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Clegg’s debate strategy hardly new honest politics

Posted on 21 April 2010 | 12:04pm

Just been for a run round Cardiff, looking fabulous in the sunshine (Cardiff, that is, not me; I looked a bit slow and knackered and felt relieved I am not doing the London Marathon on Sunday.)

I ran past the Welsh Assembly, which has done a lot to give Wales a greater confidence and sense of identity, past the lovely new opera house, out to the new Cardiff City stadium (alas could be back there all too soon if Burnley don’t beat Liverpool on Saturday) and round some really nice new housing developments.

Nobody pretends that all that is good in this country, and all that is improved since 1997, is down to the Labour government. But a lot of it is. Even after the recession, it is possible to look back and see this as having been a period of advance and prosperity. And it is not just the partisan in me that worries we are going to throw a lot of that away on the back of David Cameron’s vague ‘time for a change’ message, or a bout of so-called Cleggamania after a perfectly polished but hardly Obama-esque TV performance almost a week ago.

I have said many times before that our media are incapable of doing what I call in-between-ery. GB was brilliant in their eyes shortly after he became PM. He then went from hero to zero and in their eyes has stayed there. Cameron got the softest ride of any oppostion leader in history as they sought a new hero. But now Clegg is the new kid on the block, they are pushing him in the zero position, whilst hoping to be able to do the ‘Comeback Kid’ on the back of tomorrow night’s debate.

As for Clegg, there is a touch of the Dianification going on, perfectly ludicrous for a politician at election time, even one who exploited the anti-politics mood quite well.

And the loss of his debate strategy note in the back of a cab does rather blow a hole in the ‘I’m no ordinary politician, I’m honest and I tell it straight’ approach.


The Lib Dems want to scrap Trident, unilaterally, whilst allowing Iran and other rogue states to carry on regardless. But they don’t want you to know that. That is not honest politics.

Nor are he and his party quite as clean on the expenses front as they would like you to believe.

Clegg must not be allowed to avoid proper debate on Trident and all the other policy positions which, when put before the public, leads to  many of them expressing their disapproval – an amnesty for illegal asylum seekers, scrapping the DNA database, cuttting child tax credits and child trust funds.

He is in many ways an attractive politician. But for heaven’s sake let’s have some proper debate about his policies.

And when he talks about the last 65 years being a failure, that is a nonsense statement of such epic proportions I wonder how he can say it with a straight face. It is a more grandiose version of the running down Britain Mr Cameron likes to do. But it is hardly new politics.

** Buy The Blair Years and raise cash for Labour

  • Kevin Schofield

    Hi Alastair,
    Any chance of a bit of acknowledgement that the document in the back of the cab story was a brilliant scoop by The Sun?

  • Lawrence


    Regular reader, but thought that I had to comment.

    I agree, proper debate on proper policies, but can you really complain that Clegg is having an easy ride when Tony Blair had the easy ride of easy rides against Major?

    Labour has to realise that at the moment THEY CANNOT WIN,too many years of negative press and boom and bust have deflated the publics trust in them.

    Labour is Major back in the nineties, there just doesn’t appear to be a Tony Blair coming along to unite the vote.

    If you don’t like the other parties using slick spin and simple messages, consider if Labour are doing anything to bring gravitas and depth to the debates. I think you’ll find the aren’t.

    In times of poor leadership people will cling to who they think can get them through. This is not Brown and the public don’t trust Cameron. Who’s left?

    Finally, you complain of the ‘Dianification’ of Clegg, (some of us remember where the cult of Diana started by the way) these type of low blows only show a level of hypocrisy, let’s face it, if Brown could tap in on that, you would.

    Apart from that, great post :p

  • Charlie Reynolds

    Labour is finished as a governing party.

    When is Mandelson joining the LibDems?

    PS – who was it who dianified Diana? She was the people’s princess dontcha know!

    you have completely lost control……………..

  • s chapman

    AC you are so bitter and twisted that GB cant do spin or presentation – your bread and butter biz,do yourself a favour and get in one of the Millibands minds for 2015 mate….

  • Graham Jones

    Agree about Clegg. He’s just been exposed as a national risk, where security is concerned. To disarm with everyone agrees to is one thing; but to do so when Iran are trying to build nuclear weapons, and when Obama recently cited nuclear proliferation as a real and present threat, and increases the chances of them falling into the wrong hands, is seriously lacking in judgement.
    Now I’ve just witnessed Osbourne get mauled by Darling on the Politics show, and to cap it off, Cable was made to look incompetent on the big calls by Andrew Neil. Darling was the only one who looked in control. He looked like a chancellor, while the other two looked like chancer’s.
    This only illustrates further, that the Labour party are the only ones with clear policies, that provide clear solutions to keep Britain moving forward. The fight has a way to go yet, and most people don’t know who they’re going to vote for.
    At least we got a debate about policy today, and Alistair Darling was the clear winner.

  • Patrick James

    I wonder if Cameron is going to “get nasty” in the next Prime Ministerial debate?

    That stuff about his spin doctors thinking that his faults in the first debate were to do with body language may have just been to make Brown and Clegg think it is going to be an easy ride in this forthcoming debate.

    I think that between now and the 6 May the Clegg support will decline.

    The kind of person who thought Cameron looked nice then on seeing Clegg thought he looked nicer is really very much a floating voter who does not take much interest in politics.

    I respect these people because they probably lead fuller lives than I do!

    However, the message to these very much floating voters between now and 6 May is that looks don’t matter that much, its substance which counts.


    I think Brown is playing this electoral reform thing very well. The message must go out that if you want electoral reform then vote tactically against the Conservatives. They are the opposition to reform.

  • Richard Burnell

    “GB was brilliant……..” The only refence to him in your blog today. All the parties are hiding your worst performers, and Mandy and GB are now in the background, save for the debates for GB. You let the grinning Cheshire cat out today, fresh from Inverness, and he was hopeless on “Daily politics”.

    Let us face it: SPINNERS in politics, like tin miners and coopers represent dead industries. The public has rumbled you and rejected your kind. The Byers, Hoon and Hewitt axis of self spin put the last nail in the lid.

    Finally, how about a few words on the structural debt your man has left, arising to £1.4 thousand billion, and the legacy of PFI? Should be good reading.

  • Alan J

    ‘A touch of Dianification’. Nick Clegg, the people’s politician?

    I didn’t think Labour could get any more repulsive, but the way you guys are hedging your bets with the Lib Dems shows you can always pull it out the bag.

  • olli issakainen

    I do not think it is too difficult to burst the so-called “Lib Dem bubble”. It can be done simply by exposing their eccentric policies, especially on crime, defence and immigration.
    The policies of the Lib Dems are even worse than those of the Tories which is an achievement, indeed!
    Gordon Brown must rob Nick Clegg of his moderate, middle option status. Mr Clegg is lacking in substance, and he is as reliant on presentation as David Cameron.
    It is time to put an end to unfounded Cleggmania. Questions should be asked about the Lib Dems´ stance on national security, Europe and the euro.

  • Catherine Edwards

    What is happening to make sure that everyone who would vote labour is doing that on May 6th ( even in unwinnable seats) so that the uppity lib-dem claim that Labour will come third in the ‘popular’ vote doesn’t come true. Surely we don’t want labout voters to vote tactically any more. And before we go gungho into PR who is orchestrating the debate that recongnises that our electoral system elects individual consituency MPs on a majority vote. It does not elect a government. Surely consitutional reform is too big an issue to be agreed to as a ransom payment for the support of a party none of us would vote for.