Sunday, November 30, 2008

Arrogant, Careless and Deeply Concerning; Nick Clegg attacks members of his own shadow cabinet! The Party Deserves an Apology

For anyone who has yet to see the story, the Sunday Mirror is running an exclusive regarding comments that Nick Clegg made on an internal flight from London to Inverness. In a conversation with Danny Alexander, our leader has managed to patronise and insult three of the the most high profile members of the party's shadow cabinet. The full story can be read here

Let me first clarify my own position; I have no vendetta against Nick Clegg. I believe that he has made an assured start as party leader; he has been confident and incisive at Prime Minister's Questions and he has begun to shape a policy agenda that will ensure we provide a distinctive and real alternative at the next election.

My feelings about Nick Clegg's leadership to date aside, I am deeply troubled by this story. To casually insult three of the party's most prominent spokesman on a flight to Inverness is appalling in a number of respects. Principally, Clegg is guilty of sheer carelessness. To make such inflammatory comments when surrounded by members of the public is grossly naive. Perhaps it was bad luck that a Mirror correspondant was sitting in the next row, but this is a leak that cannot be attributed to misfortune. If Clegg wanted to air such personal views to Danny Alexander, it should have been done behind closed doors.

Now that these views are in the public domain, we have every right to assess thier significance. What troubles me, is that Clegg was criticising his colleagues on a personal as opposed to a professional basis. Most damining was his pronouncement that Steve Webb is, "a problem...I cant stand the man". In the same vein he claimed that Chris Huhne lacked 'emotional intelligence'.

Such personal attacks are inherently damaging in themselves; but even more worrying is that Clegg was seemingly using these views to justify a shadow cabinet reshuffle. From what little we know of this conversation it would appear that Clegg's views of personality are playing an important role in shaping the make-up of the next Lib Dem shadow cabinet. This is not an acceptable state of affairs; professional relationships are obviously important, but I would like to think that our party leader appoints his shadow cabinet on the basis of ability. I would hate to think that admirable and effective performers such as Steve Webb and Chris Huhne are facing the prospect of demotion because they have personal differences with the leader.

I would like to see this story diffused in the most efficient and responsible manner possible. I am certain that this can best be achieved with Clegg issuing a full, formal apology. I fully hope and expect that there will already be conversations going on behind the scenes. I feel that party members deserve more; we need reassurance that our leader has faith in the abilities of his team.

Nick Clegg should apologise to our party, reassert his faith in the MP’s concerned and allow us all to move on.

Please feel free to comment, particularly if you agree with me that party members deserve an apology.

Andrew Lewin


Liphookian said...

Andrew - I agree with you. I am clinging on to my party membership by my finger tips, about to let go!

Anonymous said...

Nick Clegg is alleged to have said..

The immediate response will be personal meetings to reassure those mentioned in the article, along with a public, low key denial.

jim said...

Well it strengthens the arugment for an elected shadow cabinet, if the Clogster can't make up his mind....

Jennie said...

Well, you've been a lot nicer about this than I have.

For me, the story is symptomatic of how Clegg treats people in general. And, as you say, it's very worrying that he appears to want to surround himself with people he likes, rather than the most able.

Hey ho. I'm sure it'll all come out in the wash.

Anonymous said...

The chances are any comments have been exaggerated by the reporter. It seems to have been a conversation about raising the profile of the environment post - which he wants David "Two-Brains" Laws to do. That's a sensible discussion at the time when a) the party should be promoting its green credentials
b) relating them to wider issues such as the price of fuel.

Darrell G said...


Well from what I have seen of Cleggs response it is obviously true. His lack of denial is an admission of guilt as far as I can see...

Yes to an apology for the members and the people involved...PR disaster and this will come back to haunt us at election time...incidentally, Clegg now cant do the reshuffle unless he apologises because no apology and a reshuffel is another admission of guilt which will look worse than this already does...