Preview of Clegg’s interview with GMTV

Nick Clegg has been interviewed by Steve Richards for this Sunday’s GMTV, as Chris Huhne was last week.

I’ve been sent the full transcript, and it looks, on first reading, like the first real stumble by Nick in his campaign so far. Judge for yourselves below, as I’ve filleted some of the key passages. Of course, what won’t come across when you read it is Nick’s emphasis or body language – which might make his meaning clearer, and his performance more impressive. After all, politicians are judged not just by what they say, but also how they say it.

The real question, as James Graham has already noted in his preview, is why Nick didn’t have a much clearer answer ready for the obvious question, ‘How do you pay for your pupil premium?’ Because ‘Er, yes, there’s a black hole’ just ain’t good enough.

Other issues covered below include:

– whether he was attacking Chris Huhne by saying the party needed to communicate better its ‘green tax switch’ proposals;
– whether the campaign has got nasty; and
– is he going to win the contest?

Also covered in the full interview – this Sunday, 9 am – are questions to Nick about the Government’s proposals for increasing the number of days suspects can be detained without charge, and on a referendum for the European Reform Treaty.

Interview transcript extracts follow:

Steve Richards: So just to be clear about [the pupil premium], if you become leader you will propose that schools in more affluent areas lose some of their budget so poorer schools can have more.

Nick Clegg: Let me be very clear. What I’m proposing is – the figure is £2.5 billion extra – extra! – there’s no taking away money from the current school budget whatsoever. Extra money, which will be allocated directly to those children. Not in terms of the areas where they live but to them, and then, if you like, the school which is educating those children gets that double amount of money in order that they can have smaller class sizes, particularly at primary school level. ….

SR: And where would that money come from? It’s a big additional spending commitment.

NC: I agree. £1.5 billion will come from taking above average families out of the tax credit system altogether. And we’ll take that £1.5 billion out of the tax credit system, or at least we’ll take families on above average income out of the tax credit system, use that money to give to the kids from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. That leaves a gap of a million… of a billion, sorry, and it would be one of the first things I would do as a leader to say to the party that we will have to find that extra billion, so that the total sum of £2.5 billion is a fixed pledge by the time we go to the country in the next general election.

SR: You’d accept that you’ve got a black hole there. You haven’t found where the money’s going to come from, the other billion.

NC: Er, yes, but I mean there are other ideas. For instance there are other ideas, I mean for instance I’ve also this week been floating ideas for how I think we should introduce a 10% tax on the non-domestic earnings of so-called ‘non-doms’. In that particular case that raises about £1 billion. I would like that to go to alleviate the burden of Council Tax on those in Band A and band B properties, those on the lower rung of the property ladder, if you like. But it’s just an example of where we can be creative in trying to find that extra money in order to fulfil that pledge, and I’m absolutely confident that we will under my leadership make that fixed pledge by the next general election.

SR: By one way or another taxing the better off, presumably. Because it has to come from somewhere.

NC: Yes, er well no, hang on, or, sorry…

SR: You said yes, so tax increase?

NC: No, no, let me correct that. I think there is plenty of scope to cut back on some of the waste in government, some of the duplication in government. I think there is a strong case to look at how government expenditure’s been duplicated in many areas. Everybody is familiar with the general degree of waste in public expenditure in the last few years, so I have given you if you like a fluctuating answer precisely because I think that I’m not fixed in my own mind about where that money would come from, but absolutely confident that with political will that money will be found.

SR: While we’re on schools, your opponent Chris Huhne has asked you a very direct question. He hints, or suspects, that you have been interested in the idea of school vouchers and wants you to say unequivocally, one way or another, are you for the introduction of school vouchers as part of letting schools go and forming their own relationship with parents, or are you against?

NC: I’m against vouchers. I’ve never mentioned vouchers in my life and I have told Chris this on several occasions personally.

[…]

SR: … Chris Huhne when he was here last week … was quite specific, he said that you had claimed that the party had not done enough on the environment, and he actually came up with endless statistics to show how much he had personally done on the environment. Was he right to pick up the fact that you were criticising him on this or wrong?

