Nick Clegg, Liar

There are many comic things about British politics right now, and one of them is the way in which the entirely loathsome creature and great champion of electoral reform, Nick Clegg is reckoned last year to have called the Alternative Vote, for which he is now campaigning so enthusiastically, a “miserable little compromise”.

Yesterday, however, I read this, in tehgraun:

Clegg claimed his remark did not refer to the voting system itself but to the previous Labour’s government’s attempt to shoehorn in a promise of AV that had little chance of being delivered.

He said: “I’ve had this a lot. What I was actually referring to was Gordon Brown’s suggestion, very late in the day in his government, of making changes that everyone knew would not come into effect …

“I was talking about the Labour party’s offer in the latter days of its government which it had no way of implementing.”

How interesting, if true. Let’s now go to the original source. Here’s Andrew Grice, political editor of the Independent, on 22 April 2010:

Nick Clegg will demand that Gordon Brown improves on his “miserable little compromise” of limited electoral reform as the price of propping up Labour in a hung parliament.

In an interview with The Independent, the Liberal Democrat leader rejected Labour’s proposals for electoral reform, which stop short of proportional representation (PR), and insisted on a truly proportional system for electing MPs.

Mr Clegg said the latest opinion polls, which suggest Labour could come third in the share of the vote but cling on to power, would make the campaign for PR unstoppable: “It is not going to be a question of us propping up [another party] but of us insisting on the changes only we advocate.”

Raising his party’s sights, he declared: “Everyone says the only question is whether we could support another party. But I think it is now much more open than this. We are going for broke. I want to try to push this all the way.”

Until now, the Liberal Democrats have suggested they would accept the alternative vote (AV), with people listing candidates in order of preference, on which Labour has promised a referendum next year. But Mr Clegg is now demanding the “alternative vote plus” system, which unlike AV is proportional and was recommended by Lord Jenkins of Hillhead in 1998.

Mr Clegg said: “AV is a baby step in the right direction – only because nothing can be worse than the status quo. If we want to change British politics once and for all, we have got to have a quite simple system in which everyone’s votes count. We think AV-plus is a feasible way to proceed. At least it is proportional – and it retains a constituency link.

“The Labour Party assumes that changes to the electoral system are like crumbs for the Liberal Democrats from the Labour table. I am not going to settle for a miserable little compromise thrashed out by the Labour Party.”

What a squalid little liar he is.

4 thoughts on “Nick Clegg, Liar”

  1. Um, Chris? That quote confirms what Clegg said, last paragraph, clearly and explicitly talking about Brown’s offer. AV is a miserable little compromise, and I’ll take minimal change over no change, but Clegg’s right on what he said.

  2. “Brown’s offer” is the Labour Party 2010 manifesto commitment to holding a referendum on AV.

    What his interviewer, Grice, understands to be the significance of the interview is that Clegg is here rejecting this position as the basis of a possible post-election deal between Labour and the Lib Dems, on the grounds that AV isn’t a proportional system–hence, it is a “miserable little compromise”–and the Lib Dems aren’t in the business of making this kind of compromise: “We are going for broke”, Clegg says, “I want to try to push this all the way.” And in the Coalition Agreement, of course, Clegg secured from the Tories exactly the position he is rejecting in this interview.

    I think what Clegg is doing is artfully conflating two different things. If memory serves, there was a moment in the post-election negotiations when the Labour negotiators offered Clegg AV without a referendum, in the hope that that would sabotage his talks with the Tories. *That* could fairly be described as “shoehorn[ing] a promise of AV that had little chance of being delivered”. But the MLC remark comes from a *pre-election* interview, in which it is entirely unreasonable to put the gloss on it that Clegg does in this tehgraun piece, that the worry was about “making changes that everyone knew would not come into effect”.

    So I say he’s a liar.

  3. Agreed, Chris.

    Clegg is a liar, a fraud and a collaborator. If the Fib Dems have any sense they will take the bastard down at the next Lib Dem conference.

    He’s the most diningenous politician in the country. Even Gideon Osborne is less economical with the truth.

    Very good politiical positioning by Ed Miliband on Channel 4 news last night – effectively saying to Vince Cable, if you jump ship and bring the govt down, there’s a job for you in the next Labour govt. So put your money where your big mouth is, Vince.

  4. Come to think of it, if Clegg wants to wriggle out of what he said, he’s doing it the wrong way. What he should have said to tehgraun is something like this:

    “When I said AV was a miserable little compromise, it was in the context of discussing a scenario in which we were imagining Labour continuing in government, propped up by the Lib Dems, even though Labour had come third in the popular vote. And I was making it clear that we’d hold out for much more — AV+ at a minimum, as that’s a genuinely proportional system. To agree to prop up Labour *in those circumstances* with only the promise of a referendum on AV would indeed have been a miserable little compromise for us to be making. But that’s not how things turned out. I always said the Lib Dems would seek to work with the party that got the most votes in the election, and that party was David Cameron’s Conservative Party. And we are working with them, and in holding a referendum on AV, *they* are the ones who are compromising–they’ve always been strongly opposed to the possibility of electoral reform–not the Liberal Democrats.”

    I think that’s more or less a tenable line to run, all things considered. But that isn’t what he said to tehgraun, where he focuses on Labour offering “changes that everyone knew would not come into effect…” But if the Lib Dems *were* to be propping up a minority Labour government, they could insist on the referendum (or whatever) taking place, on pain of bringing down the government.

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