Sunday, November 18, 2007

What a Calamity!

I've been around for long enough to know that sometimes during election campaigns mistakes are made. Some of them are quite funny - does anyone remember Mary Matalin's Bimbo Eruptions during the '92 US Presidential Election Campaign? Priceless! I know that there are people working on both Clegg and Huhne campaigns who probably haven't slept properly in weeks. When you are working at that sort of intensity, sometimes judgement goes a bit wonky and things go a bit wrong.

Very early on in the campaign, the Clegg people sent an e-mail round purporting to be to supporters. Unfortunately, it included a whole stack of people like me who had not signed up and, more seriously, party employees who are contractually obliged to stay impartial. Very shortly thereafter, Richard Allan sent an e-mail out taking personal responsibility for the mistake and sincerely apologising. That, in my view, is the way to deal with errors.

I'd have put the Calamity Clegg Affair down to campaign fatigue and let it go. I had previously not brought up the attack on Nick Clegg put up on Chris' website and subsequently withdrawn after complaints out of respect for whichever tired staffer was responsible.

However, I have just watched the Politics Show in full and was, frankly, appalled by Chris Huhne's belligerent and unpleasant behaviour. Having denied all knowledge, he then went to go on about three specific issues which were in the paper, all of which were very red and shaped like herring.

Firstly, Trident. Nick could not have been clearer about his position on Trident, where Chris has failed to clarify exactly what a minimum deterrent is.

Secondly, health services. Nick said clearly as day last week on Question Time that he wanted a health service that was free at the point of use. He has said it on many occasions during the campaign. He could not have been clearer on it and that position would be the one he would be elected leader on.

Thirdly, school vouchers. Nick has been quite clear that this is not what he is about. I remember him saying that at the Edinburgh Hustings last week.

If I had been Chris today, I would have apologised that the document was circulated and said that he accepted that the issues it raised had been resolved by subsequent assurances from Nick. Instead, he got out his spade and started digging. In doing so, he showed the Party up, not off.

To add insult to injury, his team have now put the most insincere apology I have ever seen on his website and said, roughly, we're sorry we called the document by an inadvisable title, but hang on a bit till we see if we can get permission to publish it anyway. I personally would like to see it because I don't think Nick has anything to fear from it, but the Huhne Campaign is not showing the right attitude.

On the other hand, Nick, although shocked, was able to eventually bring the discussion back to the issues which actually matter in this campaign. I thought he behaved in a mature and dignified manner under immense pressure.

The Huhne campaign have clearly taken this step because they know fine they are behind. Jeremy Hargreaves has ably summed up why Nick has the momentum.

Nick and Chris will have to find a way to get through this for the Party's sake. I know Nick to be a fair man who will not hold a grudge if presented with a willing attitude to work together for the good of the Party.


Leone said...

Thank goodness there are influential people out there who agree with my impressions after watching a snippet of the Huhne/Clegg encounter on BBC News 24.

Mr Huhne came across as a self-serving and power hungry individual. (I am not a political activist, only someone with a fair bit of life experience.) His body language was, indeed, belligerent, and heaven help us if he should ever be in a place where he had to take the same kind of decisions that Tony Blair was faced with.

Mr Clegg, on the other hand, despite his youth, proved himself to be quietly in control of the situation without having to resort to verbosity or any show of egocentric command of the intellectual and moral space that they were sharing.

Hats off to Nick Clegg. The Lib Dems would be very safe...and his hands.

Linda Jack said...

My son, who watched the programme with me summed it up beautifully. He decided to vote for Nick because as he saw it Nick talked about why he wanted to be leader and Chris talked about why Nick shouldn't be leader as opposed to why he (Chris)should. At the end of the programme he was totally put off by Chris's attitude and impressed by Nick's vision.

The last Radical said...

Leone said:
"Hats off to Nick Clegg. The Lib Dems would be very safe...and his hands."

....precisely what the party establishment all said about Ming in early 2006!

In the words of The Who lets make sure 'We Don't get Fooled Again'.


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