NC: My feeling is that many party members in the Liberal Democrats are anxious about why it is that our leadership on policy, on setting out detailed policies about how we protect the environment, how we move to a zero carbon economy, doesn’t seem to be translated into real political leadership on this. Why is it that David Cameron appears to have stolen such a march without any substantive proposals on the environment? Why is it that the green agenda has been hijacked by this very superficial appeal from Cameron? I think that is a very serious political question. It’s certainly not directed personally at Chris. It’s an issue for the party as a whole…

SR: There are clearly many advantages for you and your party in having two candidates battle the contest out. The last one candidates were dropping out and all sorts of silly things going on. There is potentially one disadvantage: it gets all a bit intense and nasty when there are just two of you. Are you a bit worried about that?

NC: Well I’m seeking to avoid it altogether. As I’m trying explain to you here, I think there are big crises facing Britain. Why don’t we have a more liberal, socially mobile society. Why are people so fearful? Why do people feel so powerless in their everyday lives? Why is the environmental cause not resonating with those people who don’t care about… All of these issues, I keep returning to those themes. I’m going to keep returning…

[…]

SR: Can I finally ask, you’ve been travelling the country, presumably you have a better idea of this than most – are you going to win it?

NC: I hope I will – but it’s still early days, the contest will go on for a long period of time. I get the impression people are responding very well to above all my sense of ambition for the party. I’m just passionate about what I think are the really positive prospects for the Liberal Democrats but to do that, we need to unite, that’s why I’m so pleased that I’ve got the vast majority of my members in the parliamentary party who work with Chris and myself most closely, onside. We’ve got to create a renewed sense of unity, we’ve had a rocky time in the parliamentary party over the last couple of years, and create a renewed sense of excitement that the liberal democrats are the gathering point in British politics for anyone who wants a different kind of politics, going beyond the old left-right, stale two-party politics of Westminster.

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36 Comments

  • ralph pryke 9th Nov '07 - 5:17pm

    The GMTV programme is scheduled for 6-7.00am on ITV1. Usually it’s repeated on ITV2 almost immediately after the ITV1 airing (although I can’t see it on Aol’s online schedules this week)

  • I am undecided at the moment, but I would urge Nick not to go down the road of promising to fund spending commitments by cutting waste – it always denotes shallow thinking in my view.

  • Alex – have a look at the Guardian – this is definitely a stumble, and of the kind the Lib Dems can’t afford to make.

    Ralph – Chris will be fine in Eastleigh.

  • Martin Land 9th Nov '07 - 7:32pm

    Hardly a ‘Kennedy’ moment…

  • Sarah Ludford 9th Nov '07 - 9:08pm

    I don’t see that Clegg has ‘stumbled’, he just said there are various option for raising £1 billion.

    I am getting very fed up with Chris Huhne’s tactics which are frankly starting to look like smears. Again in his campaign email today Chris says “I’ve already made plain that I don’t go along with those Lib Dem MPs who propose American-style school vouchers or replacing the NHS with privatised health insurance”. Chris, you should name ‘those MPs’ and give chapter and verse of what words of theirs you rely on to claim that they propose these things, or alternatively stop making such accusations. Nick has made clear umpteen times – and again in this excerpt from the GMTV interview – that what he talked about in his newspaper interviews was not school vouchers but the party’s ‘pupil premium’ policy and you know that very well. Stick to positive messages about yourself. We do not want to end up after this contest with bad blood in the party because of nasty tactics.

  • Come on….wake up…how short are your memories? Look what happened when Charles couldn’t get his figures right.. he was humiliated…he at least had the excuse of a newborn son…what’s Nick’s excuse? I thought he was the ‘great communicator’?

    I am also incredibly fed up by the nonsense being put out by the Clegg team that every statement by Huhne is in some way a ‘smear’, whereas Clegg is just being ‘honest’.

    Sarah, your call for positive messages in the same comment as you talk about smears is truely ironic!

  • “Chris, you should name ‘those MPs’ and give chapter and verse of what words of theirs you rely on to claim that they propose these things, or alternatively stop making such accusations.”

    Seconded.

  • Geoffrey Payne 9th Nov '07 - 11:12pm

    It was clearly a stumble because he was vague about how to fund the policy.
    It is precisely the kind of question that we will be asked as a party during a general election campaign and there is no excuse for not having a good answer. It is one of the first things you have to think about if you make a committment to increase public spending.
    It is similar on the matter of defence; we want to invest in our overstreched armed forces AND Nick Clegg wants to replace Trident. Where is the money coming from?
    My fear is that the Lib Dems will be forced to make cuts in the public sector, not to improve the public sector but because they need to do cost cutting in order to reallocate funds. The Tories are going for the disabled who claim benefits, I wonder if we will too?

