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Don’t faint, but I want to say something positive about Nick Clegg

Posted on 15 July 2011 | 7:07am

It has been widely and rightly recognised that Ed Miliband has shown real leadership in recent days. He has forced the pace on phonehacking, and the broader issues of media practices and culture which the Leveson Inquiry will now investigare. It has been equally widely recognised that David Cameron has had a very bad crisis, in which his judgement, character and leadership skills have all rightly been called into question.

Now, if you are sitting comfortably and not prone to fainting, I am going to do something I have not done for – oh well, probably ever – namely offer a few words of praise for Nick Clegg.

Here’s why … the following extract from Labour’s media monitoring report this morning.

‘Clegg calls for far-reaching overhaul of laws on media ownership’ (Guard p5) – ‘Family’s grip on BSkyB may be threatened, warns Clegg’ (Tele p6) – Clegg has proposed new rules on media plurality and cross-media ownership as part of a shake-up of press regulation in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal. The DPM said the PCC had ‘failed’ and shld be replaced by ‘independent regulation, insulated from vested interests within the media and free from govt interference too’. Clegg outlined a series of proposed reforms to press regulation, but he promised the end result should do nothing to stifle a ‘raucous, probing’ press, which he said was a cornerstone of liberal democracy. However, he said that press regulators would need to have ‘proper sanctions at their disposal, including financial penalties’ that could be levied on editors, journalists and proprietors who breached the code of conduct. He also announced a review of the law on the illicit use of personal data and whether such an offence – which now only attracts a fine – should carry a prison sentence. Clegg said the judge-led inquiry would also consider issues of media plurality…. There wld also be a review of competition law, giving the authorities ‘the power to report on public interest issues, which could include media plurality, in the same way as [they] can now for mergers’.

I think most reasonable people will find it hard to disagree with much of that.

As the current frenzy calms (unlikely until Tuesday at the earliest), and the debate about policy changes develops, it is right that politicians continue to want to support a system of regulation independent of government, but also free from the kind of vested interests that made the PCC a poodle of the Murdochs and Dacres of this world.

That has to be the approach – fight for a free press, but a free and honest press, as the lawyer Mark Lewis has been putting it.

Clegg seems to have learned the lessons of the early days of government, when he allowed Cameron and George ‘Invisible’ Osborne to manouevre him into becoming a human shield for very bad policies. He put himself out there as the defender of the indefensible.

Now it is Cameron who has been defending the indefensible – the decision to hire Andy Coulson, his entrapment by News International, personal relationships which clouded his political judgement and got him way behind the curve – and Clegg who must force him to do the right thing.

It will require a mix of public and private agitation. But it looks to me that he has learned that he will do better if he agitates more in private, and let’s others make the judgements of any success in public.

Meanwhile, before Lib Dem visitors get carried away, I have to point out that as a result of the aforementioned policy disasters, yesterday alone provided evidence that burglaries and NHS waiting lists are soaring.

Once the press regulation issue is resolved, the economy, jobs, crime, schools and hospitals will reassert themselves as the main issues for the public.

And on these, Nick Clegg still has a lot to answer for, and Ed Miliband a lot more to gain now that he has established a sense of leadership and authority recognised even by his critics.

  • Andrewbear33

    Yep.  That’s about it.  Although I disagree with you when you say Clegg is the human shield.  Whenever the government has any bad news to bury, from any department, poor Danny Alexander is wheeled out.

    IMO both Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg have looked really lightweight compared to the Tories until now.  Ed, for the first time showed to everyone that he’s capable of giving Cameron a good hiding at PMQs and looking like a good, strong opposition leader.  Clegg has made some bad decisions but now looks like he’s finding his own voice within the coalition and hopefully will continue to be a force for good in there.

  • Yvonne Ritchie

    Quite right. The media circus around NI and News Corps has rightly had a high profile. FBI investigation will keep it bubbling a while whilst we await Tuesday.
    Maybe now that EM has shown leadership and ‘gets it’ the campaign of bullying against him will subside. I voted for David but will support EM as rhe leader. There’s too much bullying in politics especially at local level ie council chambers. Until this is properly addressed at local level the Party will continue to have the wrong image. Maybe you could use your journalistic skills to continue the attempts by TB to clean up the Party.

