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.


  1. The need for Nemawashi in narrative again… as I have noted before this Japanese idea does fit into some views of Liberalism.

    explained here:

    (in which I said amongst other things: ‘Being leader will give Nick many opportunities to learn and reflect on exciting situations and work out better ways for comfort zones -including his own- to be challenged’.

    And here:

    I do hope you are being pessimistic about Clegg, though.

  2. This disenchantment may be the inevitable consequence of some of us voting for who “our heads” said we should have (or the media said we should) instead of “our hearts”. Or to borrow your expression at the time, “not having the stomach” to elect Chris Huhne in the face of the media and party establishment telling us not to.

  3. This lament for what would have been under a Huhne leadership is a bit odd, as he and Clegg are and need to be a team pulling in the same direction. In their respective skill-sets Clegg is a bit more photogenic and Huhne is a bit more of a wonk, so I’m embarrassed to say if the leadership vote were to be held today I would change my mind and because we’ve got it right and we need to get behind them.

  4. I can’t remember who said it but Andrew Rawnsley quoted someone as saying all party leaders end up hating their own party more than their rivals. I think it was Paddy, actually.

    Like most people with ideas about leading a serious political party Nick wants the party to conform when he makes difficult but strategically important decisions (like the Lisbon treaty position). He’s allowed to try, and allowed to be upset when they don’t. I don’t think he’s turning into Tony Blair just yet. And I do love seeing David Heath resign on a matter of principle every once in a while; the man’s amazing.

    @Oranjepan – Nick cuts a much more inspirational figure; Huhne can be a bit mean and petty. It’s not crazy to think there are skill sets which make one a more appropriate (or an inappropriate) fit for a party leader/potential Prime Minister (something Gordon Brown never understood, apparently).

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