  • Steve Comer 10th Nov '07 - 2:12am

    I’m afraid this just shows how unconvincing Nick Clegg can be. This is a major policy, and you have to make sure you know your subject – and how much plans will cost.

    An what about Nick’s quote about ‘in ten years we must breakthrough’ etc. Didn’t Grimond say that in 1956? Sorry Nick this is empty recycled rhetoric.

  • Daniel Bowen 10th Nov '07 - 2:21am

    I look forward to seeing the interview. But not at 6am Sunday… how can most of us see it?

  • On the substantive point, in the scheme of the annual national budget £1bn is peanuts – it’s quite literally lost in the roundings in Treasury forecasts. Indeed the Treasury can’t predict corporation tax receipts to within £10bn, let alone £1bn.

    However politically it’s useful to be able to say “we’re funding X by savings on Y or taxing Z” or whatever. As it happens, our costings are very much on the prudent side and we haven’t taken credit for some of the smarter tax policies in our last paper, so I’m not overly worried about funding the odd billion here and there.

    But the pupil premium is existing party policy and it’s the job of Vince and the Treasury team to set out convincingly what our narrative is on how we pay for it.

  • On the ‘spin’, I have to agree with Linda Jack, Sarah Ludford, Valerie & co that Chris’ not-so-subtle attacks on Nick are unhelpful, unwise and unfounded. I backed Chris last time and campaigned for him but have found his divisive approach this time very disappointing 🙁

  • Daniel Bowen 10th Nov '07 - 11:12am

    17 Pot and kettle, Dominic. The issues of vouchers etc. are highly important in the public services debate, not just within the Party. It’s helpful to have a candidate who knows where they stand on this. It would be even more helpful if both were clear. Maybe the hustings will tease this out.

  • Am with Sarah. I lean toward Nickanyway, but backed Chris last ime and was impressed with his ideas and drive. I was really taken aback at the Cardiff hustings though when he talked about our not needing ‘David Cameron’s stunt double’ and our need to avoid becoming ‘Britain’s third conservative party’. If nothing else, these images will come back to haunt us, Labour will make sure of that now if Nick wins.

    The Trident thing put the tin-lid on it though – why raise it other than to divide when we have a perfectly reasonable policy (at least one that just about everyone sees as a step in the right direction).

  • 12. Geoffrey is there ANY issue for you that doesn’t come down to Trident?

  • Has Nick changed his mind about the NHS since these comments then?

    http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article313546.ece

    I can see the Labour leafets now …

  • simon wilson 10th Nov '07 - 2:53pm

    I too agree with Sarah and co. I have been disappointed by the nature of some of Chris’ rhetoric.

  • Steve Comer 10th Nov '07 - 6:49pm

    The complaints about Chris Huhne’s rhetoric from the Clegg clan really do take the biscuit.

    Clegg syupporters have been saying that their man is ‘good on the media’, is ‘appealing to those outside the party’ etc. It seems the tactic is to keep repeating this, in the hope people believe it.

    I saw both candidates on ITV West last week, and it was Clegg who was doing all the negative comments.

  • In our party David Laws has certainly suggested European style social insurance, but Nick’s comments seem to be very similar to those of Chris – make it local. (Interestingly, none of our Shadow Health people have done much with the idea since then).

    The only person – to the best of my knowledge – who has suggested school vouchers should be usable in private schools is Vince, and no-one rushed to agree with him, or even appeared to agree with him privately.

    But yes, it would be nice to have Nick’s categorical answer. Chris has said that he is for democratic local control (if you are on his team) or (if you don’t agree with him on this) that no matter how bad your local schools, if you can’t afford to go private, you have to lump it: you voted for the council and that is it.

    Dominic is right that in govt £1bn is within a rounding error. But equally I was surprised that Nick did not announce a £1.5bn pupil premium. We have worked out how to fund that by cutting welfare benefits to the affluent. That is a good and costed policy. Why muddy it by adding £1bn you don’t have? Can there be much political mileage in having a £2.5bn rather than a £1.5bn pupil premium?