  • Simon Landau

    But for either Clegg or Miliband to get lasting benefit from their stance there needs to be a policy outcome recognised by the electorate as of benefit to them.  So far (as Newsnight on 13/7 demonstrated) there has only been disbenefit – the loss of an entertaining title.

    Corporate governance (the heart of the matter) is boring – getting ripped off is visceral and a growing feeling that it is institutionalised.  That is where we should focus.  

  • Olli Issakainen

    Nick Clegg is talking sense on media issues, but I am afraid it is too little, too late for him.
    Mr Clegg´s real problem is that he is the leader of a wrong party!
    It appears that David Cameron has not been telling the whole truth about Coulson. This could be damaging if (and when) new revelations emerge.
    In my books intrusion to medical records and bank accounts is more serious than phone-hacking. People should be sent to jail for this.
    The relationship between Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg has cooled down since the AV campaign. Mr Clegg must now relish the thought that he can bring down Mr Cameron whenever he wants…
    It has now emerged that Boris Johnson also warned George Osborne about Coulson.
    Greece and the US are still in the news, but Britain has its own problems too.
    According to OBR report the age of austerity will continue for decades. UK will pay price for an ageing population and declining tax levels.
    Rising cost of healthcare and pensions plus declining tax revenues from the North Sea will mean higher debt levels.
    Without fresh tax rises or spending cuts debt will hit 107% of GDP by 2060-61.
    Set against the governments´s assests worth £759bn overall public sector liabilities now stand at £1.2trn, 84.5% of GDP.
    Health spending will have to rise from 7.4% of national output in 2015-16 to 10% by 2060.
    OBR´s head Robert Chote has pointed out that the UK could choose to become a “high tax, high spending” economy instead of just slashing public spending.
    Will Hutton rightly wrote in the Guardian that British democracy cannot live with Murdoch´s BSkyB bid. It will now be interesting to see whether Mr Murdoch will sell all his UK newspapers. And to whom?
    Ed Miliband has come to age recently. Next step for Labour is to win the argument also on the economy, past and present.
    All the official figures from the past support the view that Labour did not cause the mess by overspending. The crisis was caused by banks, and the reason for deficit was bank bailouts and recession.
    But the problem is not with the facts, but with the fact that what matters is the picture the media paints of reality. Naive people now believe that it is all Labour´s fault.
    This must change. Labour must soon get its credibility back on the economy by using the official figures which tell that the state of British economy was better before the economic crisis than under the Major administration.
    Both the debt and the deficit were smaller!
    Labour must also seize the moment if the Q2 growth figure is under 0.8% which it in all probability will be.
    With inflation at 4.2% and British economy well below the levels before the crisis, Mr Osborne´s plan needs annual growth of 3% to succeed. Growth of 2.5% is needed for unemployment to come down.
    I am expecting that the Q2 growth will be only 0.3%, but some say that it might even be negative.
    If it is, snow will not be the reason for it. Mr Osborne will find the real culprit simply by looking at the mirror…  

  • Anonymous

    I agree with you on Nick Clegg. Recently he has done much better, as have some of his party. 

    What worries me at the minute, is that as they are the lesser partner in this coalition Government, the Liberal voice is not yet distinct enough, so its almost impossible for the public to decide what part that party is actually playing. If anything good happens, it seems to be the Conservatives who are bathed in sunshine, leaving the Liberals in a very awkward position.I think its actually in Labour’s interests for the Lib-Dems to start improving so that the electorate can distinguish between the 3 parties at the next election… and I think Labour can help to make that happen. At the moment, Labour looks at a government policy proposal, and comments on it, as has been the old tradition. However, this is a new type of government, a coalition, with 2 parties running the show. Therefore, what I would like to see is Miliband dissecting policies and recognising the efforts of the Liberals, whilst at the same time criticising the Conservative side of it (where possible).  This would start to create a wedge between the 2 parties and if done well, help to undermine the Conservatives overall.  Distinguishing between each parties contribution would also help to show the public what Lib-Dems have been doing, so that they can make a clear choice at the next general election. If Labour don’t do that, then I am worried that the Liberals will become a forgotten party, with many of their previous votes going to the Conservatives.If Labour are not successful at the next election, I would prefer another coalition government to a full-blown Conservative one. But at the minute i cannot see that happening, which worries me somewhat. Lets hope Miliband’s adenoids, or should I say lack of them, make all the difference.

