Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nick Clegg has to get out and about in Scotland more often.

So say 3 Borders Councillors who wore their brightly coloured t-shirts to Nick Clegg's private meeting with Scottish Liberal Democrat members.

As it was a private event, I'm not going to give you chapter and verse, but I will tell you that however much I've been worried that some people around Nick have disappeared into some Westminster bubble where they lose all touch with reality, the same is not true of Nick himself. He totally gets where we are and how we feel - because he feels it too.

Bearing in mind that up here, Liberal Democrats have had a miserable year, you would expect the room to have given him a rough ride. He certainly took some robust questions, but the mood towards him was pretty much unconditionally friendly. I think that's because we can see in him that same passion that's always been there to help the most vulnerable. That's what he's doing in very difficult circumstances in Government, and the  values of freedom and fairness are at the heart of everything he does.

He is still the same passionate, idealistic guy who appeared in a dingy room for interview in the East Midlands all these years ago. He is still the same guy who finds it offensive that people's backgrounds can stop them from getting on in life.

He also shows that he really has a good grasp of what's going on in Scotland and he's full of admiration for what Willie Rennie is doing. The two of them made quite a good double act. I'm aware that this sounds pathetically toadyish, and I hope to god that neither of them ever see this, but that doesn't make it any less true. Liberal Democrats are often their leaders' sternest critics but, seeing this pair in action does make you feel that there's some hope for us. They're both very genuine, very positive, very straight talking. They both delivered exactly what we needed to hear from them today.

Now, I think we should get this guy out and about around Scotland. Willie's always about doing something practical and useful, whether campaigning with party members, spending time working on a farm, or spending 24 hours with parents seeing the challenges they face caring for their severely disabled daughter. I want Nick to get out and about meeting people too. If he doesn't, he will be painted as the bogeyman in London - and he's not. Scotland deserves to get to know him properly and will find that he's much better than they actually thought.

And just for good measure, he's a gratuitous picture of a gorgeous baby, Kit Cole-Hamilton. He spent most of the meeting quietly in his Daddy's arms but needed some kip by the end.

Earlier, Nick had been at Kirkliston library supporting local residents' calls for better broadband and announcing £67 million of UK Government money to improve connectivity in rural areas in Scotland. I can't embed the Press Association's video of the event, but it's available on You Tube here.

I do, however, have a picture, printed with permission of Charlie Mollison who took it, of Nick with, among others, Mike Crockart MP and Councillor Paul Edie.

The other side of the shirt

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