Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Nick Clegg Flunks His First Big Test of Leadership

Remember this graphic from Nick Clegg's campaign website? Perhaps it should be reworded to say WE WANT NICK CLEGG TO STAND ... FOR SOMETHING.

I defy anyone to watch last night's Newsnight interview with Nick Clegg and tell me they think the LibDem position on an EU Referendum is anything other than a fiasco. Watch it for yourself HERE. It's about 15 minutes in.

First of all, whichever of his media advisers advised him to do this interview should be fired immediately. His position is untenable and this was amply demonstrated in the interview. Any self respecting spin doctor should have known that. Clegg came across as tetchy, nervous and ill-briefed.

The fact that he couldn't actually come out with a justification for ordering his MPs to abstain says it all. It also seems quite clear that he is going to be the first party leader in history to sack frontbenchers for keeping a promise and defying an instruction to abdicate any responsibility whatsoever.

LibDem supporting Norfolk Blogger agrees. He says...
Nick Clegg has just been on Newsnight trying to defend the indefensible, and mightily stupid he has made himself look, and the Liberal Democrats. The point was made to him that a week ago the Lib Dems walked out of parliament because they were not allowed to vote on an issue, but now they are intending to enforce a three line whip to tell our MP's not to vote ? It seems daft in the extreme. But worse than that, Nick Clegg kept making the point that our MP's would not support calls for a referendum because it was not the preferred referendum we wanted. rather like a starving man refusing a sandwich because "I prefer wholemeal bread", the Lib Dem stance is just plain daft. Perhaps the most interesting point though was the lack of a sincere response from Nick Clegg on the question put to him by Jeremy Paxman, had he asked for pre-prepared resignation letters from MP's prepared to vote for the referendum ? Nick's response of "how could I, the vote has not taken place yet", was met with another repetition of the question by Jeremy Paxman. It was clear Paxman wanted Nick Clegg to be given a chance to change his mind on this question or dig a bigger hole for himself. Clearly someone has tipped of the BBC that resignation letters have been asked for.

Sadly, the whole piece on Newsnight made the Lib Dems look daft, out of touch and irrelevant. Very sad indeed.


Not a happy bunny, our Nich, and who can blame him. It's Nick Clegg's first big test and he's flunked it in a manner LibDem opponents can only have dreamed of.

Tory Euro MEP Dan Hannan reckons Nick Clegg should stop digging...

If he thought there was no need for a referendum, Paxo asked, why hadn’t he instructed his MPs to vote against one? Well, said Cleggie, the thing was that he was for a referendum, just not for this referendum, and the best way to express the subtleties of that position was not to vote at all.

Then came a deliciously revealing slip when he said that he wasn’t going to take lessons from Labour which had, after all, “reneged on its commitment to a referendum”. Labour, of course, is in exactly the same position as the Lib Dems: it claims, incredibly, that there is no need for a referendum because the Lisbon Treaty is different from the European Constitution. So here was Cleggie inadvertently admitting that his party, too, had reneged.

By the end I was feeling sorry for him. Cleggie is, as I have observed before, a fundamentally decent human being. Yet he was being forced to assume positions that would sprain the muscles of a circus contortionist.

Many LibDem MPs are tearing their collective hair out over this. I know, because three of them have told me. And what's more, they are looking at their new leader and asking themselves: is he really up to it?

32 comments:

verity said...

It is not HAPPY BUNNY! Please! You have misheard the American phrase "Happy puppy." He is not a happy puppy.

Bunnies don't do happy or sad. Of all the malapropisms deriving from misunderstanding of American/America, this is the most infuriating.

And I apologise for not addressing the post as I don't know who Nick Clegg is. I like the name, though.

Anonymous said...

he is not at all fundamentally decent . Clegg is a eurofanatic pure and simple which explains all the fake hair splitting over "Treaties" and "Constitutions"

he might look innocent but he has been revealingly devious over this fundamental matter

verity said...

