Sunday, April 18, 2010

Personal Attacks on Clegg Are Misguided

Yes, the LibDems should come under very close scrutiny now over their policies. But I hope we don't see any more of the kind of article in this week's Mail on Sunday which questions Nick Clegg's 'Britishness'. In fact, the article itself merely points out his cosmopolitan background, but the headline is objectionable:

HIS WIFE IS SPANISH, HIS MOTHER DUTCH, HIS FATHER HALF-RUSSIAN AND HIS SPIN DOCTOR GERMAN. IS THERE ANYTHING BRITISH ABOUT THE LIBDEM LEADER?

A travesty. Personal attacks on Nick Clegg will not work. They will backfire on those who make them and rightly so. Everyone who knows Nick Clegg likes him. He's a transparently likeable individual. Anyone trying to make out that he's anything else will come a cropper.

So let's stick to analysing LibDem policies and exposing the flaws in their ideas. And you never know, they might do the same with us, and stop the personal attacks on David Cameron. One can live in hope.

Note: Earlier I posted, asking why the LibDems had apparently abandoned their commitment to an IN/OUT referendum. I read the Euro section of their manifesto three times, but missed the sentence where the commitment is repeated. As soon as I realised my error, I removed the post.

52 comments:

tapestry said...

German spin doctor?

So his jokes will be goodiont.

Uncle Bob said...

Quite right Iain. The only thing I dislike about him is his preachy attitude and the hypocrisy of many of his statements.

The libdems should be under attack, not on personality, but on their rubbish policies, of which, only the 10,000 pa personal allowance appeals even though it's a bit unaffordable now.

tapestry said...

german spin doctor?

so his jokes will be side-splitting.

Paddy Briggs said...

Very well said Iain - what a disgrace the Mail is to our society and to common decency.

Opinicus said...

Cameron is being destroyed by negative campaigning about how posh he is.

Negativity works, it just isn't pious to say so

sunonmars said...

The problem is they have no credibility, they rolled over and played dead for Brown in the house vote on Lisbon, wasnt that a major treaty of Europe. So they have form and would do so again, its like Brown and his 2005 manifesto promise, all a load of codswallop.

Martin Shapland said...

at least you are honourable enough to admit you made a mistake...

Stephen said...

Absolutely.

What does the Mail think it's playing at? What mindset have they got there to think this would help?

The vast majority of the British people, even amongst Mail readers, don't see the relevance of someone's heritage. Reading the Mail is increasingly like tolerating some superannuated drunk, racist relative at Xmas.

All these polls are just a reshuffle of the dustbin vote and it will all blow over by the third debate anyway.

What we're not hearing about the polls this time is the changes in discourse, the painful process by which angry, incoherent, anti- politics answers are then somehow attriibuted as support for parties.

This time it's going to be all about the towns, kicking out the charlatans and hopefully the Conservative vote holding up as sensible people realise that UKIP, ED etc are only there to help Labour.

Stephen Glenn said...

Actually Iain as soon as the error was pointed out with the page number you said 'I cannot see such a sentance on that page' then when it was pointed out again you clearly actually read the page.

Then and only then did you take down the post.

Matthew said...

What personal attacks on David Cameron?

There are none by the Lib Dems.

Sunder Katwala said...

Good spot. That's an astonishing headline that belongs in an BNP newsletter. Can't somebody send the editors on a British history and citizenship education course!

The Daily Mail yesterday went perhaps even further in inventing a 'blood test' of how British we are writing ""Despite his Anglo-Saxon name, Nick Clegg is by blood the least British leader of a British political party"

I wrote last year to Paul Dacre to challenge a news report which complained that the children and grandchildren of immigrants were classified as "British" in official statistics. They said it was a mistake and apologised (verbally), though only running my letter to correct it.

John Moss said...

p100 Lib Dem Manifesto - £5.455bn a year additional income from restricting tax relief on pensions to the basic rate.

Do we really want ANOTHER £5bn a year to be taken out of pensios?

pete-s said...

There is some peculiar wording in their manifesto. They do NOT use the word amnesty for illegal immigrants. They say:

"We will let law-abiding families earn citizenship. We will allow people who have been in Britain without the correct papers for ten years, but speak English, have a clean record and want to live here long-term to earn their citizenship."

That could mean if they are a family, they would be allowed to stay and the time period does not count. As they are illegal, how do they prove how long they have been in the country anyway?

wild said...

It is ironical that some of those who attack Cameron for being too "posh" support Clegg, who has an even more privileged background, or that some of the people who attack Cameron for being too focused on spin and image want a hung parliament where the most powerful figure will almost certainly be Peter Mandelson, or that voting UKIP because Cameron is not Euro-sceptic enough will make it more likely that the the Liberal Democrats will be in a position to oppose any chances of EU reform.

