Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Stop Using Clegg as a Whipping-Boy!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 26th August, 2011

Yesterday in Glasgow a protestor threw blue paint into Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s face, splattering not only him but the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Willie Rennie, and some policemen (the last of whom are expected to press charges). Clegg’s team laughed off the incident, saying that as Nick has small children, he’s used to getting splashed. The protestor was doubtless making the point crudely that some voters in Britain feel that Clegg has turned the Liberal Democrats into Tories by joining with the Conservatives in Coalition government. Anyone who hears Nick speak, or reads recent statements he has put out, for example in defending human rights legislation, cannot honestly believe that. It’s maybe true that he sometimes seems to get on too well with Prime Minister David Cameron, though a good working relationship is of course necessary for a functioning coalition. And of course the LibDems didn’t get all of their manifesto commitments into the government programme; they are the junior partner, after all, yet they achieved most of what they wanted nonetheless. The same could be said about the Conservatives. But what has become abundantly clear is that over the past year or so, Nick Clegg has become a whipping-boy for the Left, having every criticism of the government — however fair or unfair — hurled at him personally. At times it has appeared that some Conservatives are happy for that to be the case. They should stop, and so should Labour or other opposition supporters and actually take the trouble to find out what Nick Clegg the man is like, what he believes in, and why he felt it was right to take a radical party like the Liberal Democrats into the Coalition after last year’s inconclusive election.

14 Responses to “Stop Using Clegg as a Whipping-Boy!”

  1. Surely it is inevitable that Nick Clegg will get targeted by students and militants! The student fees issue in particular hit all their “hot buttons” – and it IS a broken promise. I can remember as a member of Manchester University Lib Soc we had to rescue Peter Walker, who foolishly agreed to appear at a student union debate there in 1972. He was quite relieved to get a cup of coffee and a chat from some Liberals whilst outside “SocSoc” were baying for his blood. Jonathan you move in very elevated circles – you have forgotten what “animal spirits” students have!

  2. eyeonwales said

    Clegg is not the ‘whipping boy’, for many he is a turncoat, a betrayer of a young generation of voters who placed faith in his string of broken or failed promises. Talking about what Clegg believes in is flawed, as he has consistently acted against, or worked with people who fly in the face of what he puports to believe in. He has brought calamity upon himself through his actions – this is why he is the whipping boy, he needed no conspiracy to make that happen, he managed it all on his own.

  3. Dave Page said

    Eyeonwales, Nick Clegg has overseen around 70% of the Lib Dem election manifesto going into Government, including the four key policies we announced during the election. This is highly impressive for a Coalition party, particularly a junior one. Yes, we couldn’t deliver on tuition fees in the face of two opposition parties who wanted unlimited fees, but he has delivered more than anybody thought possible before the election, not a “string of broken or failed promises.”

  4. eyeonwales said

    Well, you could add issues such as VAT, Europe, and the NHS to the list, but the anger stimulated by tuition fees is probably enough on its own to be working with. The point is, it doesnt matter if its one broken promise or a whole raft of them, this is the man who boldly stated the end of broken promises going into an election, then lumped himself with a party that would force him to renig on those commitments. He may well have had successes, but he also raised himself on to a very high and unbalanced moral highground, and he and his supporters should not be surprised if people pounce when he slips off of his high and might perch.

  5. The left have lost their heads with the trade union movemnet in particular behaving as though Labour were great in Governmnet when in reality we trade unionists hated what Blair and Brown were doing. But memories are short and Clegg is being held up as being responsible for for everything, mainly by the very people who supported the policies that ruined our economy and put us into so much debt. I don’t like the Lib Dems working with Tories any more than any other radical does but I realise it has to be done if we are ever to recover from Labour’s years of spending borrowed money like water! Yes, I accept that Clegg will probably never be given a fair hearing; maybe he finds himself in the position of Dr Beeching who 50 years on is still roundly condemned by virtually everyone.

  6. […] Stop Using Clegg as a Whipping-Boy! by Jonathan Fryer. “Take the trouble to find out what Nick Clegg the man is like, what he […]

  7. Ian said

    Dr Beeching was a man with a vision to modernise Britain’s
    railway system.He brought in improved track, signaling and rolling stock.Unfortunately others made cuts that went beyond what was necessary.
    Now as to Orange Nick, I think the electorate does have the insight as regards the need to improve the way things are done in Britain.
    Clearly the lack of the News Chronicle means we have difficulty in getting our ideas across.
    The Labour Party? What’s left-as was said at the end of the 1960s.
    It’s pretty much Blue Labour these days.