1:26 - I hate eurofanatics and have therefore changed my opinion of Clegg's name. It makes me sick.

Diablo said...

Oh sod off, Verity. You don't understand the British lingo. Clegg is a very unhappy bunny, the shortest lived leader of any political party in British history.

He has made a monumental error, not just in his judgement of his party's willingness to stick to the ludicrous position he has put them in but in the way he has chosen to make the issue of the EU a way of differentiating the LibDems from the other main parties.

Ultimately, his appearance on Newsnight will mark the point when the calls for him to be ousted and the eventual demise of the LibDems began.

mr. happy bunny said...

Verity's not a happy bunny, but then Verity doesn't do happy or sad - just rabid and incessant, even when it comes to accepting well-established idioms... :-)

Tell you what Verity, you get Americans to desist from:

1) "different than" (instead of different from);

2) illogical numerical dates, e.g. 12-31-08 (maybe we could standardise on 081231 or 31DEC08);

3) "such and such, if you will,..." - makes me wretch every time;

4) Full stops within other punctuation, e.g. writing (this.) or "this.", instead of (this). or "this". at the end of a sentence;

5) 'letter size' paper. I ask you. A4 is standard throughout the world, and is rather cunning (with the aspect ration meaning each size is exactly half or double the size of its neighbours, impossible with 'letter size');

6) Pronouncing herbs as 'erbs, the 'erberts;

etc. etc. - and then maybe we'll see what we can do about the bunny/puppy thing...

Oh dear, now I'm beginning to sound as rabid as Verity. Must've been the bar meal I head earlier - I think I'm suffering from Mixing My Toasties...

Daily Referendum said...

Ben Brogan reports on a Lib Dem cabinet walkout.

Daily Referendum said...

Verity,

I've been saying "not a happy bunny" for at least 25 years. Let it drop.

Nicholas said...

Clegg's politics are confused. His first major speech on economics at the beginning of February was about embracing economic liberalism, yet I heard him at the end of February tell Anne McElvoy how unhappy he was with materialism and "brutal 1980s individualism". He hasn't got a clue.

Manfarang said...

To paraphrase James Callaghan(7 Sep 1978)
There will be no Referendum on the EU treaty.

Anonymous said...

For the next election, I understand the LibDems are going to change their name again.

The new name will be 'New labour reserves'.

The new name is designed to identify their political views more easily to voters.

Anonymous said...

Verity:Happy Bunny is English slang. Nothing to do with the American phrase "Happy puppy."

Also Bunnies do do happy & sad. My Bunny was sad because of the cold last night; but when i took him his breakfast he was happy.

Anonymous said...

In politics when politicians make decisions you can usually see some sort of logic in their mind - even if you don't agree with it. But this Lib Dem policy I just cannot see or think of any logic.

Johnny Norfolk said...

What a plonker, He should have called for a referendum on the treaty as a 'first step'before a full referendum if the treaty was rejected.Not difficult is it.But he has done nothing else but politics, he has never had a proper job.

Bert Rustle said...

Why are so many UK politicians happy to divest themselves of even more powers of policy construction to the EU, whilst retaining responsibility for implementation? How long before the Electorate realise that the relation of Westminster to Brussels is beginning to resemble that of the Scottish and Welsh assemblies to Westminster?

If UK politicians are not in politics to exercise power, then why are they in it? It appears to me that Peter Oborne's analysis The Triumph of the Political Class gives a plausible explanation.

asquith said...

I'll still be loyal to him.

Bert Rustle said...

I usually avoid politicians in office, so I watched the video only on Ian Dale's recommendation. Nick Clegg's performance will be rather sobering for LD supporters or those opposed to ritual slaughter. Nick Clegg belittled the similarity of the Treaty versus the Constitution, which is falsifiable. Indeed, since there are virtually no differences between the two, let's just call it the Constitreaty! This is what Andrew Ayres has dubbed it over at his site Constitreaty.com -- a site where you can auto-compare the two documents side-by-side -- word-by-word.