You could argue that a General Election is a sort of IQ test, or if you prefer, a test of common sense. Five more years of Labour, or not...........

tapestry said...

Captain Clegg's Policies are his Achilles Heel.

We are allowed to pull his cleg presumably?

LibCync said...

Oh, exciting, does that mean if we go through your archives and point out the articles about the LibDems that are false you'll remove them too, Iain?

norman said...

I detest personal attacks. But in our constituency the Libdem bloke said in nthe doorstep that Cameron is a toff, rich, went to Eton and cannot understand the poor, I had to point out Clegg went to independent schools, his father helps people to deposit money offshore evading taxes in this country etc.., Clegg get £60,000 Euro pension , his wife is a rich lawyer etc.. to say why Clegg is not like me a poor pensioner which I thought was fair retaliation. I have worked with Libdems who controlled our borough when I was a school governor, believe me they can be much nasteir than Labour. To me Caeron's folly that day was not to retaliate to Brown and Clegg.
£10,000 personal allowance will work well for me a pensioner, but against that amnesty to illegal immigrants and bringing in more immigrants to parts of the country will not help our youngsters and I have a young son.

King Athelstan said...

That sounds very British to Me.

Daily Referendum said...

Why you should not vote for Nick Clegg's Lib Dems http://bit.ly/b5b2sL

M. Hristov said...

I have had a nightmare few weeks for personal reasons and now have half my extended family stuck in this country for what seems the foreseeable future, so I really haven’t kept up with things in the election. Debate night was taken up by a family dinner where the haves sat down with the have nots (do you really have to be totally devoid of commonsense to get an honour from the Queen these days. On the strength of this dinner, yes). I finally got to watch the debate last night in the early hours of the morning.

To be fair to David Cameron, no one could have predicted that Nick Clegg would be a natural at this sort of thing but he certainly was. Someone in Lib Dem HQ or Young Nick himself had realised that less is more in the context of such a debate and that concentration on clarity, at the expense of content, was the answer.

Brown was terrible, as usual. A rictus grin and concentration on endless stats reminded one of an ex-Soviet Bloc leader addressing a conference. We knew he would be awful and so didn’t expect more.

David Cameron or his advisers got it badly wrong. He seemed very tired and grumpy. Someone needs to get hold of him and tell him to get a days rest immediately before the next debate. He might just have got away with this if he had not “lost it “ when Brown made the jibe about the posters with Brown’s face on them. Cameron was visibly peeved and didn’t recover himself properly for far too long. He should have just laughed this off with a quip, about Brown failing to read the captions but he didn‘t. He was also prone to giving a few tractor stats himself and this just sounded tedious in this context. The old Etonian assurance shone through but his tiredness meant that that it just seemed arrogant, rather than authoritative. He needed to be more Boris Johnson like and get a bit of self deprecating humour in.

I agree with your points about Clegg and the personal attacks. The Mail on Sunday doesn’t seem to realise that a lot of people now have foreign relatives, particularly after we won the Cold War. I had to break off relations with one of my closest friends for a while because, as a died in the wool old style Tory, he kept insulting my Eastern European wife and relatives. A lot of people may be impressed by Clegg’s relatives or at least say "so what". It’s the policies, stupid, not the personalities.

The lesson of this debate may well be something different from what we are concentrating on. It may signal the end of the importance of the newspapers in elections. “The Sun Wot Won It” seems to be an old fashioned idea when the debates take centre stage.

There is always a danger that one fights the last war rather than the current one and I think that Cameron’s team have done this by wooing Murdoch. The BBC were remarkably pro-Cameron up to that time but there was period of time, before election purdah set in, when this changed.

All is not lost for Cameron, he can come back but he needs a rest and her needs to rethink his approach to these debates.

jaybs said...

Yes I agree with you, but is The Mail even pro David Cameron no! the attack needs to be on Policies, Europe and the Euro, amnesty on illegal immigrants, no prison sentences under 6 months? Currently Clegg is having an X Factor type bounce, no one really knows their policies and the danger they are this is what we need to communicate.

Fred Blogs said...

Well said Iain - Personal attacks often end up worse for the attacker than the victim. The MoS's piece does the Tories no favours. Let's have no more attacks on Clegg, Cameron OR Brown. Congratulations on putting fair play and integrity above your party allegiance.

jailhouselawyer said...

I agree that personal attacks are out of order.

There is another interpretation of the Mail on Sunday headline "Clegg is European".

