Nick on paternity leave, Lib Dem poll ratings, and Lembit and Brian

by Stephen Tall on January 7, 2009

There’s an in-depth interview with Nick Clegg in today’s Telegraph – here’s a few highlights:

On his imminent fatherhood and paternity leave

Evangelical about the importance of parental leave, Mr Clegg and his party recently adopted a radical child care policy which would allow new fathers as much as nine months or more off work.

He himself plans to spend every minute of the current official entitlement away from the political vortex when the time comes … Wouldn’t an election spell the end of his plans to take proper paternity leave: the full two weeks off “wiping and cooing” as he puts it?

“Proper?” he splutters. “It’s only two weeks. It should be more. … We’re all agreed that one of the great crises in this country for children, particularly for boys, is a lack or absence of positive male role models. And we’ve got legislation that says you can take two weeks off when the baby’s barely aware of your existence. That’s not good enough.” Lib Dem policy is for parents to be given up to 19 months leave, split between the mother and the father; but could the leader of a political party really take months and months off?

“No, it would be really difficult for me,” Mr Clegg says, “But the problem is that no one feels entitled.

“I’m not going to be sanctimonious about this; people should make their own decisions. “I just feel that if dads don’t get involved with their kids early on in a meaningful way often they don’t remain engaged afterwards. I personally think two weeks is a pathetic amount of parenting.”

On the Lib Dems’ popularity

“Of course I’d like to be further ahead,” he admits. “As history tells us, when people are anxious about putting food on the table, a tank of petrol, paying their heating bills, people gravitate towards either the government of the day or to the loudest alternative. There’s a great risk we’re going to be really squeezed and I think we’ve confounded expectations massively by not being squeezed in the polls.

“Of course I’d like to have wall to wall coverage of Lib Dem economic policy. Of course I’m frustrated, but I think we’ve made the right judgements, we’re on the side of the vast majority of the British people who need help. Am I frustrated that we don’t get more recognition? Yes I am, but the last thing I do is pull my hair out about it. I am lucky enough to have become leader of a party which I genuinely think has got the best people in frontline positions, certainly the best ideas, and crucially is growing incredibly fast.”

On the celebrity of Lembit Opik and Brian Paddick

Mr Clegg admits he has spoken to both about their behaviour – and claims to be relaxed at their failure to take his advice. So, would he allow the Daily Sport [for which Lembit recently accepted the job of political columnist] into his home?

“No, I wouldn’t,” he says. “Am I uneasy about it? Yes. Do I think Lembit’s walking a tightrope? Yes I do. Equally, Lembit has a presence in parts of the public political debate that frankly very few politicians do. Does that incur risks? It does. The positive side of it is that you’re reaching people with a message they might not otherwise hear. The downside is clearly that you are either made to look as if … you’re sanctioning things that don’t reflect your views at all.

“I certainly wouldn’t go on I’m a Celebrity or stand in a tropical pool. Of course I wouldn’t. I’ve spoken to both of them. Neither of them have positions of national authority in my party. I lead a political party; I don’t lead a military operation. We are a liberal party in spirit and in name. There’s a long tradition of fairly eccentric individuals.”

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A good interview overall.

And Nick is quite right to take as much paternity leave as he sees fit.

by Liberal Neil on January 7, 2009 at 2:36 pm. Reply #

“Neither of them have positions of national authority in my party. I lead a political party; I don’t lead a military operation. We are a liberal party in spirit and in name. There’s a long tradition of fairly eccentric individuals.””

No, sorry, that’s quite enough.

Consider my membership of this party ended from this reply alone.

by Liam Pennington on January 7, 2009 at 3:34 pm. Reply #

Bye! Have fun crying yourself to sleep at night!

Good interview overall. I fully agree with Clegg’s view that he’s not running a military state/New Labour. He’s also obliged to spend time with his 3rd child (here’s hoping everything goes well).

My only complaint is in the point he raises about the poll rating. Really, we ought to be doing better. The last time we were in the position of waiting for a government to fall was 1993-1997, and that resulted in Paddy’s victorious 45 or so seats. We could be doing a tad better than this, although that would expect us to be hopping up and down like chihuahuas, pushing popularist policy – not my idea of proper politics.

by Huw Dawson on January 7, 2009 at 4:39 pm. Reply #

Liam,

Speaking as someone who is just as angry about the right-wing populism as you are – I don’t think that this interview is in itself a good reason to walk out.

What would you have preferred Nick to say? I can’t actually tell whether you think he should have said (A) “I’m going to come down hard on these guys for their appalling misbehaviour” or, alternatively, whether he should have said (B) “I have no problems at all with what Lembit and Brian have done.” Could you at least please tell us which of these opposite extremes represents your views?

I think he had to steer carefully between these two extremes, and he did it adequately well. Option (A) would have had everyone saying “who the hell are you, little Hitler?”, while option (B) would have earned the response “Clearly the Lib Dems are all just one big laugh”.

by David Allen on January 7, 2009 at 5:16 pm. Reply #

I called Nick Clegg before I went on ‘I’m a Celebrity…’ and he made no comment or judgement on my decision. I have not spoken to him since I came out (of the jungle!)

by Brian on January 7, 2009 at 5:51 pm. Reply #

There are 2 discussions to be had here; paternity leave and celebrity culture. Both are worthy of seperate discussions.
However I think Nick is absolutely right on both of them.

by Geoffrey Payne on January 7, 2009 at 7:19 pm. Reply #

The Telegraph wrote:
“Mr Clegg admits he has spoken to both about their behaviour – and claims to be relaxed at their failure to take his advice.”

Brian wrote:
“I called Nick Clegg before I went on ‘I’m a Celebrity…’ and he made no comment or judgement on my decision. I have not spoken to him since I came out (of the jungle!)”

Hmmm.

Mind you, the concept of Nick “GQ Magazine” Clegg speaking to his colleagues about “their behaviour” with regard to media issues at least has the merit of humour about it …

by Anonymous on January 8, 2009 at 12:44 am. Reply #

” Eccentric” ” walking a tight rope “. You don’t need to be Bletchley Park to break that Code.

by David Morton on January 8, 2009 at 6:09 am. Reply #

I really appreciate all your comments. Thank you.

by Brian on January 8, 2009 at 6:32 am. Reply #

If someone wants to leave our party because we have passionate and bold members like Brian and Lembit, I would suggest that they don’t just leave the party, but also leave the country.

We need more people in this country to stand up for what they believe in, even at times when people aren’t willing to listen.

The day that the LibDems becomes some cautious, top-down army, is the day I’ll leave. As it is, I’m proud to be a Lib Dem, and proud that people get out and show people that we care.

Many thanks to Brian and Lembit for reaching out beyond the safe territory of the Guardian and Independent.

by Neale Upstone on January 9, 2009 at 2:12 pm. Reply #

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