Posted by: John | October 31, 2007

I’m `coming out` for Clegg

I have high regard for Chris Huhne – he has remarkable elan at policy making and has a supremely intellectual mind. He has put his colours to the mast on pure policy terms in this campaign and no doubt has some sort of affinity with Party members. He reminds me of a film about the Beatles with the character playing George Martin saying which member was the heart and the mind etc. `What’s Ringo?` he was asked. `He’s the blood without which we couldn’t survive`. Needed – yes, essential – yes – a leader though has to be more than that.

 Step up to the plate – Nick Clegg.

When the leadership race was first announced my head said Clegg and my heart said Huhne. Now Nick is engaging both.

Am I concerned about any potential policy direction – you bet I am. Do I think Chris has that extra bit of intellectuality – you bet I do. Does it matter too much? Knowing the rebellious spirit of Liberal Democrats as I do not really!

We have a huge debt of gratitude to give to Paddy Ashdown – with his warrior spirit we broke through the 60 barrier mark in Parliament. Charles Kennedy strengthened our support with his direct but casual man of the people (as he undoubtedly is) manner. Ming helped revolutionise our policies to bring about the `glass half full` situation.

Throughout this time we have developed our own core vote – a coalition of the traditional Liberals, Leftist and free-thinking intellectuals (particularly in the professional middle classes), some groups of ethnic minorities (due to Iraq/internationalism) and Young people/Students.

I’m sure Chris would strengthen this core vote but would it grow?

 The only way to grow is for us to challenge the prevailing trend and cosy consensus of the two main parties that essentially says `Ideology is dead`. Ideology ISN’T dead – we can breathe new life into it by thinking the unthinkable and saying the unsayable – in short `coming out of our comfort zones`.

No party ever wins an election without a narrative that is both of the present and the future. The Conservatives` one might be balls but it’s still a narrative. The media are trying to say that it’s a Left v Right fight (you can guess who they’re pinning which label on whom) but it’s not.

It’s about Liberalism vs Authoritarianism

And in our party it’s about who’ll be keeping the current Liberal coalition together AND can reach out to others. Take crime – a caricature Liberal would not do much at all – Nick though knew we needed to speak directly in policy terms to those most vulnerable; on the Council estates, in the northern terraces, in the London semis to change a policy that’s unsustainably woolly and fashion it for the modern times.

Essentially, for me, this leadership election is about three things:

1. Who has the ability to further radicalise the internal party structure?

2. Who has the potential to fuse policies and to shape the political agenda to widen core vote thus assisting those fighting target seats? He will need also to keep the core vote together AND widen the appeal.

3. Who has the ability to play the media game most smartly and to communicate directly to the British people above the media fray?

 From comfort zones to civil disobedience I think Nick Clegg has the firepower to do these things.

To be honest I find Chris too nice – a huge dollop of niceness is useful if you’re a Scrutiny Chair or Vice-Chair (like i am) or backbench Councillor. For a leader of a main political party these days it’s not enough. You have to be a bit of a bruiser too!

A good mate of mine (one of the Northwest Lib Dem gurus who’ll wish to remain nameless) once said `You can have all the Liberal values and policies in the world but if you can’t articulate them to get into power you can’t practice any of them`.

Therein lies the rub!



  1. Your reasoning has completely passed me by.
    I think it is worth giving Chris the nod because he is committed to straightening out our “say nothing” policy on replacing Trident.
    Nick on the otherhand strikes me as a lightweight. He has been found lost at sea in at least one, very simple radio interview and I dread to think what Jeremy Paxman would do to him. No such worries with Chris.

  2. I understand your views but all you have to do is watch the LibDem Voice Chris vs Nick videos – i was falling asleep by the time Chris had answered questions whereas Nick was pithy and succinct. I could tell just how ordinary people would react – understanding what was said and thinking it was someone who knew where he was going.

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