Monday, July 11, 2011

Nick Clegg in Independent: Lib Dems more competent than Labour, more progressive than the Tories

Last Friday Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg went to Paris for the day in the company of Andrew Grice from the Independent. The resulting interview is published today and in it Nick emphasises how our party has been right on so many of the key issues facing Britain today, acknowledges the challenge of being in the coalition and uses some new language to describe our place in British politics.

He talks about our space being that of:
 "compassion and competence", adding: "I don't think they fit on a leaflet... We need two shorter words." He insists: "I think the long term is really, really bright. There is a huge appetite in British politics for a party that is economically more competent than Labour and which is more progressive than the Conservatives. Only the Liberal Democrats fit that bill.
What he says is absolutely right. We can be trusted with the purse strings, at any level of Government. You only have to look at what happened in Edinburgh, where our Council Leader Jenny Dawe was told on her first day that the reserves were dangerously low because Labour had been on a spending spree. Sound familiar?

Nick acknowledges that this language is a work in progress which is a good thing. The stuff about us being more economically competent than Labour and more progressive than the Tories is right but it ain't going to tug on any heart strings. And competence in itself doesn't tell you much about our values. It's management speak. I'm sure the trains in Communist East Germany ran competently on time.

We need to get our core values out there and for that you don't really need to stray too far from the preamble to our constitution - the stuff about a fair, free and open society where none shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity is pretty powerful. What's wrong with using that as a strap line on our leaflets?

And Nick could do a lot worse than listen to Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie, who's expressing our values in three key principles which we are bringing into play in the Coalition too. He's using everyday language to express what he calls opportunity, "giving people the chance to get up and get on in life", community "trusting local people" and sustainability "no quick fixes - looking for long term solutions to problems". I've noticed a big difference in our public statements now - none of our MSPs or Willie say anything without associating it with at least one of these three values.

The words Nick is using now are many millions of times better than the concept of Alarm Clock Britain which resonated with nobody.

Nick seems confident that by 2015 people will see the changes we've brought to the Government, how we've taken the sting out of the Tories, in a way that they can't just now:
By 2015 we will be able to show people we have put the building blocks in place on tax, education, the early years, apprenticeships, vocational education and greater social mobility in a way that the Conservatives would never have done on their own and, at the same time, we have put the economy back on course. 
We need to be a bit more specific, but that's a good start - and there's a lot more we can do before 2015.

Read the interview in full because there's some good stuff in there.

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