“The pillars of the British establishment are tumbling” – Clegg

The Independent features an interview with Nick Clegg, given on Friday during his visit to Paris.

He speaks of “politicians falling to their knees ingratiating themselves with media moguls”, “too many vested interests tied up with each other” and “a culture of arrogance and impunity” as he lists the casualties of recent crises: journalism and hacking, MPs’ expenses, and banking.

Here’s an extract:

The deputy prime minister senses a rare opportunity in the hacking scandal to carve out a separate niche. The Liberal Democrats have never wooed or been wooed by the media moguls. Unlike David Cameron and Ed Miliband, Mr Clegg did not attend Rupert Murdoch’s annual summer party in London last month. He has twice been through the mincer of the ruthless Tory-supporting press machine – during the “Cleggmania” of last year’s election and the ill-fated alternative-vote referendum in May.

On the 6.52am train from London St Pancras last Friday, Mr Clegg speaks with passion: “You have politicians falling to their knees ingratiating themselves with media moguls. You have too many vested interests tied up with each other. You have a culture of arrogance and impunity”

He was quick out of the traps last week, pressing Mr Cameron successfully for the public inquiry covering the police and the press to be headed by a judge. Mr Clegg believes the crisis offers an opportunity to clean up Britain’s “rotten establishment”. To reflect liberal values, of course. “The anger people feel is almost palpable. The question is how we harness that sense of outrage to build something better for the future.”

Although the Press Complaints Commission is a “busted flush”, he does not favour statutory regulation, which might give politicians “free rein” to shackle the newspapers. “I believe in a raucous, loud, free press.”

Read the whole interview at the Independent.

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  • ” Unlike David Cameron and Ed Miliband, Mr Clegg did not attend Rupert Murdoch’s annual summer party in London last month. ”

    Not really that impressive as he went the previous year, does anyone know if any Lib Dem politicians went this year???

    On the whole I agree with him, the Murdoch empire needs to be tackled. The big question is, will he be prepared to put party politics aside and vote with Labours motion (assuming of course it is worded reasonably).

  • toryboysnevergrowup 11th Jul '11 - 12:37pm

    “The deputy prime minister senses a rare opportunity in the hacking scandal to carve out a separate niche.”

    So that’s why he is meeting the Dowlers rather than the Cameron. I fear that yet again Cameron is using Nick as a human shield.

  • Remind me again, what exactly was Clegg’s role in toppling these pillars?
    And wasn’t it Miliband who made the first vocal call for a judge led inquiry?

    You are right in one sense, Clegg could carve out a niche role for himself. The LibDems being the only one of the three parties that has not had suspiciously close links with NI. Clegg could use a very strong line of attack on this issue. But he won’t, because to do so would mean cutting loose from his friend Cameron, and really dropping him in it. But like Cameron, Clegg too has this “honour code”, that would make him see himself as rather rotten and dastardly if he were to act in such a way.

  • Tony Greaves 11th Jul '11 - 1:22pm

    You think Cameron has an honour code?

    I don’t think the motion on Wednesday will get as far as a vote.

    Tony Greaves

  • No ToryBoysngu, theyare meeting Cameron, tomorrow or Weds reportedly.

  • Jonathan Hunt 11th Jul '11 - 3:39pm

    I respect Nick Clegg for many things: his intelligence, his grasp of a range of subjects and ability to analyse them from a liberal perspspective, and his commitment to basic Liberal values high among them.

    But I am worried about a tendency to take unrealistically optimistic approaches. Take this Clegg quote:

    “We are condemned to govern for the long term. I look forward to us moving into a much more positive frame of mind in the years ahead.

    “By 2015 we will be able to show people we have put the building blocks in place on tax, education, the early years, apprenticeships, vocational education and greater social mobility in a way that the Conservatives would never have done on their own and, at the same time, we have put the economy back on course. ”

    Sadly, there is no history of a junior partner in a coalition government ever winning an election on the back of claims to have influenced the majority partner.

    The only junior coalition partner to have achieved victory was Labour in 1945. And that was for promising a radical programme of innovation, equality, redistribition and reform following a long period of hardship and austerity.

    We have to do the something similar if the Liberal Democrats are to survive as an effective force beyond 2015.
    Many members lap us Clegg’s hopes as a matter of faith. We must beware of such complacency.

    A loud Liberal Dmocrat voice is the best deterrent to those in both authoritarian parties who would further reduce our civil rights and liberties.

    Remermber that 2015 is also the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta as well as the date of the next election.

  • David Allen 11th Jul '11 - 6:09pm

    “The pillars of the British establishment are tumbling” – Clegg

    That’s the sort of overblown language he used about the expenses scandal and how it was going to lead to massive constitutional changes crammed into a single summer. It didn’t happen then, and there is a huge danger that equally little will change now. Murdoch and Cameron will play for time, make supposed concessions designed to drift gradually into meaninglessness, and hope and expect to emerge largely unscathed.

    Even if the BSkyB deal is held up until the criminal investigation is concluded, it may not make much difference. All Murdoch is then likely to have to do is to sacrifice a few lambs, and throw out some minions whose criminal activities have been proven. Then he can tell Cameron to confirm that he (Murdoch) is now a fit and proper person.

    If and when Murdoch comes through the fire unscathed, he or his sucessors will then wreak revenge on those who fought him. Goodbye Miliband. Well, Miliband didn’t have much to lose anyway, and that has emboldened him to fight. Clearly his half-hearted efforts to cosy up to Murdoch were not working, and his chances of getting the same endorsement as Blair were clearly nil. He was more likely to get the infamous Kinnock light-bulb treatment. Now he has made quite sure of that – unless the Murdoch empire can actually be brought to its knees.

