Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Great Politics Show Bust Up

By far the best discussion of this lunchtime's events is the one by Stephen Tall on Liberal Democrat Voice. It is notable that many of the bloggers who have expressed outrage at Chris Huhne's behaviour have been expressing outrage at at his campaign on a daily basis for a couple of weeks now.

Clearly, the headline "Calamity Clegg" was a huge misjudgement on someone's part - and adopting the American "flip-flop" charge was silly and vulgar - but surely we are allowed to discuss policy in a leadership campaign?

Nick Clegg began this one by pledging to take the party out of its comfort zone, but has since failed to give us much idea of what that might involve. He can hardly complain if another candidate starts to speculate on his intentions as a result.

And dismissing any attempt to debate policy as creating "synthetic differences ... [which] our opponents will use against us" is just silly.

If I am going to vote for Nick Clegg I need to have a clearer idea of what he stands for than I have at present. It happens that I am interested in school vouchers and feel that Chris sometimes appeals too much to the "councillors know best" attitude you can find in the party. So I am up for leaving our comfort zone on education, at least. But most of all I want some clarity from Nick.

I was struck by how well Chris handled himself after he was ambushed by Jon Sopel. While, as Stephen Tall points out, Nick will have to learn to cope with far more vicious attacks than this one if he becomes leader.

Two other thoughts...

The Politics Show, like the Question Time special earlier in the week, is a programme that wants to make a buzz and break news stories. It is not interested in providing a neutral arena in which Liberal Democrats can debate their differences in a civilised way.

More importantly, it is a great shame that we do not have a wider field of candidates to choose from. I would have liked to see a woman candidate: I would have liked to see David Laws and Steve Webb standing.

Then we would certainly have had some proper debates on the future direction of the party. And we would have shown the voters that there is more to the Liberal Democrats than two Westminster-educated former MEPs falling out.


Joe Otten said...

I would love to hear some policy debate in this contest, but how are we going to have it when one candidate is only interested in arguing against policies that the other does not support?

Anonymous said...

But how do we know what Nick does and does not support?

Two years ago Nick stated that we should not rule out insurance models for funding health care.

Nowhere in his manifesto does he rule it out.

Surely it is legitimate for Chris to push him on the point?

Anonymous said...

Would anyone else like to re-open nominations? I'm not sure if Clegg can escape the charge of being a weak, indecisive flip-flopper and a Huhne victory would make us look nasty. Of course, re-opening nominations would make us look shambolic. So, are we to be nasty, wishy-washy or incompetent?

I think the damage of another chaotic leadership campaign will be short term as long as we get the right leader at the end of it. Unless either Clegg or Huhne gets his act together the damage from one of them winning could be more serious and longer-lasting.

Joe Otten said...


Simple. Ask him. Or better still, refer to his previous answer.

And, frankly, someone who considered European style social insurance before rejecting it will be sounder on the policy that somebody who rejected it without considering it.

I fail to see how having once considered a policy that seems to work well for much of Europe can be so much of a crime, that it must be harped on about like this.

Not that I, personally, have any idea what Nick's policy was n years ago.

Perhaps when Chris is leader he will publish a list of the kinds of policy ideas we are not even allowed to think about.

Tristan said...

Firstly, this whole thing is really depressing. Why are we ruling out adopting policies which are aimed at empowering individuals?

They may be bad policies, but how can we decide without rational debate rather than shouting 'he wants evil US systems'.

I think the reason Clegg hasn't taken us out of our comfort zone is that doing so would lead to attacks saying that he's either 'flip-flopping' or is really a tory in disguise, or wants to make the party right-wing or other such nonsense.

I'm now starting to wonder how much of this is down to Lynne Featherstone as campaign manager, I hear that she and Clegg have had some issues in the past...