I note today that Clegg is said to be almost as popular as Winston S. Churchill. I have sometime ago posted on my blog that Churchill is the first European.

The Tory party is weak on Europe. And yet, Europe is anti-Cameron. The British Empire is long dead, Europe has taken over.

The weakness in the Lib Dem manifesto, in my view, is the claim that the Lib Dems will bring back forced labour for prisoners, and impose a Victim Tax on prisoners earnings. This has been lifted from Ann Widdecombe!

Ben Gunn, the General Secretary of the Association of Prisoners, points out: "This is political smoke and mirrors. The prison service can only supply work for half of prisoners as it is, so where is this growth of employment to come from? Who is to pay for this investment?"

And, we should not forget "No taxation without representation". It is still the Lib Dem policy that all prisoners should have the vote, even though Nick Clegg only favours some prisoners getting the franchise.

Curiously, I cannot find the Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, David Howarth, on the Lib Dem website under either the Shadow Cabinet or Shadow Minister sections.

150 Wat Tyler said...

The desperation of this article pales beside that of a website that I happened to chance upon the other day.

Can you believe that its sole agenda was to attack a whole political party on the basis that it isn't British - despite all its candidates, activists, members and supporters being, er, British?

Truly shocking (as I'm sure you'll be the first to agree - and condemn in your next blog).

Cantstandcant said...

Yes, well said, Iain. Sadly this is proving to be a low point in press coverage of UK elections. I've long since given up on the Mirror and clearly now MoS is in same category. Sunday Times's "Clegg almost as popular as Churchill" is laughable (his higher popularity was just before the 1945 election, so a real pointer!) and the Sun's blog by Trevor Kavanagh yesterday was shameful. Clegg was attacked for his party not having run even the proverbial whelk stall for 100 years (er, apart from wholly or partly Scotland, Wales, Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham, Camden, Richmond etc etc etc)and for his lack of experience of Govt. Er, yes, but how much did Blair and Brown have in 1997 or Cameron and Osborne now?

norman said...

I am not sure about who the Cameron's media advisers are. In America, saying about your family and kids with passion will make you a smashing guy and here people are cynical about it which I find strange as what Cameron was saying was that he is passionate about NHS, his son was treated in NHS and he received excellent care etc.. to deflect Brown's accusation that Cameron will cut funds to NHS. As I have mentioned before, the X-factor has brought in some instant judgement and it helped to engineer Diana type of hysteria. It is sad as even in America, attention is paid to the substance. It is more like 'bollywood effect', escapist judgement.

Martin Wellbourne said...

Liberal Democrat defence policy:- Hands up, fingers crossed.

alexa7 said...

Iain - thanks for your decent comments. The Mail article is nasty, personal and insinuating (and borderline racist). Hope it has a negative effect, and hope Tory advertisers won't plaster the country with negative anti-Clegg posters, like all the ones "quoting" smiling Gordon Brown.

Johnny Anomaly said...

But is he an Abba man?

norman said...

@Cantstandcant. Do you want to come to our constituency and listen to what Libdems say about Cameron? I thought Cavanagh article was good. Clegg was called Calamity Clegg by Huhne.

Andrew Ian Dodge said...

Besides the fact they are infantile, they can be very counter-productive. I am sure if this kind of scrutiny were passed over all the Tory MPs there would be some odd anomalies.

seniorspeaks said...

Personal attacks against Nick Clegg are wrong, as are personal attacks against David Cameron and Gordon Brown. The party leaders should be judged on their policies, views and how they have voted since being elected to parliament.

I don't care about the ethnicity of Nick Clegg's parents or staff. I would have thought their ethnicity was only of significance to BNP supporters.

Grand_Inquisitor said...

Having just watched Brown on the Marr Programme I can see that Brown still does not get it. Clegg's popularity is because a lot of people just want a change - and could not care less about Brown's policies (nor Cameron's either for that matter). The big expense-bending parties in the last Parliament are now the big liabilities in people's minds.

Did you notice Brown's offer of PR - but for the upper chamber only? Clegg, beware Greeks bearing gifts!

P.S. Somebody please tell Gordon that the Lib-Dem Party is not the same as the Liberal Party (which still exists)!

javelin said...

Lib dems should never be given power because they want PR which means they never lose power. That would not be good for democracy. In fact it would be so bad I believe the lib dems would vanish.

There is so many unresolved deeply unstable legacy issues in this country. So many knots to unravel. The English Parliament, centralisation of power,immigration, power supplies, cuts of £250bn needed, unreformed civil service.

