR act amendments is a big win, the 50% tax rate is a small one (that was probably on the cards from a political/populist point either way), while the NHS reforms is a big loss.

    Point being, perhaps stop aiming for lots of small wins, and aim for a few more big ones. AV should have been a big one, and hopefully Lords’ Reform will be.

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