  • Dan Smith

    An MI6 officer has accused Alastair
    Campbell of behaving like ‘an unguided missile’ during the creation of
    Tony Blair’s dodgy dossier before the Iraq War.
    Secret Intelligence Service official delivered his withering assessment
    of the ex-prime minister’s former communications chief during secret
    testimony to the Chilcot Inquiry into the war.
    spy, referred to as SIS2, was asked to describe the relationship MI6
    had with Downing Street during the preparation of the dossier, which
    concluded that Saddam Hussein could fire chemical warheads within 45
    He replied:
    ‘We did have regular links with Alastair Campbell… we found [him], I
    think, an enthusiastic individual, but also somewhat of an unguided
    ‘From the outset
    we had concerns. He also, I think, suffered from his propensity to have
    rushes of blood to the head and pass various stories and information to
    journalists without appropriate prior consultation.’
    Read more:

  • To transcend
    party politics must be a quantum leap in understanding for you in your quest to
    know the value of truth.

    Good man,
    there is hope for you yet.

    News and
    opinion, however, is on trial, and I think a differentiation should be established
    between these two as being separate entities, news being retrospective, and
    opinion being futurespective (my word).

    It is the
    intermingling of these two concepts that causes the causes the greatest
    subliminal confusion (and harm) and works to advantage only of those printing
    the news.

    That way
    you have a newspaper which prints only news, and an opinion paper which
    prints only opinions.

    everybody who buys the newspaper can form their own opinion, and anyone who
    buys the opinionpaper, well, I suggests they get a life, or do a doctorate, or something.


  • zeitgeist of a wonderous rosy dawn of media openness or schadenfreude as the feiry-haired Rebekah faces immolation on the pyre of this decadent empire? 

  • Robert

    James Murdoch has announced that Newscorp has set up an independent management and standards committee with direct governance and oversight from News Corporation board members.

    All sounds very good except it begs the question what the devil have the audit committee and a corporate audit function been doing in all of this? They are main board responsibilities recognised by the respective stock exchange and regulators.

  • Mark Wright

    Clegg appears to have rediscovered his pre-election voice. With Cameron so utterly discredited and flailing from one position to another Clegg has been able to reassert himself. This problem is Cameron’s and Cameron’s alone. 

    But lest we forget other senior Lib Dem voices have also surely been restored to their forme glory, namely Vince Cable. The Lib Dem voice around the cabinet table will be a little stronger, and little less easy to dampen, in the future.

    The power the Lib Dems wielded in the immediaite aftermath of the 2010 election has been gradually, and in some cases dramatically, eroding in the past 12 months. The events of the last couple of weeks may see not just the rehabilitation of the British press, or the restoration of a robust and effective House of Commons but the first green shoots of recovery for Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats.    

  • Moral Compass McManse

    “It has been widely and rightly recognised that Ed Miliband has shown real leadership in recent days.”

    “and Ed Miliband a lot more to gain now that he has established a sense of leadership and authority recognised even by his critics.”

     Errm – empy spin on your part AC – but then proper factual analysis backed up with substantive evidence was never really your strong point. Just because you insist something is the case doesn’t make it true – it seems you’ve learnt nothing since your dodgy dossier days.

  • MicheleB

    I don’t often feel that someone is unforgivable but I’m afraid I feel that way about Clegg.

    His cynical behaviour in the days just post-election, when his meetings with both sides were more about which ministerial roles would be available in which coalition, not that pretence of his about ‘the national good’, made me even more certain than I’d been before that here was a prime user.

    Had it not been for the skills of the Opposition and the media in exposing all the viciousness in the NHS plans he would have waved it through (in fact his signature had already done so). 

    His pathetic excuse would have made me laugh it it hadn’t been so grim; talk about power and corruption.

