Tag Archives: clegg+1

Opinion on Nick Clegg’s first anniversary: Mark Littlewood – A number of clouds, but some silver linings

Clegg’s first year: Clegg on Clegg | Tall on Clegg | Land on Clegg | Littlewood on Clegg | Clegg on YouTube

As Nick Clegg reaches his first anniversary as Liberal Democrat leader there is much for him to reflect on, but not – at least yet – a great deal for him to celebrate.

Let’s start with the bad stuff. Then look at some areas of success. And end with some grounds for genuine optimism.

The principal bad news is the state of the party in the opinion polls. It’s as simple as that. There are, of course, staging posts of “real votes in real ballot boxes” between General Elections, but the best guide to the performance of a party – and its leader – remains the plethora of national opinion polls pumped out on a weekly basis.

There has been no obvious “Clegg effect” in the first year of his leadership. In fact, if anything, the party may have slipped backwards slightly over 2008. In broad terms, we are running at an average of around 15 – 16%, suggesting about a third of our supporters have deserted us since the last election. Some polls suggest we may have lost half our support. No poll I can find suggests we have increased it.

These are poor numbers. Not necessarily catastrophic, but definitely bad. Whatever the public “spin”, the party’s inner circle must not kid themselves that these figures are anything better than that.

The electoral problem is, of course, exacerbated by Britain’s insane electoral system. If we do lose a third of our vote, we will probably lose many more than a third of our seats. If we lose half of it, we will lose more than half of our MPs. The line between a fairly good outcome in Parliamentary seats and a disastrous one is a very thin line indeed. It feels like we are walking that line.

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Nick Clegg speaks… my first year as Liberal Democrat leader

Clegg’s first year: Clegg on Clegg | Tall on Clegg | Land on Clegg | Littlewood on Clegg | Clegg on YouTube

Complementing his piece for The Voice earlier today, Nick Clegg has also released a YouTube film to mark the anniversary of his election as Liberal Democrat leader:

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Opinion on Nick Clegg’s first anniversary: Martin Land – Has it really been one year?

Clegg’s first year: Clegg on Clegg | Tall on Clegg

Well, it has been a year. I’m sure its felt even longer to you Nick. Take some time over the holidays and quietly reflect. I know you’re busy, so let me help you:

The good bits

1. You have had a good year. Sure the odd slip-up, but no leader is ever surefooted straightaway. You’ve had the odd ‘baseball cap’ moment, but public recognition is increasing and I think they like what they see. Try to get angry more often though. After all, you are only human. Let people see it.

2. You have a new Party President, Baroness Ros Scott. I didn’t vote for her, but it’s an opportunity to reach out to alienated and ignored parts of the party that you simply don’t have the time to reach. I think she’s someone you can work closely with.

3. 19% in the latest ICM poll. That’s about as good as it gets between elections.

4. Whatever you may (or may not) think, you have a good team. Cameron would kill for your frontbench team. So, I suspect, would Gordon. If only parties had transfer fees like footballers. Think what we could get for Vince!

5. You perform well in the media. You are relaxed and in control, where Cameron just looks manic.

The bad bits

1. All political parties are having a rough time, but you need to take charge of ours. The strategy we have pursued over the past 15 years looks more and more like a scorched earth policy for local parties. Membership cannot be allowed to decline any further and we must stop bleeding local parties to death for the sake of strange ‘targeting’ strategies, which owe more to egos than demographic or psephological analysis.

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Opinion on Nick Clegg’s first anniversary: Stephen Tall – a work in progress

Clegg’s first year: Clegg on Clegg | Tall on Clegg | Land on Clegg | Littlewood on Clegg | Clegg on YouTube

It’s a cliché that the leader of Her Majesty’s official opposition has the most difficult job in British politics; unusually the cliché is wrong. For sure, David Cameron’s in an unenviable position (and not just because he’s a Tory); utterly powerless, the only weapons he has in his artillery are words. But at least those words are listened to; debated and disagreed with; quoted and used against him. They are not ignored.

Nick Clegg, the leader of the third largest party in the UK, the Liberal Democrats, does not (yet) enjoy the frustration of being the Leader of the Opposition. Inbetween elections when newspapers and broadcasters conspire to pretend that Britain has only two political parties, Lib Dem leaders must battle for every mili-second of publicity. They can look forward to endless dissection of their most minor gaffes; and learn to realise that their serious speeches are judged too dull by meedja execs in thrall to the myth that citizens just can’t be arsed to pay attention to anything that smacks of serious.

So exactly how do we judge the success (or otherwise) of Nick Clegg, who today begins his second year as our leader?

To be honest, I think it’s pretty easy. Nick Clegg as leader is exactly what the vast majority of us – discounting those few who thought he was the Lib Dem Messiah, and those few for whom Nick can do no right – thought he would be: he’s a work in progress.

Nick has immense intellectual strength and curiosity. He’s actually a policy wonk, which many might regard as a handicap for a political leader, who is often expected to remain at arms-length from the detail (a la Blair). I find Nick’s hunger for new ideas one of his most endearing qualities. If either Gordon Brown or David Cameron had even half Nick’s questing drive, political debate in this country would be so much more mature than it is.

But, as so often, there is a flip-side to Nick’s boyish questioning: his habit of ‘thinking out loud’ sometimes results in fuzzy communication, most notably when he appeared to suggest that the “vast bulk” of the party’s £20 billion public spending savings would be ear-marked for tax cuts. Nick’s chief of staff Danny Alexander was hastily despatched to these very pages to try and ventriloquise the party out of Nick’s mis-speaking; but the damage was done, and the confusion has been hard to un-do.

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Nick Clegg writes… my first year as Liberal Democrat leader

Clegg’s first year: Clegg on Clegg | Tall on Clegg | Land on Clegg | Littlewood on Clegg | Clegg on YouTube

A year ago today I was elected as leader of our great party. It has been a challenging and exciting year. I am very proud that in that time we have made all the running on so many of the important issues facing us.

Across the country in my Town Hall meetings, of which I’ve now held more than 30, people regularly raise with me their concerns about housing repossessions, fuel …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 15 Comments

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