We have been for tea and sticky buns in the tippety-toppety corner of the House of Commons (up in the guttering just by the gargoyles) with the Cleggster again. This event was brought to us courtesy of the awesome organisational powers of Millennium Elephant (very impressive for a fluffy toy) and I’m going to write up most of our very enjoyable chat tomorrow (they’re getting more informal the better we get at them, which is pleasing). But I’ll make one note now on Nick Clegg’s assessment of David Cameron, in the light of this unexpected treat in the Times.
Well, Nick’s not impressed. More in sorrow than in anger, perhaps – this is allegedly the Prime Minister in waiting, after all. It’s rather reassuring to hear at first hand that the man one thinks of as being a 2-dimensional PR tosser, constrained from formulating decent policy by both his party and his own daft cocksureness, also comes across much like that in real life.
It’s also interesting to hear a leader thoughtfully dissect another man’s failings away from the bearpit of PMQs. Brown and Cameron seem to take the opposite stance – scream and jabber at each other like outraged teenagers (with apologies to teenagers everywhere) in the House but largely decline to comment on each other when they’re having lunch with the press, preferring to maintain the communal delusion that the two big parties actually still stand for two opposing “ideologies” and it is the method, and not the man, that will deliver the [insert suitable unarguable warm fuzzy word here] Britain needs.
Clegg dispatched Cameron as follows. On civil liberties? Cameron is Janus-faced – against ID cards but he wants to scrap the Human Rights Act? On foreign policy? Living in the wrong decade. On tax? Taking a tremendous risk by foregrounding the 10p band because sooner or later people are going to realise that he has no alternative policy. He has, of course, stated that he will restore the 10p band, but given that other spending commitments are being reined in with Scroogelike insistence by Shouty Plonker HQ, my suspicion is that they’re desperately hoping no-one asks them where the money will come from, and why, if they’re able to do this, they can’t promise to cut taxes across the board.
Our own 10p commitment, of course, is costed and has been for nine months; the only fault I could find with Nick’s performance at PMQs today was that he missed a golden opportunity, when Brown claimed that the Liberal [sic] party had no plans to reinstate the 10p band, to reply OH YES WE DO! Except we’d make it a 0p BAND! Here’s the costed summary – put that in your calculator and smoke it! Tcoh, why won’t he see sense and let me script his questions? Nick holds what he calls an old-fashioned belief that “ideas will out”. So do I, and I don’t think it’s old-fashioned, I think it’s so old that it’s on the cusp of becoming new again – although I could wish we were milking it a little more in our national campaigns (of which more tomorrow).
Nick also agreed with Laurence Boyce, whose question had prompted the discussion, that Cameron will be in dangerous waters with his party the moment he shows any sign of not being able to deliver. Even if we can’t probe the deep divisions in the Conservative party and expose the wormy reality behind that fluffy looking blue oak tree, it will all come out in the wash sooner or later. The loopier element of the Tories tolerate Cameron because they know in their barking heart of barking hearts that only he can make them palatable to the electorate. But they won’t maintain that truce for very long if he starts failing to fulfil his only purpose. They’ll kick him if he falters, and they’ll also kick him if they’re in a tight spot – like government, for example?
Nick also had an interesting reading of Cameron’s comments following their electoral successes on Thursday – he reckons Their Dave sees the electoral success as a double-edged sword, because it has lulled the old guard of the Tories into thinking they don’t have to change or make any further effort of any kind for government to simply fall back into their lap.
And lo! from the Times sketch comes this superb Davism which seems to underline everything Nick set out tonight about cockiness, about lack of substance and about being out of touch:
Yes, I am wealthy. I have a very well-paid job and so does my wife. But I drive my own car, I fill it up at the pumps and when diesel hits 121.9p, which I paid outside Chipping Norton a couple of weeks ago, it really struck me that this whole tank is costing me £10 to £15 more than previously.
Ironic really. Another part of our discussion focussed on how the media were never, ever going to like us and the best we can do is ignore them and reach the electorate in other ways. Which really means we ought to take this unusual bit of Dave-bashing with a pinch of salt as well. But make hay while the Sun shines, I say.