The morning after the lunch-time before

by Stephen Tall on November 19, 2007

Today’s newspaper headlines are unsurprising:

Clegg complains as Lib Dem leadership race turns ugly (The Independent)
Lib Dem leadership contest turns nasty in TV studio clash (The Guardian)
Chris Huhne targets ‘Calamity Clegg’ for Lib Dem leadership (Daily Mail)
Lib Dem leadership rivals clash on TV (The Times)

I hope in the cool, clear light of a Monday morning, both campaign teams will recognize that BBC1’s Politics Show clash generated a lot more heat than light, and act to draw a line under yesterday’s events.

Chris Huhne needs to understand that yesterday’s display was overly belligerent; he’s right to show real passion, but it should be channeled in a way which promotes his and the party’s positive vision. And Nick Clegg needs to understand that displaying leadership means taking flak (and, yes, even sometimes friendly fire), and rising above it – not filing an official complaint against your rival, which will merely serve to fan the flames.

Today’s the beginning of a new week. Let’s all start it in a better spirit than we finished it.

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‘Catastrophe Clegg’ is available [without the title, which perhaps was added by the mischief maker who leaked it] for all to read at: thanks to Guido – where would we be without him? It is interesting: it is a pity that this spat may allow Clegg to get away with not answering the points made.

by Chris Squire on November 19, 2007 at 10:32 am. Reply #

Damn right.

“Today’s the beginning of a new week. Let’s all start it in a better spirit than we finished it.”

Time travel??

by Alix on November 19, 2007 at 10:34 am. Reply #

Indeed – well said.

Clegg should withdraw the pointless complaint now Huhne has apologised and they should get on with it.

At least it’s sparked the contest into life…

by Dan Falchikov on November 19, 2007 at 10:36 am. Reply #

It would have been a ‘one-day wonder’ if the Clegg campaign hadn’t made an official complaint. That is keeping the story live, e.g. BBC News website
There will be another round of news stories when the result of the complaint is announced.

by Nigel Ashton on November 19, 2007 at 10:47 am. Reply #

Chris @ 1 – the supposed flip flops are incredibly weak they consist of:
Some journalists have described the schools policy that Nick and Chris both support as vouchers;

Nick has said he doesn’t think the Lib Dems should bang on about PR – and at one point has mentioned it (once!)

Nick saying he’s open minded on ideas for public service reform.

If we’re going to attack our friends for saying they’re open minded then I despair.

by Rob Blackie on November 19, 2007 at 11:14 am. Reply #

Was it leaked though? All the stuff I’ve read refer to it being sent out by the Huhne camp and I’ve not seen anywhere it being suggested that it wasn’t released “officially”.

by Hywel Morgan on November 19, 2007 at 11:30 am. Reply #

Rob@5: This is a contest; Clegg and Huhne are adversaries, for the moment. Westminster politics is an adversarial sport. They need to show us that they can fight, this includes both attacking and rebuttal. We have now seen Huhne”s pretty mild attack: where is Clegg’s rebuttal? Seems he’s too busy whining to Nursey to respond . .

I am surprised how many Lib Dem bloggers seem to have no stomach for a fight; perhaps they should depart.

At least here in Twickenham we don’t mind a scrap:

by Chris Squire on November 19, 2007 at 11:34 am. Reply #

It looks like the “Calamity Clegg” title was just a piece of fun that was never intended for outside consumption, and the Clegg supporters are being sanctimonious, while really relishing stirring up disharmony, in making such a big thing about it. Maybe this will go like the “I’ve been kissed by Peter Tatchell” badges – give it a few years and the Cleggies will be claiming “Calamity Clegg” was the official Huhneite slogan, and the Huhneites emblazoned it on everything they produced.

by Matthew Huntbach on November 19, 2007 at 11:37 am. Reply #

Hywel@6: it must have been leaked; if it had been sent out officially every media outlet would have it and we wouldn’t have to look to Guido for it. It’s simple: a Huhne staffer had it on their lap top, took it home, showed it off; while their back was turned a ‘friend’, for a laugh, sent it to the Politics Show, out of the blue. No doubt the ‘friend’ is pretty pleased at how much heat and dust has been stirred up as a result.

I agree with Matthew about the title – it’s just the sort of thing that researchers do to make a boring task more fun.

by Chris Squire on November 19, 2007 at 11:54 am. Reply #

Rob Blackie (a member of the Clegg campaign team) I see doesn’t deny that the formal complaint (which is meaningless in substance) is just a piece of mischief-making designed to make the story drag on. Really pathetic tactics if true. The Clegg backer I spoke to last night denied one had been submitted – is there a split between headbangers and the rest?

by Daniel Bowen on November 19, 2007 at 11:56 am. Reply #

5 Rob – you describe Clegg as being ‘open minded’ about public services reform.

That directly contradicts Clegg’s claim to have ruled out vouchers in education and insurance to pay for health care.