  • Richard Church 11th Nov '07 - 7:59am

    I dragged myself out of bed at 6am this morning to watch this interview.

    No way was there any blunder. Anybody watching it would be clear that Nick advocates a £2.5 billion pupil premium fund, has identified £1.5 billion and wants to find the remaining £1 billion by the next election. It is a strong policy, well articulated, which can give us the lead in education which we haven’t had since Paddy’s penny on income tax.

    Nick also catagorically rejected vouchers, as he has done at hustings. The Huhne campaign have an answer to their question. Perhaps they will now stop asking it, and Chris can stop references to what ‘some Lib Dem MP’s’ might or might not be advocating.

    Both sides could trawl through their lists of supporters and come up with some whacky policy proposals to pin on their opponents.

  • 23. David Laws proposed a *social* insurance scheme for health (i.e. compulsory, progressive rates etc., as used by much of Europe.)

    No one has ever proposed ‘privatised health insurance’ or ‘American-style’ insurance, which is what Chris’ emails say.

  • Sarah Ludford 11th Nov '07 - 10:53pm

    I can hardly believe my ears. Huhne has yet again said, this time on Radio 4 Westminster Hour this evening, that Clegg left 2 journalists with the impression that he supported vouchers. The journalists seem to have just not understood pupil premium, in which the money goes to the school, as opposed to vouchers which go the the child/parent. The fact is that both journalists have confirmed to Nick that he did not use the word, and the Clegg campaign have written to Huhne to ask him to stop making ridiculous false assertions.

    Huhne in these circumstances is simply acting maliciously and I am genuinely disgusted that he feels he has to resort to this.

  • All this stuff about attempts by one to “smear” the other are highly superficial. What matters is who is going to put across the more coherent and attractive message. I worry about Clegg under interviewing pressure – all the furrowed brow and the “Hang on – that’s not what I’m trying to say” stuff. Huhne looks and sounds a lot better under fire.

  • With the best will in the world, “Yes, er well no, hang on, or, sorry…” doesn’t come across well as a response to a question about the party’s taxation policy.

    Unfortunately Chris Huhne’s policy on nuclear weapons comes across as equally incoherent.

    I think these are symptoms of inexperience, and the party seems to have inexplicably got itself into the position of having to decide between two extremely inexperienced candidates – despite having the largest parliamentary party in living memory to choose from.

  • I got up early to watch the interview as well and thought Clegg came across as shakey and unsure. Steve Richards is no Paxman, but he managed to make Clegg look unconfident and nervous.

    This idea of ‘Communicator Clegg’ really is the urban myth of 2007.

    The contrast with the interview on GMTV with Huhne the week before was quite striking. Huhne came across as confident and assured in comparison.

  • cgp says “Unfortunately Chris Huhne’s policy on nuclear weapons comes across as equally incoherent” How so? At the risk of repeating my contribution to an earlier debate ….
    Bearing in mind the long timescale and the forthcoming 2010 negotiations Chris is sensibly not yet committing himself as to what should replace Trident. His preferred option if feasible is not replacing it with another so-called independent nuclear deterrent at all but mutilateralism means that he retains the possibility of a scaled down deterrent meeting the different needs of today and the foreseeable future. He is ruling out here and now a Trident-type deterrent. Could I hear please from any Lib Dem member the case for renewing a fleet of appallingly expensive submarines permanently prowling the world’s oceans and with multi missiles targeted on ……….?

  • Neither candidate really has the radical plan !Judging by the clowns running clegg to win and Huhne’s continual attack mode, we have a classroom battle to be prefect rather than a contest to be leader.

  • Denis wrote:
    “Could I hear please from any Lib Dem member the case for renewing a fleet of appallingly expensive submarines permanently prowling the world’s oceans and with multi missiles targeted on ……….?”

    I think, for consistency’s sake, you have to present the case for a “scaled down deterrent”, targeted on ………?

  • Fair enough cgp, which is why much the best option emerging from 2010 would be the removal of nuclear weapons from our soil but we are entitled to seek something in return from other nuclear nations – that is the essence of multilateralism. We need to work towards reducing (some day eliminating?) nuclear weapons across the world.
    As I see it Chris is saying that we can at least state now that Trident or anything like it is not even on the table. This gives a lead in the right direction and releases substantial funding for much needed improvements for our troops.

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