Anonymous said...

Well, fair enough Iain. More important is that all three 'main' parties are desperate to avoid democracy. Nulab lie through their teeth (surprise) and pretend the treaty is different to the constitution and therefore a referandum can be avoided. The libdums ask for whatever referandum they are sure the HofC will not allow. The tories want something irrelevant as long as they know nulab will vote it down anyway.

The eu is good for rich people and politicians for the same reason, they make money out of it. One way or another the M.P. traitors will keep their snouts in the trough.

Oscar Miller said...

Even with the absurdly soft interview Clegg was given by Naughtie on Today (will Gordon Brown be putting in a complaint I wonder?), Clegg could not disguise the catastrophic incoherence of his stance. What an utter disaster he's turned out to be. Calamity Clegg is the only reputation he's managed to live up to.

Newmania said...

I see the gravitational effect of Verity`s incandescent charisma has swept this thread into linguistic minutiae. All very entertaining... that woman is a natural wonder of the world .

...as is the spectacle of the Lib Dums caught with their fingers in the stupid jar....
It has amazed me from the start that they had the nerve to try this fraudulent blustering lie but privately they are congratulating themselves that it is working .

I `m not convinced .While their polling results are not collapsing this is a slow burner. They are now, and always will be the Party who lied, who saved Brown and betrayed their voters , their Party and many of their own activists .
Clegg was unable to think outside his own prejudices he think s the EU is the inevitable future . In the sense that the Eurovision song contest is the future of music ...it may be.


(Cameron must not antagonise them overly though , we must include many Lib Dem voters in the alliance that will defeat Brown and some of them have a lot to offer)

Man in a Shed said...

Lets be fair - Nick Clegg has put loyalty to country and its long term future above party advantage and narrow politics !

The problem is that his country is the European Union.

The United Kingdom is to be dismantled and destroyed and Nick Clegg is one of the very few people who live here who wants that, so he needs to proceed by deceit and betrayal - only as can be seen he's not very good at it.

Lib Dems should replace him with someone who believe in the UK.

Madasafish said...

You're all being unkind.
Clegg may be a plonker but the LibDems keep chosing plonkers as leaders.
Blame them. Shows they are as motivated for power as the Conservatives when they chose IDS as leader.

Bet the LibDems don't get rid of Clegg as quickly as the Conservatives got rid of IDS.

It was patently obvious (to all but LibDems I suppose) that Huhne would have bneen far more effective when you saw his campaign for Leader...

Still... muppets chose muppets as leaders . (see Gordon Brown)

Colin said...

What a wonderful thing the 'blogosphere' is. Responding to a post on the hapless Cleggy and his politically impossible contortions over a vote for a referendum on the EU Treaty, more than a quarter (5 out of 18 to date) of the comments focus on the validity or otherwise of the phrase 'happy bunny'.

I think it was the incomparable George Bernard Shaw who claimed that 'England and America are two nations divided by a common language'. Verity will no doubt tell me if she thinks otherwise. Here we see the principle exemplified yet again.

Maybe it's about time we recognised that Americans do not speak, write or otherwise communicate in 'English' but rather in 'American', a language originally based on English but since independence distorted out of all recognition.

That way we can have our 'happy bunnies' and Verity and her ilk can have their 'happy puppies'. Everyone's happy!

Anonymous said...

verity - the phrase 'happy bunny' has been in common parlance on these shores since before the American War Of Independence, so stfu..

Speaking as a non-Lib Dem, I actually thought Clegg was someone who could shape their act up, and actually win them some votes... but having seen his shocking, nay shambolic performance with Paxon on last night's programme, I think many Lib Dems will be waking up this morning with the sinking feeling that they are stuck for the next General Election with a wrong un...

asquith said...

