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.


  1. Bizarre. I think they must have changed the URLs at the other end – now fixed. Having said that, I have a lot of time for Martin Kettle.

  2. Ah yes, I see where you’re coming from now. But there is a tension between the prospect of growing a movement and growing a party, obviously the two are linked but they cannot be exclusively intertwined in order to allow for growth.
    On the subject of H&H I still think it is a judgement call and it was ultimately the correct decision for Clegg not to allow his position of leadership be reduced to that of a supporting or subordinate role. Nevertheless he could definitely have done more to have been seen to actively encourage his front bench to show the party under him as allied to the cause.

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