Tebbit admits ‘I admire Clegg more than Cameron’

Well, there’s a headline that will cause equal consternation among both Lib Dem and Conservative supporters… and doubtless prompt some no-surprise-there snarks from Labourites too.

But what’s more interesting than the stark headline (prompted by this Telegraph interview) is Norman Tebbit’s reason for admiring Nick Clegg over his own party leader:

He says he is more of a Conservative than David Cameron. The Big Society is just a “buzzword. It’s a logo looking for a product”. He wants to turn the party back to being nationalist and jokes that he would like it to go into coalition with the UK Independence Party. Chuckle. Lord Tebbit has written to the Prime Minister several times about issues, and while he always gets a reply, “sometimes I have had to give him a reminder to”.

By contrast, when he wrote to Nick Clegg before the election — to tell him he how much he agreed with the necessity to raise the threshold of income tax — “I had a nice letter back”. As a joke I ask if he has more admiration for Mr Clegg than Mr Cameron, and am astonished when he says, “Yes, in a way, because I think he has pushed his agenda quite hard. I think Clegg is probably more politically motivated than Cameron.” Damning for them both.

It’s not at all clear why the Telegraph thinks this is ‘damning for them both’. What Tebbit is saying about Clegg is no more than in the past Tony Benn has said about Margaret Thatcher: that, however much you disagree with someone’s politics, you can still admire their determined leadership.

For all the ‘he’s just a Tory’ jibes glibly tossed in Nick’s direction, it’s clear he’s not — evident from the policies he’s pushing (from constitutional reform to social mobility to Europe), and self-evident from the fact that his career would’ve been a lot easier if he’d joined from the outset the Tories rather than the Liberal Democracts (at a time when our party was on the margins).

That Nick chose the hard route — and is still choosing it: he would’ve been more popular, at least in the short-term, if he’d rejected the coalition — is testament to his political motivation, his conviction you can only reform if you have power.

For David Cameron, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that he’s happy to have become Prime Minister because he feels it’s his pre-destination — that it’s a job he was born to, and will be accomplished at — rather than because their are policies he craves to put into effect.

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  • David Le Grice 2nd Apr '11 - 7:31pm

    I was thinking about this only yesterday, that David Cameron is a sort of politican that more than any other the electorate reelly needs to vote out; he seems to be in politics purely for the sake of being in government and has little or no vision.

    Whilst I’m not always a great fan of Nick, two of the ocasions on which i’ve been most impressed by him were when watching a couple of speeches of his which I managed to catch on bbc parliment; one was at an event organised by a think tank or somthing similar and the other being at a conferance fringe. On both occasins he wasn’t trying to address the electorate so was free to be a bit more intellectual and when he talked about about things such as the need to strengthan inernational institutions, the disersal of power and so on it was quite clear that he had his own vision for improving the world.

    I dare say we could have a worse problem with people being in governmant for the sake of it as the Irish often do but we really should be doing more to discourage it and encourage people who really want to improve things.

  • Louise Shaw 2nd Apr '11 - 9:41pm

    I am a great admirer of Nick’s grit and tho Tebbit comes in for a lot of derison, he’s probably got a good point or two here.

  • Nick Clegg has courage and conviction so on that score he does well however im not certain that he is getting the best advice possible as deputy PM and personally I feel he should have vetoed the appointment of the new communications officer for number 10 as how can you be promoting the coalitions policies in government and promoting the conservative party at the same time?

    So Nick Clegg gets 7/10 from me and I also hope that he is a listener as well as driving through the policies he believes in.

  • The Tories didn’t get a great majority in 2010, despite being way ahead in the polls previously over Labour, for two reasons. The toxic legacy of the Thatcher era etc took a lot more than a smiling nice guy frontman to erase. And secondly, like Labour now, they were good at criticising the government without any clear policies as to what they’d do in power.

    But being endorsed by Norman Tebbit really isn’t a good image to cultivate if you want the electorate to think we are still a distinct party and not Conservative lapdogs.
    While the PM being rubbished by Tebbit isn’t great for him, either: lot of old-guard Tories and Eurosceptics think the Lib Dem tail is wagging the dog and would like another Thatcher at the helm and some good-old hang ’em, flog ’em, cut taxes, don’t trust Johnny Foreigner policies to the fore.

  • Norman Tebbit’s comparison between Cameron and Clegg and their possible motives is rather interesting – and it throws some light on the hypocrisy that lies behind so many of the accusations that are being thrown at Nick Clegg from both the Left and the Right.