The only revolution we have had is spin and sound bites from the nasty political pair of pygmies - Mandelson and Campbell. They have stored so many problems up in this country and have changed nothing for the positive.

norman said...

@ Grand Inquisitor. If voters vote for a hung parliament and if Labour becomes the largest party, Brown does not have to invite Libdems to join the govt. He can form a minority govt and if Libdems want to join it, it will be under Brown's terms. Clegg knows that it will be the only chance for a life-time for him and his Libdem friends to become ministers. Clegg and every one knows that if Brown is voted down and Cameron refuses to form a govt, The ensuing GE will see the Libdem getting less seats as his novelty would have worn out and he would have seen to have failed to bring in PR. My guss is he will swallow his pride and he and Libdem buddies will meekly accept minor ministries. Deluded Libdems are blogging every where saying changee will arrive this and that. Well that is Libdems for you!

Bardirect said...

Isn't there a distinction between the Lib Dem style of personal attack ie lying and legitimate querying of the important personal issue of "character" for someone who seeks high office?

Wouldn't it be entirely legitimate to query Clegg's claim to have a "minor" conviction for "arson" whilst a drunken 16 year old student in Germany?

Or indeed given the implausibility of setting fire to a cactus, to query whether there is not a substantial degree of embellishment to the account?

Oops, back to lying, its a circular process!

BrianB said...

If the LibDems are really promising, or rather threatening, an 'in/out' referendum on UK membership of the EU, with the real risk that it would result in a vote for 'out', that's surely reason enough for voting Labour.

Brian
http://www.barder.com/ephems/

Jimmy said...

Much more of this and the Hitler on Sunday may begin to acquire a reputation for intolerance.

Houdini said...

I'm surprised, or maybe not, that you haven't realised that this is part of a multi pronged attack on Clegg.

Clegg = Foreign = rampant Europhile.

Simple for those that want to see.

Paul Burgin said...

Amazing isn't it. Times change and the Mail is as offensive as ever, and yet lacks the ability to see that it is part of an increasingly contemptible tiny group of emotive and unpleasant bigots

Cicero said...

Hi Iain, I seem to remember warning you about Nick Clegg once in 18 Doughty St. Thanks for the words of sanity: the public really do want a grown up debate about the future direction of the country- and this negative personal stuff is just a travesty.

I must say I am enjoying this campaign: I shall be up in Scotland for the last week and I am hearing that the Lib Dems are doing well.

Good Luck with things- maybe catch up again sometime

norman said...

What this has done is turn polling on its head, and gone is the expectation that the sampling does indeed represent voters' real intentions and that the poll ratings do in someway translate into seats. Newspapers are having a field day, just as they had during Diana mass hysteria. If by any chance the expected coalition govt of Brown and Clegg falls, the aftermath can be full of cynicism on the democratic process itself. Then plague on all their houses!

I asked my neighbours a bunch of pretty ladies, how would their voting intentions of supporting Libdems would have changed, had Old Cable instead of young Clegg took part in the debate. They stared at me with anger and are not going to speak to me for months! My mother used to say to girls , beware of attractive youngmen's promises!

tapestry said...

The Captain Clegg 'surge' would open up an opportunity. Cameron could repeat his promise of a referendum on any future transfer of powers to Brussels, exposing Clegg's breach of promise over Lisbon, and forcing a statement from Clegg on his current EU position. Just a thought.

Cameron could couch this in terms of being confused as to what Lib Dem policy on the EU really is.

Piece of cake.

Steve said...

Agree that personal attacks are both wrong and unlikely to win support. Sadly, I fear that CCHQ halfwits will be urging DC to undermine Clegg in the next debate and all that will achieve is to make him appear more of an underdog to floating voters and allow him to re-iterate his views (which carry weight with some undecided voters in the post-expenses era) about 'old politics' (ie Conservative & Labour) vs 'the new' (ie Lib-Dem).

This has been a terrible few days to be a Conservative. The weekend's press coverage has not made comfortable reading. However, another bad performance on Thursday and it will be even worse (and perhaps unrecoverable?)

What a poor start we have got off to after such high hopes. Why? Was it over-confidence or simply poor strategy?

Steve said...

Agree that personal attacks are both wrong and unlikely to win support. Sadly, I fear that CCHQ halfwits will be urging DC to undermine Clegg in the next debate and all that will achieve is to make him appear more of an underdog to floating voters and allow him to re-iterate his views (which carry weight with some undecided voters in the post-expenses era) about 'old politics' (ie Conservative & Labour) vs 'the new' (ie Lib-Dem).

