Some notes on Nick Clegg’s Breakfast TV performance this morning

Nick Clegg appeared on BBC Breakfast this morning. He was in Bristol handing out money as part of the drive to give greater powers to communities and cities.

I have a few words of unsolicited advice for him on his performance.

First up, I do get decentralisation. I’m a liberal. Of course I do. I am not, however, that happy about Nick’s rather melodramatic description of what he was doing as “Taking money out of the clammy hands of bureaucrats in Whitehall and giving it to local communities.” It’s the sort of hyperbolic language that we would rightly have a go at if it came from Farage. These people Nick sees in offices in Whitehall every day presumably take pride in their work and have feelings – and votes. The language is slightly reminiscent of the way he used to speak of our friends in the House of Lords – you remember, the “they just turn up and get £300” line when actually our lot were working their behinds off.  It’s a bit counter-productive. He actually had a half decent line that he didn’t really need to add to:

Every day in government I’ve been trying to end “Whitehall knows best” culture which has been holding country back for far too long.

Secondly, he needs to get his election message round the other way. When he’s talking about the things we’ve delivered that he’s proud of, like apprenticeships and pensions reform and the raising of the tax threshold, he’s really on it. When he’s doing the managerial stuff about balancing the books and cutting less than the Tories and borrowing less than Labour, whether or not he’s invoking body parts like heart and spine, he’s not quite as engaged. To be honest, neither are we. I appreciate that I’m not the target audience of this message, but, seriously, is there anybody in this country who punched the air over the Corn Flakes because we’re going to balance the books? I know that when you are not one of the major two parties, you have to show how you will moderate the others. It’s not rocket science. We should be showing where our heart is up front, though.

Another quick tip, too. Charlie Stayt had a bit of a go at him when he was talking about a fairer society. Nick was fine on that, saying that he wasn’t taking any pious lectures from the Labour party who only put up the top rate of tax for the last 15 days of their term. Why doesn’t he say, though, that one of the first things the Liberal Democrats insisted on was shoving Capital Gains Tax up by 10% for higher rate taxpayers. We haven’t made nearly enough of that.

All in all, he did fine, but I think a bit of fine tuning could make his message a lot more effective.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in News.
Advert

18 Comments

  • Stephen Donnelly 29th Jan '15 - 9:42pm

    Rich types who see their shares claim Entrepreneurs’ Relief, as do hard working type who have built a business from scratch, creating employment, and prosperity.

  • Though some distance from being NickClegg’s greatest fan, I was impressed by some of the soundbites he churned out this morning as being the responsibility of the Lib Dems rather than the Tories in government (the ‘localism’ stuff appeared ‘worthy but geeky’). My problem with Nick delivering this message is the sizable chunk of the audience who switch off before a word is spoken because of the substantial prejudices they have against him in respect of a variety of matters over the past four years.

  • Caron, the public don’t trust him. Whatever he says won’t change that.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jan '15 - 7:04am

    The problem is that Lib Dems are such a broad church that if he did up the passion a bit and launch into a blistering attack then he might hit some on his own side. He might also veer away from party policy.

    I think he’s doing OK. Sometimes I think that he needs to keep his pulse on public opinion a bit more in order to reduce mistakes. However, it is so much easier commenting with semi-privacy on here than doing what Clegg does.

    Everyone is entitled to their responses, but I found the response from people on here to the new Lib Dem party political broadcast unfair. It takes time to produce such pieces of work and he has a lot of people to please.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 30th Jan '15 - 8:07am

    David, he has delivered more of his priorities than most. Even if trust is more tricky, they may yet respect him.

  • I am sure Eddie is correct in what he says. However, we still have the trust issue, as David Evans says. As Caron knows, I take a considerably more “radical” view than her on this, but when she says “delivered more of HIS priorities than most” (my capitals), that may be correct, but those priorities conflict with many still in the party, and even more importantly, the vast majority of those who have left. It was never up to the Parliamentary Leader and a few cronies to change the character of the party and its rhetoric without a depth discussion with Conference and members. That was asking for trouble, and by golly he – and we – have got it!

  • When I said Eddie was correct, I meant in his description of Clegg hitting his own side and veering away from Party policy. He is very much in the minority in thinking the broadcast OK, and in thinking Clegg generally is “doing OK”.

