21 Jul 2011

Clegg sticks to the Government script

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at news conference In Admiralty House at the Nick Clegg press conference.

The Lib Dems have very good credentials on daring to attack Murdoch et al from opposition. They’ve had their quietest 12 months ever on the subject since coming into office by dint of being in Coalition, busy with other things, trying to keep the Government harmonious.

But there has been less harmony post the AV referendum on a number of policy areas and today could have been an opportunity to create some definition on the phone-hacking scandal and the “murky practices and dodgy relationships” between politicians and the press the Deputy Prime Minister spoke about.

But what was striking was that the DPM stuck very closely to the PM’s lines in the chamber yesterday. Mr Cameron’s discussions with the Murdochs and their top team about the BSkyB bid were “appropriate” – the PM said it and he trusts him.

Would he take the opportunity to spell out just how much he’s tried to block Andy Coulson’s hiring? He didn’t and it’s not clear from his answers whether he returned to the subject with the PM when other allegations emerged through Andy Coulson’s period at No. 10.

He wouldn’t even say the UK wing of Murdoch’s empire is too big or paint a distinctly Lib Dem picture of a future media landscape.

The strategy for Nick Clegg clearly remains as it has been post-AV: to emphasise that the Lib Dems joined Coalition because of the central decision to get deficit reduction on track. But has he missed an opportunity here to get a bit more of the glory on phone hacking and (a la NHS reforms) look like he’s shaping things in government?

Some Lib Dem MPs have been bending my ear about the party’s low profile in a scandal they’d have monopolised in opposition and they may wish the DPM had found something more distinctive to say today.

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8 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:

    Gary,

    In the highly unlikely event of Cameron going, so should Clegg.

    Maybe then we’ll be rid of the Tories and the Cleggies and have a General Election to save the NHS and what’s left of anything that matters in our society.

    Actually, of course, we might have occasional fireworks from some lookalike Watergate Committee, some Lee Harvey Oswalds/James Earl Rays/Sirhan Sirhans, even perhaps some “mysterious deaths,” then the same old crew will be back peddling the same old lies via the same old three-monkeys media.

    We have been here before. Who now remembers the Scott Inquiry (Arms-to-Iraq) and John Major telling parliament the inquiry report exonerated the government, when it did precisely the opposite?

    The odds-on bet is that the politicians and media will wear hair shirts for a while, then toss them in the bin, and then go back as though nothing had happened. There might be a new law or two, but it won’t stop the crooks, liars, cheats and warmongers any more than it did in the United States.

    It would be comic if it wasn’t so tragic. And future consequences eventually so cataclysmic. By comparison, the banks crisis will be a fart in the wind.

  2. Saltaire Sam says:

    If ever there was a prime example of beware what you wish for in case you get it, it is Nick Clegg.

    For a couple of weeks before the election he was the politician that most people thought could make a difference in English politics. He outshone Brown and Cameron in the debates, he put forward policies that cut across the old fashioned dogma of the other two. And, yes, he had the guts to oppose Murdoch.

    But then he got power.

    He lost all credibility by going back on his tuition fees pledge and prevaricating on so much else.

    And even now, faced with an open goal, he can’t bring himself to kick the ball even though his body language during Cameron’s statement screamed that he was hating being in the seat next to the PM.

    Power may not have corrupted Clegg but it has certainly turned him into a political eunuch.

  3. John B Sheffield says:

    In the latest polling figures Nick Clegg and the LibDems had a good increase in points and I am sure this is down to voters too not see them tainted with the hacking and Murdock! While Labour dropped 3 points and into second place, Ed Miliband read the mood of the country very well at the very start but he never seems to be able to move on his personal attacks on the PM do not sit well with the average voter and his party are looking more than ever outdated with real Old Labour attitudes.

    No I feel Clegg is playing the right game, stab the PM in the back now and public opinion will again revert to seeing him and his party as negative as Labour clearly are currently,

    1. sue_m says:

      Stabbing in the back may be seen as negative but if Clegg manned up and showed he could be different he might just salvage some respect. If he openly declared he could no longer support Cameron & co and withdrew from the coalition it would be seen as a strong move. If he really thinks his party has anything to gain by remaining he must be a fool. If the plan works the Tories will take the glory and get re-elected next time round with the Libdems sinking out of sight, if the plan doesnt work Labour will come back to the fore and the Libdems will sink out of sight. Clegg needs to disassociate from the toxic tories as soon as possible- if he can bring himself to give up that whiff of the power he hovers on the edges of.

  4. Yorkshire Lass says:

    They’re all very trusting, aren’t they? Cameron trusted Coulson to tell him the truth, Clegg trusts Cameron. For my part I don’t trust a single man jack of them.

  5. sue_m says:

    On the rare occasions he comes into the public eye now, Clegg just looks like he has lost the will to live, let alone challenge Cameron. He may as well just defect to the Conservative party and allow a true liberal to take over his party.

    Then maybe the LibDems could withdraw from the coalition before Cameron and Osborne completely destroy the social fabric of the country.

  6. Barbara says:

    Perhaps Nick Clegg and the Liberals view part of their role as moderating right wing Conservatism that may rear its head. To be in power rather than in third place is obviously beneficial for them as a party and as individuals. They are also learning the rules of government first hand so will be better equipped should their time come.

    In today’s economic climate the cuts must be seen as necessary.Some of their policies have been adopted. But Lib Dems know full well that the economy must be mended.Better to contribute than to be in opposition.

    In Europe the folly of too many public services in Greece has largely caused the economic chaos currently being resolved.Let us hope that when the debt is under control that everyone will be more aware of the necessary measures to prevent a reccurance.

  7. AJ Shelton says:

    Whatever happens over the next few years, it is safe to say that the Lib Dems have made themselves well and truly unelectable. Whatever course of action they take now cannot go well for them.

    If they continue to support the tories, and in the unlikely event of the economy getting back on it’s feet again, they still won’t have gained any credibility. Whatever the happens to the nation, the tories, not the Lib Dems will be to blame.

    Obviously they have alienated all who previously supported, and breaking the coalition will do nothing to change that.

    Goodbye Lib Dems.

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