Sunday, January 17, 2010

Clegg on Marr: Setting out the Liberal Agenda

I didn't watch Nick Clegg's interview on Andrew Marr this morning live. I couldn't face getting out of my nice warm bed. Not for the first time, I cursed myself for sticking so rigidly to my no tv in the bedrooms rule. Anyway, it was being captured on the Infernal Wickedness of Sky Plus. I wasn't however, able to resist a peak at Twitter where I found some Tories pulling him apart on what he was saying on immigration. I reckoned that had to be a good sign and when I watched it back, I was proved right.

Nick deftly blew all the nonsense you hear from Tories out of the water, sensibly outlining how we need to know who comes into the country and who leaves it, reminding us that it was the Tories who abolished the exit checks. He talked about his visit to the Borders over the weekend where he was told that businesses didn't have enough skille workers locally and where they needed people to come in and do the jobs. He said that a points system based on regional need, as works in other countries such as Australia could help us to manage immigration for everyone's benefit.

He was also very clear that anyone fleeing persecution, violence, rape or torture would be treate fairly if the Lib Dems were in power and, of course, this would include people who could be killed for being gay in their home country.

I don't think I've ever heard Brown or Cameron talk about the fact that more British people leave the country to live and work abroad than people come here from other countries. Nick is worried that if we "pull up the drawbridge" by following Cameron's proposals it'll have a negative impact on emigration as well as being ineffective anyway.

He also laid into David Cameron's ridiculous ideas to give tax breaks to married couples. He explained very clearly how passionately he believed that "happy families who stayed together to love, nurture and support their children" were a good thing. The question of how we get there is not to dole out a tax bribe for holding a marriage certificate. He used the example of a woman deserte by a philandering husband who then went on to another marriage, to get another tax break while she's left with a tax hike as well as the stress of a broken marriage. He could also have used the example of someone being widowed. I thought he managed to effectively deal with the trap the Tories thoguht they'd set him by showing his commitment to family life and showing up the idiocy and unfairness of the IDS thinktank ideas.

Also on tax, he talked about taking 4 million people out of tax altogether by raising the tax threshold to £10,000 while closing down loopholes for the rich. He mentioned the case of the city banker who pays a lower rate of tax on his enormous capital gains than his cleaner pays on her wage, and, let's face it, it's probably the minimum wage.

Marr brought up the experience of tv presenter and singer Myeleene Klass who was told off by Police for waving a knife at two would-be intruders. I felt his response was liberal, sensible and clear. He said that he didn't see a case for a change in the law when the current system gave judges and courts discretion to look at each case individually. My own view is that it's perfectly reasonable for a young woman, when confronted with two men who are threatening who knows what level of harm to her and her baby, to wave whatever she likes at them. If she had chased them down the street and stabbed them, that would have been different. I don't agree with her that the law needs to be changed - but based on her experience and what the Police said to her, I see why she thinks that.

Marr then tried to do the ritual that all Lib Dem leaders get - trying to get a list of what our bargaining chips would be in the event of a hung Parliament. I'm sure Nick must be sick to death of that question by now, but he didn't show it. He explained very clearly what our principles would be in that situation - firstly, that the people were in charge and not politicians and secondly that fairness would be at the heart of our actions. When asked if PR was a prerequisite, he replied that it was crucial to the change the country needed. He said that it was "implausible that the Liberal Democrats would take any position of power without radical political reform."

If I had to pick him up on anything, it would be that I'd have liked him to be more positive about the things like free personal care, saying that of course we want to be in a position to deliver it but the money just isn't there to do it during the next Parliament.

All in all, I think it was a good performance. When Gordon Brown is being interviewed, he's so defensive and closed, even when he's trying to be sincere. It's actually painful to watch. When David Cameron is being interviewed, I just feel he's just trying out slick communication techniques he's learned from a specialist and comes across as airbrushed as his poster. Nick on the other hand comes across like he's having a genuine conversation. He doesn't just trot out a lot of stock phrases. He generally has a go at answering the question he's been asked, but he still gets in the things he wants to tell people.

A Lib Dem friend of mine and I were chatting away the other day about Nick in the wake of his comments about Gina Ford and his unequivocal support for LGBT rights. We were talking about what a joy it was to have a leader who was as open and willing to take a stand as Nick in an environment where politicians have tried to be as bland as can be so as to avoid offending people. In fact, there's a thread on my Facebook where I'd posted the Gina Ford article and someone had said that it was a bit strange that he'd taken a position on someone who could be so polarising, cos he'd no doubt offend Gina's fans. A friend of mine who isn't party political at all said that that was one of his assets.

I don't want Nick getting the idea that he's perfect or infallible, because he isn't, and he is bound to do something that seriously annoys me (which you will hear about) but by being himself, he's doing a great job of getting the liberal message out there.


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English Conservatives said...

The problem with the Lib Dem agenda is that you've realised that the country can't afford to finance it.


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