Published on 8 Oct 2014

Clegg attacks ‘un-British’ grievance politics

Nick Clegg told Lib Dems they are the only party not trading in fear. That section came after lines galore suggesting how terrifying a Tory majority government might be.

A decent two thirds of the political insults in Nick Clegg’s speech were Conservative-facing. Two thirds of the seats face Tories challenging in second place. The leadership is focused on trying to win over “moderate Tories” in those seats who could make the difference between wipe-out and viable survival in 2015.

He attacked a politics of grievance personified by Nigel Farage and Alex Salmond which is “un-British,” divisive, scapegoating and which the Labour and Tory parties weren’t helping as they retreated into their ideological silos.

The bitterness with the Tories claiming ownership of the raised tax threshold policy burst out in a tale from the cabinet table. Nick Clegg revealed that George Osborne, when he refused to implement a bigger tax threshold leap in the 2012 budget, said: “I don’t want to deliver a Lib Dem budget.”

He went on to cut the 50p rate down to 45 instead.  As the remark is said to have been made to Danny Alexander and Nick Clegg by the chancellor in the run-up to the budget, you have to assume that it is a very public leak of words said in the top secret quad meetings when those three, with David Cameron, carve up the biggest coalition decisions.

You might think that a pretty micro observation, but it came in a speech in which Nick Clegg was trying to sell the idea of “coalition” as a better form of politics.

He’s selling coalition not just to the public but to party members and MPs who are minded to sit out the next parliament in the hope of re-grouping and growing back the party.

Nick Clegg’s team knows a minority government, followed within a year by a second general election, could be terminal for the Lib Dems as the voters were asked for a clearer answer to the “who governs?” question.

In an echo of David Cameron’s “so Britain, what’s it gonna be?” direct appeal, Nick Clegg told his activists to ask the people of Britain: “How will you judge us? By the one policy we couldn’t deliver in government, or by the countless policies we did deliver in government?”

Like David Cameron at his speech a week ago, Nick Clegg slipped on a Help for Heroes wristband for his big day. His student amateur dramatics skills often come through in these speeches. His delivery helped to fire up the activists. There were big cheers for attacks on the Tories, for the mental health promise and the attack on single party governments.

Tomorrow these activists will stare at more grim polls and contemplate another lost deposit in the Clacton by-election. One member leaving the hall said he’d enjoyed the week but “we’re going to take a hammering … we keep 25 to 30 seats, I think”. With a stoical smile, he strolled off to catch his train.

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10 reader comments

  1. jack says:

    I feel sorry for Lib Dems. Have been badly used by the Tories to divert blame for conservative policy mistakes onto another party. The only party, in my opinion, that can bring back true representative democracy in the United Kingdom. A shame that UKIP, Labour and the Tories are sticking the knife in. The result will be a coalition of Tory/UKIP. Tho would be truly catastrophic.

  2. Margaret Redpath says:

    I am not un-British. But I am a Scot and voted for independence. How dare Nick Clegg patronise me in such a manner. Westminster is broken. The SNP didn’t play on fear, the Unionist parties did (including the Lib-Dems). The SNP had ambition and hope that Scotland could be a better place. I think if we’d got independence the rest of the marginalised & disenfranchised in the UK would have rebelled against Westminter and shown what the power of the people can do.

  3. darren says:

    Mr Clegg accused Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband of ” NOT GETTING IT”
    Might I suggest it is he who isn’t getting it . So many thought he was bringing something new to
    politics when he made his promises at the last election . They believed in him and voted for him . Especially our young people . It doesn’t matter how well he’s done in government , He lied ,He’s just another politician.

  4. Philip says:

    I am not a LibDem supporter, but I think we do need a bit of perspective. The LibDems didn’t expect to be in a coalition during the last general election campaign. Indeed, they’ve been making promises for years, confident that they wouldn’t have to deliver on them. Then in 2010 there was a hung Parliament at a time of grave economic crisis. Clegg evidently felt it was his duty to the country to have a government with a working majority & that he could do a deal which would increase the democratic accountability of Parliament through House of Lords reform and a fairer voting system. In return, he had to give up LibDem policies. He certainly handled giving up the tuition fees pledge appallingly, but I don’t believe he did it cynically or recklessly. It was done in the genuine belief that sort of thing was needed to help deal with the economic crisis & massive Government deficit – and that there would be a measure of electoral reform. In the event, he was betrayed by his coalition partners over electoral reform. Indeed, what I suspect were genuinely decent intentions to tackle the crisis caused the LibDems to lose the credibility of being a non-government party (a mantle taken over by UKIP). They got by far the worst of the bargain – and for all this has been an appalling government in many ways, without the LibDems, it could’ve been a lot worse.
    And at least they are challenging some of the currently popular absurdities – like using only cuts to deal with the deficit – and making suggestions for taxing the very rich and how we have to govern a multicultural society…rather than ignoring it (Labour) or hoping that leaving the EU will somehow return us to 1972 (UKIP, most of the Tories).
    Indeed, given Labour’s utter cowardice on tackling the unfairness in our society and a strategy that depends on UKIP stealing Tory votes,I’m getting to the point where Green or LibDem are about the only party who I could possible vote for.

