Tag Archives: comment-is-free

Comment is Free: Has Nick Clegg finally cracked it?

If you haven’t seen it yet, my latest article on Comment is Free is now up:

There is still more work to be done. I still think we need to do more about social justice and child poverty; improving education and tax cuts on people with low incomes is certainly necessary but not sufficient. But if Nick Clegg can maintain this new sense of purpose, then the party has every reason to be optimistic about the future.

Commenting Freely on Nick Clegg

My article on Clegg’s Demos speech is now up on Comment is Free:

At a time when the Department for Work and Pensions is to be put under renewed pressure, limiting talk of social justice to tax cuts is unconvincing. What’s worse, it is clearly failing to win people over. Today’s ICM poll may show us slightly up, but over the past year the trend has been slightly down. Too much faith has been placed on Vince Cable’s punditry being capable of lifting the rest of the party up with it. Vince has bought the party enormous repositories of credibility but (whisper it) he is an economist not a campaigner. We have no story; we don’t even have any strong, positive messages.

This article was written before Clegg announced his Green Road Out of Recession. So, please note my addendum in the comments!

Snipes on a Plane

Over on Comment is Free:

The generous interpretation is that Clegg, like both Kennedy and Ashdown before him, needs to fight a general election before he can expect to acquire a decent public profile. Broadly speaking, I happen to still believe that. But while Clegg, the odd blip aside, isn’t the liability his opponents might wish him to be, thus far he has failed to be much of an asset either. In lieu of having much to bring to the table himself, he depends on the goodwill of his team. Mouthing off in public like this can only sap that.

Who will be the next Welsh Lib Dem Leader?

I’ve written another Comment is Free article on this very subject:

Make no mistake: this election is no shoo-in for either candidate. They are both extremely strong contenders. At its heart, it has become quickly apparent that this election, more than any other in recent years, is going to be about what the Liberal Democrats are for. This isn’t merely a question of policy; it is a question about where the party strikes the balance between gaining power to change things and standing firm in its beliefs with a view to inspiring the electorate. There is real merit in both points of view and it is a question that, with a hung parliament still a possibility, the Lib Dems may yet end up have to answer at a UK level.

My questions for Lembit…

…can be found on Comment is Free:

These questions, for the Lib Dems at least, are important. The party president is not a figurehead but an executive role. I happen to think that the more focused Lembit who ran a highly organised campaign four years ago would have done a much better job than Simon Hughes. But now? He says he wants the role but all his actions suggest that his campaign is little more than an afterthought. Whether that is complacency or apathy, it is the last thing the party needs right now.

Comment is Bonkers

I’ve written another piece for Comment is Free today, voicing concerns about Nick Clegg’s centralising tendencies:

I am reminded by the party’s stance on Iraq, and how it came about. Will Clegg’s COG enable the grassroots to drag the party leadership, kicking and screaming if need be, to where it needs to be, or is it purpose-built to ensure that such things can never happen again? My concern is that Clegg, with his antipathy at letting “a thousand flowers bloom,” thinks he can transform the Liberal Democrats into a point-and-click precision machine. We all stand to pay a heavy price while he learns this is a terrible mistake.

As ever however, Lord Bonkers has put it far more succinctly than me:

It is always a sign of danger when leaders get like this – and all do eventually, though it took even little Steel a few years. I recommend giving Clegg both volumes of The Open Society and its Enemies by my old friend Sir Karl Popper (he was Terribly Clever) to read.

And if that does not work we can always try hitting him over the head with them.

Why didn’t Clegg visit H&H?

Please disregard the football-related metaphor in the heading (not my choice of words), but here is my CiF piece on the Haltemprice and Howden by-election.

It would appear that my analysis is pretty much the same as Stephen Tall’s – i.e. Clegg was right to back Davis but failed to press his advantage home:

However unjustified, the sad fact of the matter is that by not ensuring a platform alongside Davis’s other supporters, including Tony Benn and Bob Marshall-Andrews, Clegg has left the party vulnerable to this line of attack. He put principle before party, but we should be mindful of the fact that giving the Conservatives an open goal to reposition themselves as the party of civil liberties will ultimately be wholly counter-productive.

This isn’t the first time I’ve come across this self-destructive impulse within the Lib Dems to be leery of sharing a platform on the basis that it might dillute our (non-existent) brand as the One True Voice on a given issue. It goes back to the very heart of “community politics“, i.e. we need to be building a movement rather than concentrating on the party. Clegg needs to do what his predeccessors have consistently failed to do and get into the movement business. And fast.

Blincoe-ing idiot

As people know, I’ve now come out as a Nick Clegg supporter (indeed I’ve already voted for him). Speaking therefore in the spirit of collegiality, could Team Clegg please lean on their “advisor” Nicolas Blincoe and get him to shut the fuck up?

Apart from anything else, his latest intervention is a week out of date. We’d actually nipped this one in the bud; surely the last thing that either campaign team needs right now is to turn the temperature up again?

That he is one of the people who before last week’s Politics Show was actively trying to lower the tone of debate is one thing; for him to suggest that Huhne is a liar is quite another. I would personally gain no small amount of personal satisfaction in seeing Huhne go on to sue him for libel (I’m surprised the Guardian is confident enough of his claims to publish).

If blinking idiots like this are the brains behind the Clegg campaign, it is no surprise that it has been widely criticised for its ineptitude. Definitely time to Move On, folks.

Over on Comment is Free…

My take on the Ides of Ming

Gordon Brown last week perfectly demonstrated the dangers of letting tactical considerations dominate policy. The Liberal Democrats have been doing the same thing for years, largely out of the media glare. The truth is it has served us well, leading us to triple our MPs in 15 years. But with both Labour and the Conservatives now resurgent, its limitations are all too clear to see. I can’t help but suspect that the same obsession with tactics, and dismissal of strategy, is what is largely behind this scapegoating of Ming.

I wish they’d used my headline though: Death by Focus Leaflet.