This has been a terrible few days to be a Conservative. The weekend's press coverage has not made comfortable reading. However, another bad performance on Thursday and it will be even worse (and perhaps unrecoverable?)

What a poor start we have got off to after such high hopes. Why? Was it over-confidence or simply poor strategy?

The Boiling Frog said...

I presume the Lib Dems will uphold this referendum promise with the same commitment they upheld the Lisbon Treaty one.

Strange that no-one told Ming Campbell though:

The Lib Dems have ended their campaign for an "in or out" referendum on UK membership of the European Union.

The pro-European party had argued that instead of a vote on the Lisbon Treaty a referendum was needed on Britain's broader relationship with the EU.

But ex-leader Sir Menzies Campbell said there was no "public appetite" for a vote now that the treaty was ratified.


http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8388475.stm

They really are a joke party

Joseph1832 said...

You are right to take down the post. The reality remains a referndum on in/out. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/election-2010/7603945/Nick-Clegg-defends-Liberal-Democrat-stance-on-Europe.html

You are, however, wrong to say that Clegg is a nice guy. This referendum issue shows a cynical politician. Whenever he gets a chance he will present the British people with a false choice: sign up, or get out. He wishes to polarise the debate. He conspired with Brown to deny the British people a say on the constitution, but wishes to snooker them into endorsing even greater integration.

It is wrong to bring in his parentage. But, like many British politicians, his true patriotism is aimed at the EU. He will use every underhand trick to advance that cause. And while doing so, he will pretend to being open and honest.

Nice guy, that Mr Clegg:

----------------

PS: If you want to know Mandelson's play on the Icelandic volcano. It is wonderfully subtle.

The hero will not be Brown, it will be the EU. So, come the debate on Thursday, lots of pro-EU points to spike Cameron's guns.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/18/peter-mandelson-iceland-volcano-navy

--------------

http://joseph1832-thinkingconservatism.blogspot.com/

Dave H said...

'Mail has objectionable headline'

Well knock me down with a feather.

I can't disagree with your comment though: personal attacks on the (by all accounts) personable won't get far.

Much better to point out, for example, that when he gained praise for his 'immigration chaos' remark, that his party's stance has been historically supportive of Labour's mass immigration policy: it's just the chaos they object to.

More specifically, the Lib Dems have always criticised Labour's inability to process efficiently all the applications for passports, asylum, indefinite leave to remain etc. It's not the numbers they mind, rather that the applications should just have been approved more swiftly.

They also single out the failure to plan for such numbers, never considering whether the policy itself could ultimately take more from Britain than it gives.

There is a recent commitment to a reduction in numbers by about a quarter, but I'm afraid it only appeared in the run up to the election, no doubt after looking at the issues that really appear ro concern the public. The Lib Dem's heart has certainly isn't in it.

norman said...

So far I know in my neighbourhood the women are drooling over Clegg! They must be the ones who bumped up the poll ratings to 33% for a man who did nothing but to stand I said , Labour and Conservatives are the same. Read his manifesto, it will be shock and these women my in neighbourhood were the very same who voted for Blair-the same reason of attractive young man. Seems a fullMonty effect! Incidentally all these women do not want EU but want Clegg!

Goodwin said...

It does make you wonder where his priorities and loyalties will lie though. If "cast iron" Dave can stitch us up over the EU, what hope is there with Clegg? Or do you think we should just roll-over, be run by Brussels and pay £bns for the privilege?

adrian said...

Iain. Personal attacks of this nature do not work and should be avoided. The comments you highlight border on racism - which is pretty poor form to be honest.

But that doesn't mean that criticism and examination of the Lib Dems should only be confined to Lib Dem policy.

Nick Clegg should be scrutinised. He is afterall a professional politician (despite his protestations to the contrary), and has had a spell as an MEP (Europe is his weak link and if people knew what a committed Europhile he really is, they might not be so keen on him).

He has never had a proper job, comes from a background equally as privileged as Cameron's, and advocates some very dangerous things (like membership of the euro).

So, I do think it is legitimate to question his judgement and suitability.

You can (and in this case should) legitimately scrutinise and examine someone without resorting to gutter politics.

Craig Ranapia said...

Ian:

You're right, but didn't go far enough. We're being told ad nauseum that a hung Parliament is nigh on inevitable and neither major party can govern without LibDem support.

Well, it's time for the media and public to demand Clegg walk the talk about his new politics of transparency and honesty.

Mr Clegg, please tell the British people what would be your absolute bottom lines to support either a Labour or Conservative-minority government. No fudge, no waffle, and no deal cut after the election in Westminster backrooms.

Then we can ask Brown and Cameron if they're willing to accept your terms.