Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The challenge for Clegg

So Nick Clegg it is. I made no secret of the fact that I supported Chris Huhne, but although I still have my doubts over whether Clegg is quite the gifted communicator his supporters have always made him out to be, I wish him well.

Britain needs a successful Liberal Democrat party for the simple reason that New Labour has never really been that serious about implementing the constitutional changes needed to introduce genuine democracy to this country. It abandoned any meaningful look at a fair voting system within 18 months of the first term, and has had to be dragged kicking and screaming to an acceptance of the very basic democratic principle that members of the second chamber of Parliament should be elected.

Labour's conversion to greenery has also been rather dilatory and skin-deep in my view. On these and other issues the Lib Dems and their predecessor parties have been setting the agenda in British politics for most of my adult life.

So the first challenge for Clegg in my view is to re-establish the Lib Dems as the party of the environment at the very point it has become the touchstone issue for many voters, and the party of political reform at a time when trust in the established order has never been lower. If he can do this, then I and others will forgive him any amount of cliche-ridden vacuity of the kind we heard in his acceptance speech.

It is clear from both post-declaration speeches that the two candidates have now put the Calamity Clegg episode behind them and are now preparing to work closely together. Huhne has to be Shadow Foreign Secretary in my view, possibly also retaining the climate change brief - it is global warming we are talking about after all.

As a further unifying gesture, I hope Clegg can find room in his team for Huhne's campaign manager, the excellent Lynne Featherstone.

He would of course be mad to move Vince Cable from the Treasury brief, and I don't think for a minute that he will do, but the now-vacant Home Office brief offers the chance for a bold appointment, with Julia Goldsworthy, Ed Davey and David Laws all potential candidates.

Meanwhile, expect Clegg to be the subject of a sustained love-bombing campaign from the Tory bloggers as they seek to persuade Clegg to join Sham Cam's so-called "progressive alliance." Indeed, some would say this has already begun.

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Jonathan Sheppard said...

In today's very image driven world you suddenly have two fresh faced leaders of the opposition parties, and a tired old grey (is this how he will be portrayed??) Prime Minister who has been at the heart of Government for the last decade.

Could Brown's experience now be his biggest weakness?

Anonymous said...

Brown has come undone by appointing an inexperienced Cabinet and will continue to pay the price for many months. Clegg should get as much experience as possible in his team to prevent them from making the same elementary mistakes as Brown's cronies.

Tom said...

Brown's come undone because a lot of the chickens from the Blair years have come home to roost simultaneously - these things didn't spring fully formed from the void, after all.

I don't think one can plausibly argue that ditching Reid, Hewitt and Clarke has led to the current wave of catastrophes - it's hardly his fault for appointing an inexperienced Cabinet, since quite a lot of them were very experienced during, er, the times the decisions were made that led to the chickens coming home to roost, including Mr. Brown. And so the long day wears on.

Clegg is beginning to annoy me, starting with the strapline on Paul's blog about a 'New Direction For Britain'. We've had that sort of crap before, from Blair. It's not hard to beat Cameron, just have some actual substance.