  5. Philip Edwards says:

    Gary,

    There’s something in this.

    45% of voting Jocks decided they aren’t British after all.

    Everyone outside the M25 ghetto regards those inside it as cheating spivs and thieves.

    Doesn’t leave much of Cleggy’s “British politics” does it?
    :-)

    As usual, the Two Headed Boy got his context wrong. It’s the current gang of neocon POLITICIANSLIKE HIM we want rid of.

    POLITICS is the only way this can be effected. Even the Catholic Church designates politics “the eternal sea.”

    But you can’t expect a Westminster/Whitehall jobsworth to understand that.

  6. Alan says:

    In the last election the people of Britain overwhelmingly stated ‘no confidence’ in any of the parties. As the British political system is unable to reflect the wishes of those paying for it, the system defaulted to a coalition. A coalition of those very same parties that didn’t have the backing of the general public. If no one voted the system would still deliver the same parties. It is time we really understood what they mean by a constitutional monarchy as it certainly doesn’t equate to what we understand as democracy.

  7. HappyNewYear says:

    I don’t think Clegg understands UKIP – they support the British people from all walks of life so claiming they are unBritish is nonsense.

  8. jack says:

    Well said Phillip. I am seriously considering the greens and lib Dems. I cant see UKIP or Tories doing anything other than isolating us from the second largest economy in the world. Labour would spend their entire term fretting about voters rather than actually doing anything worthwhile.

  9. Sid says:

    Opposites do not mix, and this coalition is a fine example of such a tug of war.
    Mr Clegg, very insultingly, believes that the growing majority turning to UKIP or SNP are un -British. Since when have the Liberals connected with majority views and wishes?
    I suppose it is a last cry before sinking below the waves. Good riddance is all I can think.

  10. Paul Lehmans says:

    Political Reform Party
    http://www.politicalreformparty.co.uk
    Election Manifesto
    1 Proportional Representation, with a built in balance, to provide a fair male-female-ethnic selection system. This will be achieved by constituencies selecting three candidates forwarded to HQ where a computer selects a candidate to maintain a fair democratic overall balance.
    2 Abolishing the House of Lords replacing it with an elected Upper Chamber of 300 MP’s who also serve on powerful Parliamentary Committees.
    3 Cutting House of Commons seats by 50% by merging constituencies to form 300 constituency seats with two representatives elected. One for the lower house and one for the upper house, including a third full time paid Deputy MP, who remains in the constituency dealing with constituents’ problem. When a constituency selects representatives one must be male and the other female plus in high ethnic areas one of the selected must be ethnic.
    4 600 MPs will be subject to serve on powerful legally backed parliamentary committees, replacing quangos and drafting laws for parliament to provide solutions for the most important problems. This will satisfy the general public common complaint that politicians never provide solutions for the many problems that businesses and authorities impose.
    5 Setting up ten or more Regional Authorities (R A), with full local government powers. Transferring some Whitehall government administration to R A’s after passing value-for-money tests and fit for purpose assessment with central government retaining only the vital services. R A’s will be elected on PR and will govern and administer their respective regions with powers to raise local taxes that must be approved by Parliament, with built in limitations to admin costs with parliament approval for any increase in salaries and posts. Established county council authorities will be disbanded together with all the lucrative executive posts that cost ratepayers dear.
    6 Parliamentary election (both houses) are held every four years with a system introduced to make it illegal not to vote, while a system is devised to adopt a foolproof and easier system of voting. Also spoiled votes figures will be published.
    7 Introduction of Anti-trust Laws, with full enforcement parliamentary powers that will outlaw monopoly practices. Parliamentary Committees will oversee businesses that appear in breach these laws and use the full force of their powers to bring directors and proprietors to justice in similar fashion as USA Senators stamp on any businesses in breach of their laws.
    8 Introducing a fully funded National Innovation & Business Institute (NIBI) for all R A’s. This program rejected by Premier Thatcher and other government heads, will plant the seeds to restore our manufacturing financed from tax levies imposed on all financial services and infrastructure services in the region. NIBI’s will provide free workshops and skilled tutors (many retired passing on skills) for local design engineers and inventors including IT Labs, with the Board able to provide funds to exploit the best of their projects.
    9 Introducing a National Emergency Tax for selected businesses and concerns whereby all trading incomes are subject to National Emergency Tax prior to any tax avoidance schemes. This form of a catchall tax is long overdue and will at least catch many tax avoiders as source.
    10 Build the prisons that previous governments failed to build preferring to allow thousands of guilty criminals to go free, also introduce a national street crime prevention police force to clear out petty criminals and alike that have mushroomed over the past generation and return our streets back to law abiding citizens.
    Paul Lehmans (Founder)
    founder@politicalreformparty.co.uk

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