    I presume he was part of the authorisation of scrapping the schools building programmes of last year but most sickeningly tit4tat-ish has been the support of the Tories’ constant wail ‘what we inherited’.

    The absolute height (or depth?) of his cynicism was his accusation that Labour’s loan promise to Forgemasters in 2010 was merely a bribe in a marginal constituency.  The item they’d have been making was a world-leading piece of hardware with decades of future orders bound to follow.

    Clegg, Cable, Teather and Laws have shown themselves to be corruptible and as for the frequent whinge ‘oh well what we said in Opposition is because we  didn’t have as much responsibility’ (or words to that effect) is sheer absolute CRAP.  We’ve yaddered about Cam et all not getting the famous ‘it’, well some need to get the ‘it’ about responsibility whatever one’s role and this Opposition’s support team do just that.

    • MicheleB

      Ooops, more haste less accuracy,
      my ‘Laws’ was meant to be ‘Alexander’.

  • Ehtch

    It is said that newspapers don’t make money, the Guardian is said to be run at quite a loss, subsidised by the group with profits from other activities.

    Anyway, with online newspaper sites, it baffles me that they have moving adverts, like mini-films. Surely it would be better to have static ads, with a link for further info, and will be many more in the same space, as like a mark one newspaper. Surely they would make much more money in advertising. These animated ads are annoying, and when you want to page back to have another look, it has changed to another product ad.

    And as for Clegg, he now seems to have made a deal with the devil, as explained by Gordon Brown in the Commons a couple of days ago, link,

  • Anonymous

    I have always said that if left alone the “Conolition” will eventually fracture. The LIb Dems will become more restless with their own vulnerabilty at the next election .
    Unless they start to man up soon and be more honest about what they really stand for , they wil be demolished as a party.

    As far as Cameron goes it is only a matter of time before it emerges that he did a deal with Murdoch. to ease the takeover of BSYB in exchange for support at the last election.The invisible umbilicle chord between Cameron Coulson Brooks and Murdoch is about to be exposed !!

    The Lib Dems need to make the break now !.Otherwise they will go down with that sinking ship

    Mind you I think it may be to late for the likes of Danny Alexander who continues to veer so far right he is meeting himself coming back !

  • Ehtch

    MI6 should stick to people overseas. What does MI5 think of Alastair the Daily Mail should be looking into. I have agreed with his views always, if you don’t mind me brown-tongueing! Perhaps MI6 are trying to put Alastair out to dry from their own possible incompetences?

  • Moral Compass McManse

    Indeed and if you refer to the Independent you will find reference to the leaking of information to the press in an article on te same point. I do hope the OSA was not breached – this of course should be properly investigated, just like Piers Morgan.

  • MicheleB

    Oh heck, Dan Smith things he has a scoop

    Wakey wakey Dan

  • Dave Simons

    We’ve been given good reason in the last fourteen months not to trust a single word Nick Clegg and other LibDems say about anything. If a keyword of the Tories is ‘Hypocrisy’ a key word of the LibDems is ‘Duplicity’.

  • ambrosian

    “Once the press regulation issue is resolved, the economy, jobs, crime, schools and hospitals will reassert themselves as the main issues for the public.”

    But both the Leverson Inquiry and the court cases could drag on for two years or longer. We are told that far worse scandals are yet to be revealed and these are already known to some insiders who cannot speak about them yet for legal reasons.
    The problem about this is that there will be dozens of ‘good days to bury bad news’ for the Government. For them, that is the one silver lining. Whether it will be enough to save them is another matter.
    I see that Ladbrokes have slashed the odds on Cameron having to leave office from 100/1 to 20/1.

  • Ehtch

    I love the stuff this young lad posts on youtube, with manipulating old analogue keyboards, from the great years of early 1980s Britpop, a lad living near Cleggs constituency, he is, slightly souther. A depeche from Essex appreciation, and quite succint with roaming camera paps and online and mobile phone shenahigans, enjoy,

  • Ehtch

    A song for you Clegg, you orange head, a song for where my heart lies, even though I have spent half of my working life living my life in “that england”, as scousers would wish to put it,

  • Gilliebc

    Ed Miliband has done alright recently, but let’s be honest here, he’d have needed to be a total numpty not to!  He is just so ordinary.  He has no charisma whatsoever.  Does he inspire anybody with his soaring colourful rhetoric? I think not.  He is an adequate, (just about) leader for now, but a long-term leader and future PM, no way.