    Clegg can see those risks, which is why his every move is carefully calibrated to look like a ferocious bite, while in reality the jaws snap shut on a near miss. That’s a good tactic, if you believe that your own survival as a Tory satellite politician is what matters. As Ashdown, Shirley Williams and others have (I think) hinted by megaphone, it is a terrible approach if you truly believe in an independent Liberal Democrat party which doesn’t have to kow-tow to the rich and the Murdochs to avoid annihilation by a hostile Press.

    The odds are on Murdoch’s side. I presume Tony Greaves (above) can see machinations in train to derail the vote on Wednesday via meaningless concessions. If we are to avoid that, then stronger spirits than Clegg within our Party will have to come forward with more effective proposals – such as those Jonathan Hunt put forward:.


    Yes, it’s true that other media groups also hacked phones. But no other group claims to have made democracy obsolete by arrogating enough power to decide who will win general elections. Italy (Berlusconi), the US (Fox News) and the UK (Murdoch) are the West’s three “leading” impaired democracies where a media mafia calls the shots. The odds are still against us managing to reduce that to two. But that should be a core aim of our Party. We have to fight the evil Murdoch empire. And if Clegg gets in the way, we should fight Clegg.

  • Don Lawrence 11th Jul '11 - 6:56pm

    Shame you tumbled into bed with the Tory establishment before this came about, Nick.

  • Andrew Suffield 11th Jul '11 - 7:10pm

    And wasn’t it Miliband who made the first vocal call for a judge led inquiry?

    No, it was Cable, months back when the story first broke.

  • “Tiger with no teeth” or “Paper Tiger” are phrases which comes to mind!

    When are we going to hear a STRONG voice of dissent from Nick about Cameronia!

    He has got to cut loose from Cameron – OK, he’s in the same Government but he is not required to have the same Party values (or non-values) as DC – at least I hope he doesn’t.

    Come on – let’s hear some really loud voices against all this disgraceful and obscene fiasco!

    Get rid of Rebekah Brooks and Murdoch and have nothing to do with any more deals with any of them whether it be BSkyB or any other media deal. Tell them, “ALL DEALS ARE OFF!”

    Cut loose from the press – they can make or break us – and they will surely break us whichever way we jump!

    If we are going down, we must go down fighting for LIBERAL DEMOCRAT principles, not wishy-washy Cameron’s principles!

    At the moment WE look like the wishy-washy Party!

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jul '11 - 12:53pm

    I’ll pick on this bit from the article:

    The voices who believe the party made a catastrophic mistake by getting into bed with the Conservatives will get louder at the party’s conference in September.

    This is how most of the public see it, see Don Lawrence above for another tedious repetition of the line. Most Liberal Democrat activists, however, can I think see we were placed in the position following the 2010 election where there was no realistic alternative – not enough Labour MPs or willingness from Labour to form a coalition that way (and the abuse we would get for “supporting the losers in the election” would be huge), the alternative of a minority Tory government meaning another general election in a short time called with the express purpose of getting rid of us and giving the Tories a majority (and they’d hold off the cuts until they had it).

    The phrase “jump into bed” and much other use of language about the formation of the coalition suggests that somehow the Liberal Democrats could have done something different which somehow would have resulted in a government whose policies were entirely Liberal Democrat. Now I have argued time and time again with people like Don Lawrence about this, because it seems to me their position is so illogical. Yet I have to remember the electorate are not obliged to be logical, and it would be foolish to suppose we could easily get them to see this logically when it’s so difficult even with individual posters here to get them to think through this.

    The reality is that the binary option posed by the Independent and almost every other media commentator is incorrect. They want to put it as two positions – either one agrees with everything Nick Clegg has said since the formation of the coalition, and not just that but one agrees with the way the media have painted it, which is that we have more or less merged with the Tories. Or one takes the point that it was a “catastrophic mistake” to have formed the coalition in the first place – as if something different could easily have been done. Most Liberal Democrat activists I suggest fall somewhere between these positions – accepting the formation of the coalition (as agreed by our special conference) but not necessarily agreeing that it has been handled well by our leader. We may vary in thinking how well he has done, some may say he has done his best, others (like myself) saying he has played just about every move wrongly, and there’s a spectrum between those positions.

    We now have to move from that being the reality in our party, to realising the media are never going to report it that way because they never report our party accurately, to doing what we can to recover. It’s a difficult hand to play, but so was recovering from the catastrophic mis-reporting of the Liberal-SDP merger, and we managed that.

    Whatever is done needs to avoid playing into the hands of those who want to paint us as having made a “catastrophic mistake” by forming the coalition, because I don’t think it will look good for us to be seen as having made a “catastrophic mistake”, and it makes it even more awkward for us should we be in a similar situation again. So I think we do need to find a way of engineering the end of the coalition early on some grounds of principles, and writing it up as “tried to make it work, but it wouldn’t due to the Tories”. If you were to ask the electorate on all the issues where we have been disagreeing with the Tories in the coalition, whose side they would take – wouldn’t it be ours mostly? Not on everything (not on some law ‘n order issues or immigration, I feel), however, and the right-wing press would hit us hard in those.

    What I am sure will not work, but it is still the line Clegg seems to be trying to pursue, is to suppose that by the next general election the economy will be doing so well and people will be so happy, that we’ll bask in the success the Tories get for their good governance.

  • Ed Shepherd 14th Jul '11 - 7:22am

    “The pillars of the British establishment are tumbling” – Clegg#
    I don’t think so. The boardrooms of big business, the high church, Oxbridge, The City, the old boy networks, senior police officers, the military, the monarchy and the Lords will all continue to exist.

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