  8. treborct said

    We will see if Clegg stands at the next election will he have the nerve, I suspect the deal done with Cameron is that Clegg will go to the House of Lords or he’ll get some other offer, but I cannot for a minute see Clegg winning in his area again.

  9. A couple of points;-

    “Find out what Nick Clegg the man is like……” Well, he doesn’t eat babies for breakfast and he’s a thoroughly decent man but the values he espoused to Liberal Democrat party members in Glasgow on Thursday were those of a libertarian, and not those of a liberal (and certainly not those of a Social Liberal). That makes a significant difference to the type of policy that he is prepared to swallow whole that others wouldn’t.

    Clegg himself acknowledged in the meeting that he had become the issue. An interesting admission as the question I was going to ask but didn’t get the opportunity was that having become the issue that there only appeared to be one resolution to that to benefit the party and that was to resign as leader to allow the next election to be fought without his toxic shadow hanging over the party. He can do while remaining as Deputy Prime Minister and taking all the shit anyone cares to throw his way. But he can’t lead the party into another election with any hope of relative success.

    • Ian said

      If a week is a long time in politics and it is
      what will things be like in three years time.

      • Nick the needs to be able to explain how he sees us seeing out the full term and at the same time being able to prepare and campaign for the poll. He said that his nightmare scenario would be to go into the final year with the coalition being so dysfunctional that this presents Miliband with an opportunity. But what he wasn’t able to say was how he would see us approaching the campaign so that this did not happen.

        That concerns me greatly because in my opinion we made a rod for our own back which we are being pummelled with. I don’t have a problem in principle with a coalition with the Tories (I do have a problem with a number of the policies that are being followed though) but we made a series of disastrous tactical errors before, during and after the campaign. All of these decisions were at least endorsed by Clegg which makes me suspect that this own judgement is unsound.

        To be more specific, in a campaign which was always likely to end up in a hung parliament and having decided that tuition fees would have to be compromised over we still focused heavily on this in the campaign and topped it all off with that damn fool pledge (about which I understand the decision to sign was made by Clegg personally), Same applies to the economy if we are to believe that opinions amongst the leadership was changing in the months leading up to the election.

        All topped off by that foolish election broadcast about broken promises. Now, there’s only one thing people hate more than a liar – and that’s a sanctimonious liar. I’m afraid that’s how the public view Clegg (moreso than the party although we are all tarred by the same brush).

        The timing of the AV referendum was always a disaster waiting to happen. It shouldn’t have been held on the same day as other elections. It shouldn’t have been held at a time when the coalition was inevitably going to be hugely unpopular.

        And Clegg’s approach to selling the coalition focused way too much on attempts to emphasise how close the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives were on so many issues. All topped off with the backslapping on the front bench. It’s clear from last week’s meeting that he doesn’t have any comprehension why this gets party members so riled.

        With a record like that I have had no trust in Clegg to be able to steer the ship adroitly between now and the General Election, and I heard nothing last week to convince me that there is any likelihood of that changing.

        The attitudes of Willie Rennie and Nick Clegg were also very different. When challenged, Clegg often came back with “Well, what would you do” whereas Willie always stressed the need to work together and that “I need your help” Willie will get that help whilst Clegg doesn’t deserve it

  10. Ian said

    If a week is a long time in politics and it is
    what are things going to be like in three years time.

  11. Peter Chivall said

    Like many radicals in the Liberal Democrats I baulked at the idea of coalition with the Tories, but I am persuaded that in general LibDems in Government are making a difference and blunting the edge of Europhobic, authoritarian, minimal-statist right wing Toryism.
    The irony of Clegg being attacked in Scotland is that the two areas where LibDems have been unable to make a difference – on University tuition fees (where Labour would have done much the same, but probably with a lower ‘cap’ and slightly more direct grant-aid) and on Gove’s idiot ‘academies for all’ extending Labour’s programme) – the Coalition has no power North of the Border.
    That leaves a VAT rise to 20% and reducing the deficit to 50% in 4 years not 5 where Labour would have a point if Blair/Brown hadn’t spent 10 years toadying to the City and letting the ‘banksters’ off from paying their share of the taxes that were needed. etc. etc.

    • Sorry, Peter – you’re not seriously trying to suggest that the Tuition Fees policy was imposed on a reluctant group of Liberal Democrat ministers, are you? It was very much their plan. And looked at objectively not a bad arrangement but we’d screwed things up ourselves by our posturing during the election campaign.

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