Daily Archives: 10 January 2008

Nick Clegg: It’s beat up an activist day!

Oh dear, oh dear, and he was doing so well:

Nick Clegg will unveil plans to end state interference in schools this week as he moves to bury the Liberal Democrats’ traditional approach to public services.

In his first keynote speech since becoming party leader, Clegg will challenge many of the party’s supporters in teaching and local government by issuing proposals which will “effectively take schools out of state control”, according to one official.

David Laws, the Lib Dems’ schools spokesman, paved the way for changes to the party’s approach at its annual conference in September, pledging to inject more choice into the system by making it easier for parents and community groups to set up new schools. The plans won the backing of the conference, although some activists and MPs are uneasy about the approach – which chimes with many of the policies proposed by the Conservatives.

I’m not opposed to “effectively” (weasel word) taking “schools out of state control”. Indeed, it’s just possibly I might actually be happy going further than what Clegg has to say on Saturday; he’s certainly already ruled out school vouchers, something I have in the past said I’m open minded about. Indeed, the party is totally up for taking schools out of state control, if by state you mean central government; always has been. The devil however is always in the detail.

What annoys me is that we’re back to activist-bashing again, and less than a month into Clegg’s leadership. It’s an old leadership tactic: make yourself look bold and radical by portraying your own party as awkward and out of touch. The worst thing is, it is with reference to a policy that has already been passed by party conference.

Do I have to remind Team Clegg of these results? Clearly I do:

  • Nick Clegg: 20,988
  • Chris Huhne: 20,477

Nick Clegg had a chance to spell out his vision for public service reform during his leadership election campaign; he bottled it. By all accounts he should have won an easy victory; he failed. If he wants to make the case now, that’s fine, but he doesn’t have a mandate and the price he has to pay for only just failing to pluck disaster from the jaws of victory is that he has to treat the intelligence of the party membership with a modicum of respect. Spinning before making a major policy speech that we aren’t going to like what he’s going to say is pathetic, counter-productive and yaaaawn! so like his predecessors.

Spinning that he plans to copy the Conservatives is equally foolish; apart from making it sound like he will utter little more than a “me too!” this is the party of the National Curriculum and standardised national testing we’re talking about, remember?