This blog is a political blog from a left-of-centre perspective. This is not specifically a party political blog, but does have a Lib Dem orientation. Constructive enagement with radical liberals, social democrats / democratic socialists and greens is particularly welcomed.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The verdict on Nick Clegg - Good ? Bad ? Indifferent ?

The Autumn Conference speech yesterday by Nick Clegg with vacuous references like the notion of a ‘progressive audacity’ was not one to excite me as a Lib Dem, let alone those outside our ranks. As Darrell Goodliffe says it's as meaningless as the supposed 'Third Way' of Blair and Clinton.

Last Autumn we had the imprecise detail as to how much of the £20bn of alleged ’savings’ would be redirected towards tax cuts and we had Nick’s inability to say what the basic level of the state pension was. This September we’ve had the irresponsible and alienating talk of ’savage’ cuts and trying to bounce the party on tuition fees. His political antennae is questionable, again.

Conference is meant to rally the troops and engage with the wider public. Did it achieve either outcome ? Most of the public are aware that times of austerity are coming, but as Steve Webb said the leadership overdid the gloom and doom. It is us who will pay for the greed of the banking sector and the artificial credit-led boom that turned sour.

The explicitly progressive taxation positioning clearly outflanks the other parties is what should have been shouted from the rooftops. Our commitment to reforming and cleaning up politics should resonate, following the MP’s expenses furore. Likewise, distinctive policies, such as the pupil premium, civil liberties stances, supporting the Ghurkas et al, are all good stories to tell – not an emphasis on getting into a dutch auction to see who can be harder on the public sector.

Critics portray Clegg as Cameron Lite. The faux sincerity of his body language apes Blair. Just because the media establishment tell you someone is good doesn’t automatically make it so. Didn’t the political class marvel at Cameron and Blair previously ?

Frankly, it’ll be a tall order to retain the number of seats we already have at Westminster next year. That a third of the populace have never even heard of Nick Clegg says it all. Further I remember vividly how God awful he was at the Plymouth leadership hustings. Disappointingly I’m no further impressed despite Nick having had time to ‘grow into’ the job of leader.

Sure he’s had his conference successes too. After the shaky start, I think he did crucially manage to get across how different we are from the Tories (and, of course, Labour).
That Labour is so electorally impotent and their haemorrhaging vote is going pretty much everywhere but NOT to the Lib Dems is a real reason for concern. How do those more impressed with Nick explain this current phenomenom ?



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