Monday, September 22, 2008

Nick Clegg: "I think it's about 30 quid now, isn't it?"

Does it matter that Nick Clegg did not know how much the state pension is? I am afraid it does.

At Bournemouth the Liberal Democrats insisted - to an almost comic extent - that they stood for the interests of "ordinary, hard-working families". Nick's own speech was studded with cameos detailing the struggles of people he has met.

If you make this the focus of your campaign, and imply that other parties and your critics within your own party are out of touch with the average voter, then you look pretty silly when you make a mistake like this.

What worried me was not so much that Nick got it wrong so much as the flippant, dismissive way he referred to "30 quid a week".

Labour's attempt to brand David Cameron as a "toff" never looked like working, not least because it is a word no one uses outside a Kevin Maguire column. But Nick should beware of coming across as too much of a yuppie (to use a slightly less outdated word). Think of his talk of educating his children privately or of economising by moving from Ocado to Sainsbury's. And what sort of life does he imagine people could live on "30 quid a week"?

Just because Tony Blair and David Cameron have made it look easy to be a public school type in modern Britain and not rub people up the wrong way does not mean that it is easy. Be yourself, Nick, but do be aware of the effect your attitude can have on other people.

Jeremy Hargreaves argues that expecting politicians to know the level of the state pension is like expecting them to know the latest plot twists in Eastenders. But this does not convince me.

I agree the demand that politicians should share every demotic concern is silly (though a politician who really did enjoy soap operas would be endearing), but most people will be acutely aware of the level of the state pension because one of these days it will make up a large chunk of their income.

If Nick makes it so clear that this is not the case for him, the "ordinary, hard-working families" he cares about so much may question whether he really has their interests at heart.

2 comments:

The Daily Pundit said...

Vince Cable's £4 prescription charge clanger was equally telling but seems to have been overlooked. As was Vince's guess that the cost of a TV license is £200.

The Great Clegg Clanger Quiz

Simon Titley said...

Everyone has focused on Nick Clegg's "gaff" of not knowing what the state pension is.

There is a much more interesting question. If Nick Clegg believed that the state pension really is £30, why was he not angry about it?