Clegg: a bad way to make a good point

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Nick Clegg repeated his claim yesterday that under Ming the party was too inward-looking. To quote Elspeth Campbell: “I don’t know if you’re being helpful or not.”

I’ve already rebutted that argument and don’t intend to repeat myself. But I’m not blind to the fact is that by repeating this nonsense argument, Clegg is subtly contrasting himself with Chris Huhne and his stance on Trident. The subtext is that he’s the candidate that will concentrate on the issues that matter to the public, while Huhne would have the party revisiting old policies in an act of ideological purity.

And as I said yesterday, in that respect he’s right. Huhne’s Trident stance is, in my view, good policy but bad politics. This isn’t a debate the party should be having during this contest. It smacks of vanity, and at 11% in the polls, vanity is something we can ill afford.

If Huhne wants to talk about policy, he should concentrate on issues which have immediate relevance to large sections of the public. I’ve already mentioned two interrelated ones – housing and intergenerational equity – I’m sure he could come up with others. He should be concentrating his firepower on Clegg’s inability to make his own rhetoric match his detail, calling on the party to move out of its comfort zone and reach out while being apparently afraid of saying anything of substance along those lines in case it alienates a wing of the party.

Huhne’s advantage is that by going for the big tent approach, Clegg has compromised himself. In a large number of areas he will struggle to say anything at all that won’t alienate either David Laws or Steve Webb and their respective camps. He should be pressing that advantage home, not making Clegg’s points for him.

While at the start of this campaign I was guilty of a bit of policy arson myself by rubbishing our existing commitment to replace council tax with local income tax, even I wouldn’t expect either candidate to use this opportunity to set out detailed policy in that area. This is a good opportunity to signal areas that need revisiting, not to spell out solutions.

1 thought on “Clegg: a bad way to make a good point

  1. When Clegg says the party was “too inward-looking” he needs to say just what he means.

    Let him give specific examples of things the party did which he thinks make it too inward-looking and shouldn’t have been done.

    Let him give specific examples of things the party didn’t do but he thinks it should have done which would make it less inward-looking.

    Otherwise, what he says is meaningless, or it’s meant to be some coded message.

    I’ve been criticised for being “nasty” to Clegg, but this is my problem – what he says is just stuffed full of things like this where I end up screaming “just tell us what you actually mean by that, give us concrete examples”.

    The biggest danger with unsupported criticism like that is that it just feeds into the hands of our opponents, they would love to paint us as a party which is too “inward looking” and what better to prove their if our own leader-to-be is saying it is?

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