Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Nick Clegg needs to leave his comfort zone

At last. Something from Nick Clegg to inspire us.

The Guardian reports:

Nick Clegg, the odds-on favourite to become Liberal Democrat leader, yesterday announced that he will break the law and refuse to provide details of his identity if the government presses ahead with plans to make ID cards compulsory.

Drawing a parallel with resistance to the poll tax, he said he would also urge his fellow MPs and Lib Dem councils not to cooperate.

It's not just that this is a striking, Liberal and correct: it is that it is something concrete. Until now the Clegg campaign has been conducted largely in code.

Take his widely publicised opinion that "over the last two years or so the Liberal Democrats have been looking inwards too much”. This could mean anything from a plan to scrap the party's democratic policy-making process to a call for everyone to stop thinking and go out to deliver Focus. How are we to know what it really does mean?

Clegg's most substantial contribution to the campaign so far has been his My Vision for Britain. This present the same problems of interpretation.

He says:

We need to set some ground rules here: our universal public services must be free to use and accessible to all. But beyond that, I want us to think afresh about how they should be funded and delivered.
What I take that to mean is that Nick is open to the idea of a diversity of providers in education, but maybe that is just me projecting my views on to him.

Similarly, when Nick says:
We must not be critical of the many parents who care deeply about their children’s education. But we cannot ignore those who are either unwilling or unable to care at all.
I suspect that this signals support for mandatory home-school contracts and I am suspicious of it. But again, that could tell you more about my views than it does about Nick's.

You don't expect the leadership candidates to rewrite the party's policy during the campaign. It would not be healthy if they tried to do it. But they have to give party members some idea of the direction in which they would hope to move the party's thinking.

What I am saying, I suppose, is that Nick Clegg - the great communicator - needs to start communicating something solid. The danger was always that, as the bookies' favourite and with the support of the majority of both media commentators and the party's great and good, is that he would fight a safety-first campaign.

That would be understandable, but the Lib Dems need more from him.

In short, he has to leave his comfort zone?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"What I take that to mean is that Nick is open to the idea of a diversity of providers in education, but maybe that is just me projecting my views on to him."

I first thought that he meant health care, but probably he meant both. "Public services" covers a wide field.