I go out drinking with Verity. In direct contrast to most people, she becomes more and more left-wing as the evening wears on.

Oscar Miller said...

The LibDums voted for Clegg beause they thought a good head of hair and a vague resemblance to David Cameron would mean people would vote for him. They were so enamoured with this theory they failed to notice the awfulness of his campaign. Now they've been exposed as the stupid party. Not only that - it has revealed their utter contempt for the intelligence of the electorate. All too obvious in the referendum fiasco.

Anonymous said...

This is what Clegg blurted out during his Newsnight interview last night, 27:32 in, here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/default.stm

“Jeremy, am I supposed to be surprised that the Labour party, that has reneged on its commitment to a referendum, and doesn’t want to have a referendum of any sort … ”

As the Lib Dem commitment was the same as the Labour party commitment, “logically” (to use one of his favourite words) this is an admission that the Lib Dems are also reneging on their commitment - notwithstanding all his sophistry about the Lisbon Treaty being very different to the Constitutional Treaty, not being the treaty mentioned in the Lib Dem manifesto because it didn’t even exist at that time, etc etc.

Little Black Sambo said...

Mr Happy Bunny, I disagree with you about 'erbs; it sounds so good an old-fashioned. For the same reason I also like the way they pronounce words like "engine" (injin).
Can't the bunny and the puppy coexist - like the green fingers and the green thumb?

Womble On Tour said...

I may turn out to be wrong about this, but I suspect those who are saying this is going to cost the LDs dear are making a mistake common to close watchers of politics; assuming that activties within the Westminster village have significant repercussions outside it. It could be that Clegg is making a complete balls of this - I don't know yet because I'm not close enough to the action and I didn't see last night's interview. But then again, most other people won't have seen it either. And that's the point. The vast majority of people do not give a toss about Pariliamentary political manoeuvring and those that do have made their minds up about who they're going to vote for already.

ern malley said...

Mr Happy Bunny:
1) "different than" (instead of different from);

I don't think this is technically inaccurate. Both are ablative prepositions and equally acceptable in comparative constructions. Granted, it still grates. But not half so much as using "impact" as a verb. Impact is not a verb. Never was; never will be. There is already a perfectly serviceable verb, namely "impinge".

Where were we? Nick Clegg. I lost patience long ago with the casuistry surrounding the Lisbon Treaty, but as for the man himself, he comes across as distinctly brittle with a nasty streak of petulance not far below the surface and in argument he is dismally unconvincing. "Show me the style and I'll show you the man." (Karl Kraus)

Mysterious why two of the few genuinely talented individuals in the House, Vince Cable and David Laws, should be content to serve under him.

Newmania said...

Can't the bunny and the puppy coexist ( Said LBS)

Only if the arriviste bunnies respect the puppie ways and do not demand bunnyite laws to be given any status in the kennel.

( Have you any idea how fast those bunnies breed!)

neil craig said...

He has little option about following a fanaticaly pro-EU position. He got the job, because the party establishment wanted him & got it, by a very slim margin indeed. Even the LD's have a number of people pretty sceptical about the wonders of the EU but not at the top. To change his position would cut his own support from under him.

The LDs were the first party to support EU membership back in the 1950s when it genuinely looked like a step towrds free trade & equality between nations. Since then it has become a totemic policy, also guaranteeing them credibility with the likes of the BBC, while the EU has grown into the current illiberal monstrosity.

This actually has some similarities to Brown who got the job immediately after Blair signed up to the treaty, We may guess he promised to support it even though we know he was the one who stopped Blair signing us up to the Euro.

Anonymous said...

Colin said...

"Maybe it's about time we recognised that Americans do not speak, write or otherwise communicate in 'English' but rather in 'American', a language originally based on English but since independence distorted out of all recognition."

I think you might find that it's the English in Britain that got distorted while the English in America remains closer to the original.

Either way, I'm with the bunnies.