Tebbit admits ‘I admire Clegg more than Cameron’

by Stephen Tall on April 2, 2011

Well, there’s a headline that will cause equal consternation among both Lib Dem and Conservative supporters… and doubtless prompt some no-surprise-there snarks from Labourites too.

But what’s more interesting than the stark headline (prompted by this Telegraph interview) is Norman Tebbit’s reason for admiring Nick Clegg over his own party leader:

He says he is more of a Conservative than David Cameron. The Big Society is just a “buzzword. It’s a logo looking for a product”. He wants to turn the party back to being nationalist and jokes that he would like it to go into coalition with the UK Independence Party. Chuckle. Lord Tebbit has written to the Prime Minister several times about issues, and while he always gets a reply, “sometimes I have had to give him a reminder to”.

By contrast, when he wrote to Nick Clegg before the election — to tell him he how much he agreed with the necessity to raise the threshold of income tax — “I had a nice letter back”. As a joke I ask if he has more admiration for Mr Clegg than Mr Cameron, and am astonished when he says, “Yes, in a way, because I think he has pushed his agenda quite hard. I think Clegg is probably more politically motivated than Cameron.” Damning for them both.

It’s not at all clear why the Telegraph thinks this is ‘damning for them both’. What Tebbit is saying about Clegg is no more than in the past Tony Benn has said about Margaret Thatcher: that, however much you disagree with someone’s politics, you can still admire their determined leadership.

For all the ‘he’s just a Tory’ jibes glibly tossed in Nick’s direction, it’s clear he’s not — evident from the policies he’s pushing (from constitutional reform to social mobility to Europe), and self-evident from the fact that his career would’ve been a lot easier if he’d joined from the outset the Tories rather than the Liberal Democracts (at a time when our party was on the margins).

That Nick chose the hard route — and is still choosing it: he would’ve been more popular, at least in the short-term, if he’d rejected the coalition — is testament to his political motivation, his conviction you can only reform if you have power.

For David Cameron, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that he’s happy to have become Prime Minister because he feels it’s his pre-destination — that it’s a job he was born to, and will be accomplished at — rather than because their are policies he craves to put into effect.