  • I saw Clegg’s performance and was surprised to hear him claim that Labour will do “nothing” about the deficit. I had to check the Labour website to see if he knew something I didn’t.

    Now if Clegg had stood there and said that Labour are incompetent and will probably fail to cut the deficit, you could write that off as the usual stuff of tribal politics. But to actually tell viewers that Labour were purposefully planning not to even attempt to cut the deficit is just dishonest.

  • I think he did well. The odd thing I find is that I keep coming across people who say they like him – clearly just not people who feature in opinion polls (or I live in a liberal bubble!)

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 30th Jan '15 - 10:57am

    @tim13: “His” priorities were of course voted on by the Liberal Democrat conference and accepted as policy – on things like mental health, giving extra money to disadvantaged kids in school and the like. The raising of the tax threshold is an idea that’s been around for a long time in various guises and was voted on by Conference.

    If you look at Labour/Tory manifestos over the years, they didn’t keep their promises when they had a parliamentary majority, the treatment of Clegg by opponents and the media on this one issue is at best unfair.

  • matt (Bristol) 30th Jan '15 - 11:12am

    “When he’s doing the managerial stuff about balancing the books and cutting less than the Tories and borrowing less than Labour, whether or not he’s invoking body parts like heart and spine, he’s not quite as engaged. To be honest, neither are we”

    AGREE. I am not Nick’s biggest fan, but he has moments when he looks engaged, articulate, passionate and distinctive and he has a record to defend (at least, on the lines of ‘look what we did with our hands tied – BUT we would like to go FURTHER than this, if we continue to have a strong parliamentary presence – so vote for us’)

    And the party has at least a few clear ideas for what the future could look like with an increased or continuing LibDem participation in parliament.

    But no-one in the party or the country did orgasmic political backflips, surely, when ‘balancing the budget’ became our ‘big’ idea for this election?

  • Rabi Martins 30th Jan '15 - 11:24am

    I have no reason to doubt that Nick Clgg means it when he says ” Every day in government I’ve been trying to end “Whitehall knows best” culture which has been holding country back for far too long.”

    However I wonder how many of my colleagues in serving on Local Councils up and down the country will think Liberal Democrats in Government have helped put more power in the hands of Local Councils
    Speaking from my perspective as a Chair of Planning Committee I have seen nothing but a steady erosion of the ability of local planning authourities to control development in their towns. The steady stream of changes from DCLG
    have gone unchallenged by our Liberal Democrats ministers Localism ? What Localism ? To use just one example : DCLG introduced Permitted Develpment Rights which simply over ride Local Development Plans Elected representatives can now now longer pay regard to the harm some developments will cause to their neighbours and the wider environment Central Goverment has seen to that ! What did Nick and his team do to prevent it ? NOTHING!
    And only this week – even as Nick Clegg makes his boast about local power to local people on radio – DCLG have released plans to FORCE Councils to apply Local Development Orders(LDOs) and assign all Brownfield Sites for Housing whether Local Authorities consider some of these sites are better used for other purposes such as a schools or not The consultation? document makes it clear failure to do as DCLG commands will attarct severe penalties
    iIf Nick is serious about his claim he should come and voice his opposition to these proposals
    It seems to mean this Conservative led Coalition Govenment has completely abandoned the principal of Localism and that Liberal Democrats in Government have neither the will or the ability to do anything about it
    So much for Nick’s promise to challenge the ” THE WHITEHALL KNOWS BEST” culture
    And just for the record I speak as a Nick Clegg supporter !!!

  • Tony Greaves 30th Jan '15 - 11:41am

    I have not seen any of these things – I try not to see them in order to stay reasonably sane.

    All the parties have swallowed the nonsense about the deficit, forgetting all the lessons of history. It’s just that the Tories are nastier than the others and do it with enthusiasm rather than regret.

    Meanwhile the public services that were part of the raison d’etre of this party are being slowly destroyed (and in some cases ever faster). And we expect our activists and the voters to be happy?

    “Balancing the budget” – which the different parties seem to define differently but (apart from the Tories who are just mad) ever more vaguely – is a daft policy. It certainly won’t get people flocking to the polling stations, unless it’s to vote for someone else.

