Clegg in the (Lib Dem-supporting) Guardian: “We have taken Labour’s place in UK politics”

by Stephen Tall on May 1, 2010

Today’s Guardian carries an in-depth interview with Nick Clegg (it’s labelled ‘Exclusive’, which seems a rather optimistic boast during an election campaign when the Lib Dem leader gives interviews every day).

Much of what he says will be familiar to readers of his pamphlet, The Liberal Moment, in which Nick made clear that the Tories are our opponents, Labour our rivals. But it may come as a pleasurable surprise for those progressive voters still wavering between Labour and the Lib Dems.

Here are some of Clegg’s quotes:

On the Tories:

What is striking is despite all the blather from Cameron over the past few weeks, he has made up his mind strategically to set his face against any profound reform of the political system. I think this will prove to be the biggest strategic error he has ever made, because one thing you cannot do is set your face against change when the demand for that change is so powerful that it is coming from millions of people. In terms of its DNA, the Conservative party is now the party of entrenched vested interests of politics.”

On tactical voting:

“In an election where the tectonic plates are moving so quickly and so radically, people have got to go with their gut instincts. Once in a while there are elections where people should be released to do what they want, and I think this is one of those elections – I really do.” He denies this shows he is willing to put his chance of overtaking Labour ahead of preventing a majority Tory government. “The Tories are nowhere near getting an overall majority. We are absolutely going for broke so far as the share of the vote is concerned.”

On the prospect of a Lib-Con coalition:

I think if you look at the debate last night, there is just a gulf between what David Cameron stands for and what I stand for – in terms of values, in terms of internationalism, in terms of fairness, in terms of progressive tax reform, in terms of political reform, in terms of simply living in denial, as does Labour, about a major problem of their creation in the immigration system.”

On the prospect of a Lib-Lab coalition:

“I have always accepted the first part of Roy Jenkins’s analysis which says that historically Labour and Liberal Democrats are two wings of a progressive tradition in British politics. … There are some people in the Labour party that now get [it that] progressive politics has to be about empowerment, reducing dependency on the state, increasing social mobility through individual empowerment, releasing power from the centre politically – but it is not where the Labour party lies at heart. Listen to Gordon Brown’s final message last night – it was: ‘You’re not allowed to take a risk on anyone else.’ It’s a very dismal, cramped and depressing message. That’s why polls are putting us ahead of Labour, and that’ll crystallise in the next few days into a two-horse race.”

And, finally, on the Labservatives:

I personally think both the Tories and Labour face profound crises of identity because they are both based on assumptions of mass support that have now evaporated. The arrogance of both the Conservative and Labour party that it’s somehow their birthright to speak on behalf of millions of people. That’s gone.”