    It’s not difficult to imagine how TB would have led on this current situation regarding phone hacking and its ramifications.  He would have led with style, substance and panache, because he was and is more intelligent that EM.

    This country’s economy is getting worse not better, thanks to G. Osbourne’s plan!  Labour should be “all over” Osbourne, the weak Danny Alexander and the others on this issue alone. It might even be worth letting Ed Balls of the leash to tackle this issue in a more unrestrained way. Why aren’t Labour doing more to set the record straight on many peoples mistaken perception that it was Labour’s over-spending rather than the casino playing Bankers that brought about the crash in 2008?  AC any thoughts on that particular question?

  • Richard

    What of the cynical behaviour of GB post election? He would have shared power at any price with the devil. You are so bitter because if this coalition works there is no room in centre politics for you crowd.
    (GB’s attempt to rewrite history in his speech this week was shameful.)
    You all hope for economic failure, and coalition split so that your beloved can be returned to power.
    Not in your lifetime will there be another Labour government if the coalition make things work, but the “No policies” strategy currently employed is letting both coalition parties strengthen and renew.
    AC, if this is what you spin as a good week for Red Leader, your party is beyond repair. His “stuck needle” repeticious performance, as seen on UTUBE, will haunt him for years. His reliance on jargon, as supplied to him, no doubt, makes him a wooden and shallow man.

    • MicheleB

      In view of our last exchange topic Richard I’ll point out your ‘repeticious’ above and am sure you’ll do me the same favour re my typo.

      Pedantry eh, it can come back and bite you on your bum (and no, that wouldn’t be me advising you of my RL name).

  • Ehtch

    More for Clegg for you to look into, Gene Tierney, who I am absolutely am besotted in time with,

    with Rex Harrison in some film on a coast in South England,

    Photo, she is the one on the left at the window, when her US east coast parents sent her to finishing school in Switzerland, just before WWII……..

  • MicheleB

    Aw gawd, life Chez Richard must be bleak indeed.

    I am not bitter Richard, I’ll admit I was sad last May and did support GB trying to form a coalition with NC although even then I’d rather they’d both decided to let the Tories run a minority Govt . 

    That was until I heard about the cyncial shenanigans of those few days in May and while I still understood LibDems to be soft left; I’m sure most of their voters understood them that way and feel their trust was violated and their votes misused.

    Within a few days of the wedding we heard that they even planned to change what we all understand by ‘majority’ with the ambition to change  No confidence motions.   Could the LDs REALLY not see that this would mean they themveryselves would be redundant within the coalition if such a notion was adopted?

    Please don’t make guesses about the longevity left for me Richard with your guesstimate about things that won’t happen in my lifetime, that has an unpleasant ring to it, Mr wannabe bogey man.

    This coalition cannot make things work, it is headed up by people that have NO practical experience, which means not enough time in HoC itself, not enough of business organisations nor of prioritisation, not of anything except schmoozing to the the Hello culture.

    I’ve not seen anyone mention anywhere yet the SICK responses of most of the public when the news about Baby Brown was released and people actually wrote to papers saying it was shameful for him to be seeking sympathy by using his situation …. had Brooks or Coulson or any other *****hawk that knew about it come clean then there might be some salvation and point in your bitching about his speech.

    Get lost.

  • Dave Simons

    Presumably the implication of that last sentence is that you yourself are not ‘wooden’ or ‘shallow’. I invite anyone to read past posts headed ‘Richard’ and form their own opinions about that.
    As has been said before (but obviously not taken in) nobody hopes for economic failure, apart from a few anti-social crackpots. Economic failure is exactly what we don’t want, and current articles on the business pages of the broadsheets arouse nothing but trepidation in that respect. There is no ‘beloved’ or ‘you crowd’ outside your wishful and somewhat paranoid mind, and as for our ‘lifetime’ and the prospects of a Labour government, I personally seem to have heard that one before. People just like you were saying after the 1987 General Election that Labour was finished for good! 
    Don’t invoke a ‘stuck needle’ too often, Richard – it might be yourself you’re trying to insult.