    If one thinks about it, how does it make sense that Nick Clegg is so often accused of being too eager to get into power? At the same time, nobody ever contemplates the motives of politicians in the two big parties. I guess it’s taken for grated that people who make it to the top rank in the Conservatives or Labour want to be in power – while it’s somehow a shameful act if a LibDem is taking the opportunity to gain a position where he can implement (rather than merely discuss) party policies for a change.

    It’s nice to see a Tory (and a Tory like Norman Tebbit at that) cut through that particular kind of rhetoric for a change.

    Although, I have to say, an endorsement from, of all people, Norman Tebbit is probably not the kind of thing that will feature on LibDem leaflets anytime soon…

  • David Allen 3rd Apr '11 - 4:27pm

    The Telegraph has it right. Tebbit’s remarks are damning for both Cameron and Clegg. Damning for Cameron, whom Tebbit condemns for lack of political principle. Of course, Cameron posed as a Europhobe to please the likes of Tebbit, but has now abandoned that stance.

    Damning for Clegg, for the very opposite reason. Tebbit is pointing out that the nice-consensual-guy act which Clegg adopted for the election was equally dishonest, and in fact conceals a hard line ideologue, whose enthusiasm for dismantling the welfare state matches Osborne’s. At least Osborne told the voters and told his party what they could expect from him. Clegg did not.

  • What a bizarre comment from David Allen. We have announced a £150 a week citizen’s pension, as well as guaranteeing that it will rise in line with the highest of three things Of course there are reforms – some of which I have opposed in print – but to say we are dismantling the welfare state is clearly not correct. Some bits cut, some bits growing, some bits more means tested, some bits less means tested. Change yes, dismantling no.

  • @time leunig

    But reports like this http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12951319 are hardly like to help are they?

    Clegg cosying up to Cameron to promote a policy which before the election he would have disowned is just giving the impresssion that he holds views diametrically opposed to much of what the Liberals have stood for in the past.

  • Norman Tebbit.
    Spitting Image.
    Find it hard to separate them, sadly 😉

    And looking for Tebbit the bovver boy puppet, got sidetracked by The Two-Party System – for those with a couple of minutes to waste on the lighter side of politics:

  • Old Codger Chris 4th Apr '11 - 12:48am

    Nobody apart from Maggie herself was more responsible for “the toxic legacy of the Thatcher era” than Tebbit.

    Perhaps Cameron is returning the Tory party to its pre-Thatcher days when Prime Ministers like Macmillan were more interested in retaining power than in ideology. Hence the hatred from the Torygraph etc.

    New Labour were fond of telling Old Labour that by shedding left wing baggage they were at least keeping the Party in power – no previous Labour administration achieved 3 successive victories.

    I guess Clegg should be seen in this light, but that doesn’t make me any happier about his ringing endorsement of some nasty policies.

    PS I wonder where Milliband Junior will take Labour? Too soon to tell.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 4th Apr '11 - 12:57pm

    Probably something to do with him and Steve Webb sitting back while the DWP behaves like this


    Whatever next – issue benefit claimants with bicycles so as to meet the enviromental commitments in the LibDem manifesto?

  • Tim Leunig – David Allen has never hidden his dislike for Nick Clegg. He disliked him back in 2007 when he was first elected leader. You have to view his comments in that context.

  • David Allen 7th Apr '11 - 12:25am

    Hi Tabman, you’re wrong actually. I didn’t vote for Clegg in 2007, but only because Huhne seemed a little sharper. Clegg came over as an amiable centrist. Then in 2008 Clegg came out with “Big permanent tax cuts”. Which, of course, was a weasel phrase which meant shrinking the state. That’s when I identified a right-wing ideologue hiding behind a pretence of consensual woolly centrism. I was right, wasn’t I?

  • Maria wrote: “If one thinks about it, how does it make sense that Nick Clegg is so often accused of being too eager to get into power? At the same time, nobody ever contemplates the motives of politicians in the two big parties. I guess it’s taken for grated that people who make it to the top rank in the Conservatives or Labour want to be in power – while it’s somehow a shameful act if a LibDem is taking the opportunity to gain a position where he can implement (rather than merely discuss) party policies for a change.”

    The problem is that he isn’t implementing party policies. That’s what is so disappointing. He’s in a position to do it, but he isn’t doing it.

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