Which is it?

by Sam on November 19, 2007 at 12:08 pm. Reply #

11 Sam – You assume social insurance and school vouchers are the same thing as public service reform.

I can think of a host of public service reforms to be open minded about while being against those two.

Nick has talked about a pupil premium to help the most disadvantaged chidlren and breaking up the centralised structure of the NHS to make it more locally accountable.

They are public service reforms aren’t they?

by Richard Church on November 19, 2007 at 12:21 pm. Reply #

Having read the dossier the three main charges seem to be:

i) a “friend of Clegg” who happens to be a general columnist on the Observer has (probably incorrectly and misleadingly) described Clegg’s pupil premium scheme as being “a voucher scheme”)

ii) Clegg has said in the past we shouldn’t “bang on all the time about PR”, i.e. we should talk about other issues more in tune with the public mood – this does not mean that Clegg is against PR

iii) Clegg believes that there is a case for localisation of the NHS rather than centralisation. This is not the same as privatising it!

It all seems to be part of an agenda to portray Clegg as a rabid Orange Booker and himself as the social democrat / mainstream challenger. The “evidence” presented is flimsy and insubstantial, and the way this has been presented is extremely unfortunate.

by Greg Stone on November 19, 2007 at 12:30 pm. Reply #

The dreadful thing is that that damn document is so completely innocuous apart from the title. It’s a three page collection of press cuttings with two-liner comments here and there pointing out weaknesses in Nick’s arguments. The wretched Grauniad is claiming it contains “serious allegations” against Nick, which makes it sound just awful.

by Alix on November 19, 2007 at 12:31 pm. Reply #

😀 overlap @ 13!

For the love of god, let’s not start calling it a “dossier” containing “charges”. This isn’t the 1930s. It’s a few pages of notes put together by a researcher who has been asked to look into possible lines of attack.

I’ve read some good refutations of the weaknesses in Nick’s arguments, including yours, but stick to refutations; don’t make the atmosphere worse than it is.

“It all seems to be part of an agenda”

An agenda? In a leadership contest by one candidate against the other? Never!

by Alix on November 19, 2007 at 12:36 pm. Reply #

I find it amazing that some Huhne supporters are accusing Clegg of ‘stirring up disharmony’ by making a complaint. Remember who sent out the document slagging-off his opponent in the first place! The ‘calamity’ remark was below the belt and will only help our opponents.

The whole point of making the official complaint is to make sure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again. Which given the increasing desperation in the Huhne camp i would say is more than likely.

by Ian Turgoose on November 19, 2007 at 12:40 pm. Reply #

Sam @ 11 – I’m actually quoting the Huhne team document that quotes Nick as saying he’s open minded. I think there’s a fair distance between somebody saying they are open minded and accusing them of having a secret agenda.

Daniel @ 10 – the complaint is actually a serious attempt to try and stop the contest deteriorating into a tit for tat that damages the party.

We should all try and ensure that whoever wins the party is not subsequently damaged.

by Rob Blackie on November 19, 2007 at 12:47 pm. Reply #

Is the document on the web the same as the one produced on the television? The one on the televison seemed longer (but I haven’t gone back to check).

by anon on November 19, 2007 at 12:48 pm. Reply #

This is certainly the most distasteful episode in the campaign so far.

Whilst I admire Huhne for his clarity on policy and campaigning style, I think he is ill-advisd to indulge in the black arts of Westminster politics as part of this campaign, which is afterall between 2 members of the same party!

What troubles me more, is the headline ammunition that has now been presented to the media on a plate. If as is expected Clegg wins the contest, expect to see the headlines ‘Calamity Clegg’ does this or says that etc at the first opportunity after a guff, scandal or unguarded remark.

I’m supporting you Chris, but please do not alienate your own supporters with this type of behaviour. The media ‘soundbite’ reaches deep into the subconciousness of many floating voters !

by Neill Hendry on November 19, 2007 at 12:48 pm. Reply #

PS Chris @ 5 – I’m quite happy to damage the other parties by attacking them – but not at all happy about damaging my own party by attacking its candidates. That’s one reason why our selection rules are so tough compared to election law.

by Rob Blackie on November 19, 2007 at 12:49 pm. Reply #

12 & 13 – Richard makes afir point. I am certainly not against reform – in fact party policy and Huhne’s policies are about reform. The problem I have with Clegg is that he is on the record as being open to, for example, social insurance schemes to pay for the NHS – but isn’t saying so now, nor is he clearly ruling it out.