  • Ehtch

    And these people are from Brighton, not south lahndon, clegg, you tulip numbnuts,

  • Ehtch

    more Cleggy message. get on your bike in Carmarthenshire, West Wales,

  • Ehtch

    More reason Clegg that I will move to Brighton from Wales when my dad snuffs it and sets me free, Katsen,

  • derik

    *It’s historic and political circumstances that makes the great leader.

    *Churchill would be a nobody if it wasn’t for Hitler, and WW2
    *Thatcher was a nobody to the public when she became leader of the tory party. But she had her Regan. No Regan, no Thatcher.
    *Alexander had Aristotle, and the circumstance of his fathers assignation.
    *Caesar had gaul, and a large Roman army to become Ceasar of Rome.
    *Napoleon had the French Revolution. No revolution, no Napoleon.
    *Lenin had Marx, and a Russia dominated by an authoritarian monarchy.
    *Gandhi had the British empire, imperialism, and India controlled as a colony.
    *Martin Luther King had a history of slavery, racism and inequality of black
    Americans, he also had christianity as a moral power discourse to batter the
    establishment of America. The Kennedys were there for him is his political struggle.

    Each person had an historic problem to solve, and had the language and ideology to speak with, the people believed in them, and they articulated a need with
    great precision and luck.

    Ed Miliband has just experienced his historic episteme, the moment when
    individual, ideology and circumstances all meet to create a great moment
    of change.

  • Dale

    I do have one main qualm with what you are saying – ala NHS changes slowed/edited because of the opposition in the media, I’m sorry but that is bull. The Conservatives haven’t particularly worried about things being bad policy/unpopular in this government or previous ones. The reason the NHS changes are currently being reviewed is because of a vote at the Lib Dem spring conference, it became quite clear that they wouldn’t breeze through the commons with no scrutiny, therefore the stop, pause, change or, hopefully, don’t proceed.

    I wouldn’t bunch Cable in with the group that you’ve listed at the bottom of the page, he has constantly been a thorn in the side of the Tories, especially on issues like banking reform and immigration… Publicly this has made him seem at 6s and 7s, but if you are annoying the Tories you are doing coalition properly.

  • MicheleB

    I don’t write every post to include everything I have said before anyway and am afraid I don’t agree with your ‘correction’.

    You can trace back to whenever you like but should know fine well that what actually stopped Cam in his tracks was the nurses’ vote at their conference. 

    My stomach churns when I think about Clegg having signed documents he had not read (no matter how much time he might have thought/hoped/wished  there would be in the future to do his job properly).

    My feelings about Cable are less to do with his performance in the coalition, more to do with his totally irresponsible behaviour when in Opposition.  Destructive, mocking, negative and envious.  It’s not much fun knowing someone that spent the last decade being so reckless about a true Govt is pumping up the value of his pension on this lot’s tailcoats.

  • Ehtch

    What makes you think I think the orange head cleggy has risen above himself to us in total disrespect to us original brits?

  • Roger

    Whilst Alastairs comment about Nick are welcomed he seems to forget that whilst Labour were getting closer to the Murdoch press,Lib Dems like Paddy Ashdown were standing up in parliament and warningof the dangers are were being ignored by the other two parties. Olli also does not understand that Nick is a member of a party that he wants to be in and that party policy is agreed at conference not behind closed doors.
    If he or she wants to join a democratic party they will always be welcome in the Lib Dems

  • Gordon

    Nick Clegg has had a bad press for a long time, mainly because of the bad press barons that he refused to cuddle up to (Unlike Labour and the Conservatives). He has, as you say, been used by Cameron as a human shield, but Nick Clegg is coming out to play his own bat, and showing that he and the Liberal Democrats have long been unafraid of the admittedly fierce attacks from journalists obeying their bosses’ diktats. A few journalists are creeping out from the Murdoch skirts to acknowledge this. Let’s see some more!