    Tony

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Jan '15 - 11:49am

    Caron Lindsay

    Of course I do. I am not, however, that happy about Nick’s rather melodramatic description of what he was doing as “Taking money out of the clammy hands of bureaucrats in Whitehall and giving it to local communities.” It’s the sort of hyperbolic language that we would rightly have a go at if it came from Farage.

    Indeed. “Clammy hands of bureaucrats in Whitehall” tends to be the sort of language used by economic right-wingers to suggest privatisation and semi-privatisation measures, handing things over to the clammy hands of the bankers and big business and 57 layers of control all designed to siphon off money through tax havens to make life more pleasant for the rich at the expense of everyone else. Maybe Clegg doesn’t think of it this way, but part of the problem is that he spends too much time mixing with people who do use that sort of language to mean just that sort of thing.

    So, how do you think talking about giving money “to local communities” comes across when the stark reality is that local government, as ever, has borne the brunt of government cuts? Sorry, but when is it going to click at the top? The sort of hyper-optimistic “it’s all wonderful” language that Clegg and those around him keep using to describe what they’ve been doing in government just winds people up and makes them angry when they know what the reality is. If you’ve lost your job or been hit by the impact of cuts, when a national politician comes along and tells you that he’s been handing out money to local communities and you should feel oh-so-grateful about that, are you inclined to have warm feelings towards him?

  • The big l*e about the deficit that nobody is nailing is the persistent claim by cameron and Osborne that they are sticking to a long term plan. They aren’t. They are winging it.

    They said that it was imperative to cut the deficit to zero over the life of one parliament. They have only cut it by one third. They have failed, partly because austerity acts to reduce tax recepits, but mainly because they quietly abandoned austerity, except in respect of their attack on the poor.

    At some point Osborne decided to wing it by promoting house price inflation as a means of pseudo-Keynesian stimulus. This has achieved a measure of economic revival at the cost of (or of course the Tories would say at the benefit of) increasing inequality. We might award Osborne five out of ten (better than eurozone stagnation). But it is NOT a long term plan!

    Cameron thinks he can win this election by contrasting his “long term plan” with Balls’s untrustworthiness. It’s bogus. Both of them are just winging it. Both are equally likely to, er, balls it up.

  • Poor Nick – When he finally makes a good point on devolution using visual and direct phraseology, which is how Farage is so effective, he gets it in the neck for hurting the feelings of bureaucrats in Whitehall. Sometimes we Liberals can be just too nice!

  • Simon McGrath 30th Jan '15 - 2:16pm

    @Rabi Martins “speaking from my perspective as a Chair of Planning Committee I have seen nothing but a steady erosion of the ability of local planning authourities to control development in their towns. The steady stream of changes from DCLG”
    Perhaps Nick is trying to get some traction on our policy of building 300,000 new homes a year?

  • SIMON BANKS 30th Jan '15 - 3:49pm

    This seems to have turned into a discussion of the last PPB. I thought the mood music went on a bit long, but the bit where a mysterious figure or figures, face unseen, was knocking at doors and then Nick Clegg appeared at an opened door and said his opening piece worked well and so did the voter comments. It went wrong when Nick was on his own. “The Tories are horrible and Labour is horrible on the other side, so you need us to make them slightly less horrible. Oh, and we’ll help people get on in life.” Pallid stuff. As for helping people get on in life, the way that phrase is commonly understood, it refers to self-advancement in education, career, business or social standing – so essentially materialistic and selfish, and offering nothing to either those whose careers have ended or those whose main interest is not self-advancement. OK, you can’t get much over in a few minutes, but who would see that and think the Liberal Democrats were a reforming, radical party tackling poverty and environmental degradation and offering hope?

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • Ruth Bright
    I liked what Daisy Cooper did about the D-Day/Rishi controversy. Reading from her Grandpa's war diary was high risk because it is so easy to sound mawkish - but...
  • Jenny Barnes
    "Every member will have had many communications by now asking them to prioritise their efforts in a specific seat." No, I haven't had any, let alone many....
  • nvelope2003
    Whatever the reason for the move to the right in some states maybe the British have seen where this leads and will reverse the trend here. One can but hope....
  • expats
    The Conservative manifesto launch was far more like the funeral for an unpopular corpse than a christening... Little about past achievements much on 'future sna...
  • Alex Macfie
    @Simon R: Comments like these are populist right-wing tropes: "The liberal left has become a shill for a failed EU establishment…" ...