In fact he is doing the ‘non-denial denial’ thing – evry time Huhne challenges he says ‘I have already made this clear’ without actually making it clear.

All he has to do is put something clear on his website somewhere, or write one note to Huhne, and that will settle the matter.

And then he can spell out exactly what policies he does support.

14 I agree – pretty innoculous and it looks more like an internal document than one designed to be sent out.

by Sam on November 19, 2007 at 1:08 pm. Reply #

17 – Rob – what weasel words.

The tit for tat has been created by the blurring of Nick Clegg’s vision – still silent on social insurance, for example.

The complaint is self-seeking nonsense and you know it.

by Daniel Bowen on November 19, 2007 at 1:29 pm. Reply #

I have just read it on Guido and my main objection is that it is really badly written. Did a 5 year old put it together? How can you attack so badly? This Anna Warring girl can’t be up to much. Didn’t she work for Charlie K?

Also, it is still available on the Huhne website. You have to be registered but you can access it. How is that disassociation?

by whelan on November 19, 2007 at 1:35 pm. Reply #

Hear, hear! You really have missed your vocation Stephen. You should either be a marriage guidance counsellor or a mud wrestling referee.

by Paul Walter on November 19, 2007 at 3:15 pm. Reply #

Sorry – my mistake 25

by Paul W on November 19, 2007 at 4:24 pm. Reply #

In answer to whelan no – the document is not available on the Huhne site now – I’ve just checked – it isn’t even available on the user accessed area.

by Paul W on November 19, 2007 at 4:25 pm. Reply #

Paul Walter is right my vote goes to Stephen Tall for talking common sense amidst all the huffing and puffing that seems to be going on.

The words “storm in a tea cup” come to mind but both sides are guilty of portraying the party in a shoddy light

by Mike Cox on November 19, 2007 at 4:47 pm. Reply #

Sam@21: Scrutiny of the document [Cd-I on a Mac] reveals [1] that it was last modified on October 19 and [2] it was created by ‘The House of Commons’. So it is indeed an internal document, written by one of Huhne’s researchers, quite possibly an intern, before the campaign started.

by Chris Squire on November 19, 2007 at 5:42 pm. Reply #

Dan falchikov states that huhne has apologised. As a teacher, if a child offered that apology to another child I would not accept it. he apologied for very little except the title.

by Nich Starling- Norfolk Blogger on November 19, 2007 at 6:08 pm. Reply #

Yes Nich, but if you read the dull as ditchwater thing, that’s the only thing wrong with it, it’s a dull and innocuous collection of fairly boring quotes, nothing wrong with it at all once you get past the stupid title, and if it was meant for release then it should’ve been cleaned up a lot first.

What else should he apologise for?

by MatGB on November 19, 2007 at 6:23 pm. Reply #

Well said Stephen

A leadership election like any internal election is a chance for candidates to show the best of themselves to the party; and, together, the best of the party to the wider world.

Party leaders do have to be hard hitters, and able to handle, tough and sometimes personal attacks without being thrown off their stride; but in an internal contest this should not be demonstrated in a way that will undermine party unity after the election is over.

The reactions of some individual campaigners are not helping. Calm down. Move on. Speak to the floating voters both within and outside the party, and do so in less hysterical tones.

by Bridget Fox on November 19, 2007 at 6:24 pm. Reply #

This may be a good moment to point out that James Graham has created a Facebook group for everyone who would like to start “moving on” from this whole issue and get all liberal-cuddly again.

As an inducement, I have just uploaded a picture of some fluffy bunnies. I have called them “Chris and Nick”.

by Alix on November 19, 2007 at 6:26 pm. Reply #


Well said


:))) Excellent I love it

by Mike Cox on November 19, 2007 at 6:41 pm. Reply #

“Hywel@6: it must have been leaked;”

The Huhne camp have never claimed that it was leaked though AFAIK which would be the pretty obvious rebuttal point. This is what Anna Werrin says:

“a background briefing document… was sent out with a wholly inappropriate title. There is no excuse for this. The document title had not been approved before the document was sent out”

by Hywel Morgan on November 19, 2007 at 6:46 pm. Reply #

Seems to confirm this was deliberately sent out rather than (maliciously or otherwise) leaked.

by Hywel Morgan on November 20, 2007 at 2:23 pm. Reply #

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