“My name is Nicholas William Peter Clegg, commander of what’s left of the Army of the South West, deputy chair (acting) of the Federal Executive Committee, loyal servant of the true emperor Paddy Aurelius. Father of a murdered party, husband to a murdered campaign for AV. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”
The restoration of Lord Rennard’s LibDem membership card, and neutering of Nick Clegg, as gone down like a cup of cold sick with almost everybody except the pervy peer’s mates. The Deputy PM and LibDem leader – in office but out of power – is left to bleating about long hard looks in the mirror.
Clegg outrider Sean Kemp spins to the Times RedBox:
“The Lib Dems’ absurdly complex disciplinary system has meant the only person being punished for the Rennard affair is Nick Clegg. The party’s leader was left unable to take charge of the issue, even while it badly damaged his party’s reputation.That system has now been changed, but that will do nothing for the people who wanted to see the party take tougher action.”
Clegg could have ‘taken charge of the issue’ when the allegations first surfaced internally before the last election. Or when he was told about them in 2010. Instead, like with Mike Hancock, he chose to ignore the problem and hoped it would go away.
Last time David Ward hit the headlines for his comments about “the Jews”, the Fink wrote this letter to Nick Clegg warning him “Mr Ward will make another offensive remark, probably worse than this one. It’s just a matter of time”.
November 29, 2013
Dear Deputy Prime Minister,
As I hope you know by now, I have great respect for you. I believe it took substantial courage and imagination to agree to the coalition deal and to see it through in the way that you have. So I write now in full confidence of your goodwill and your willingness and ability to do what is right. It’s about David Ward, your MP for Bradford East. You’ve got to do something and you need to get on with it.
At the beginning of the year, Mr Ward told Holocaust survivors like my mother that they had failed to learn the lesson of experience. They should treat people better and they don’t. He kept pressing this opinion, and talking about Jews, until you felt that you needed to withdraw the party whip. However, as a compromise, the whip was taken away from him only while the House wasn’t sitting. I was a bit disappointed by this, but I saw the problem. You didn’t want a huge party row with him about Israel and you didn’t want to lose an MP. You thought perhaps that a warning would do.
Mr Ward will make another, probably worse, remark. It’s just a matter of time. Fair enough, I suppose. Not heroic, but fair enough. The point of my letter is to urge upon you the thought that this approach, however reasonable you thought it was, hasn’t worked. Mr Ward has now given himself of the opinion that the Board of Deputies is powerful and well financed. Your party has dismissed this as a flattering observation but I think we both know better than this. It is a classic and freighted description of a Jewish lobby that reflects Mr Ward’s view that, for financial reasons, Jews have acquired great power.
By themselves it would be easy to dismiss the comments, but the comments are not made by themselves. They form part of a pattern of remarks deeply offensive to Jews. I am sure you would never conclude that Jews don’t matter because there aren’t many of us and we don’t live where you need us. Or that Mr Ward’s constituents will support him, and Jewish feelings are collateral damage in his election campaign. But perhaps you think this a niche problem that will go away. This is an error.
Mr Ward will make another offensive remark, probably worse than this one. It’s just a matter of time. He will do it closer to an election, in a more highly charged atmosphere, and you will be put in a very difficult position. He may also tie his remarks closely to his view of Israel, making action just as necessary but more awkward. Your problem will be less the comments themselves than that you will be made to look weak. You will get stuck between the media on the one side and your local party organisation on the other. It will be very uncomfortable indeed.
I am not suggesting that acting even now is easy. The Board decided not to complain and you may feel it is difficult to act unilaterally. So I am sympathetic. Yet it is far better to make a choice now, while you are in control, while the decision to escalate is yours, than to leave it until later when it is likely to be more difficult. It is a mistake to contract this out to the Board, because your problem is not this incident. It is Mr Ward’s pattern of behaviour.
If these strategic thoughts don’t convince you, let me try something a bit more direct. Mr Ward’s comments are simply not acceptable. You didn’t go into politics, surely, to stand by someone saying that Jewish money makes them powerful. Or to compare Jews to Nazis. You can’t allow yourself to be responsible for that. And you don’t have to. Because, guess what, you are the leader.
Once again, Clegg received a letter warning him that a prominent member of his party was behaving inappropriately, and was likely to re-offend. Once again, Clegg ignored the warnings…
“We utterly condemn David Ward’s comments, they are not representative of the Liberal Democrats. The party takes this matter very seriously and will treat it as a disciplinary issue.”
A Labour spokesperson said:
“At a time when all sides should be working for a ceasefire and a peaceful settlement, it defies belief that a Liberal Democrat MP should tweet something so vile and irresponsible. Nick Clegg must act immediately to disassociate his party from this comment.”
Tory chairman Grant Shapps said:
“Appalling: No MP should tweet what’s essentially incitement to violence. Mr Ward must withdraw now. Completely irresponsible.”
Last time Ward timed his comments just as MPs were heading off on recess, guaranteeing him a recess-only suspension. He has done the same this time round, so will Nick Clegg step up and give him the punishment he deserves?
When Nick Clegg went on Desert Island Discs after the election, he told the tale that when he was considering joining David Cameron in a coalition government, he texted a mutual friend and asked him, “Can I trust this guy?”
As Guido revealed for the first time in the Sun on Sunday yesterday, the friend who told him “yes” was Tim Luke. The Old Etonian who vouched for David Cameron is in a way responsible for bringing this coalition government together. Luke’s previous claim to fame was hitting the headlines for walking in front of the camera while James Corden was presenting the Brit Awards.
Portsmouth News have further detail of the heartbreaking pleas made by a vulnerable young woman pursued by Mike Hancock that, as revealed by Guido in the Sun in January, were ignored by the government. “Annie” sent letters, under her real name, to Nick Clegg and the other party leaders, but never received a reply. In March 2011 she wrote to Clegg:
Speaking out this morning, “Annie” says:
“It angers me. It’s disgusting that no-one listened to me all those years ago. It’s a bit too late for them to jump on the bandwagon as I have been tormented for all of these years. I’m angry that some never even bothered to reply to me. The system of dealing with people with mental health problems needs changing. It’s terrible.”
Despite concerns about his recent gloominess both privately among friends and publicly on LBC this morning, Nick Clegg insists he is “much more chirpy” than others have suggested. A worried caller phoned into Call Clegg this morning:
Caller:“I felt so sorry for you yesterday in the House of Commons. I watched it.”
Clegg: “I kept a sphinx-like expressionless demeanour.”
Caller:“If you were on your own, I would vote for you.”
Nick Ferrari:“Why did you feel sorry for Mr Clegg, just out of interest?”
Caller:“Well he looks so sad, he’s tried his hardest and he’s a lovely, lovely person, but…”
Clegg: “Claire I am here! You talk as if I’m not here. Helloooo!”
Ferrari:“It’s like he’s dead! Oh I’m gonna miss him, he was a good man.”
Clegg:“Well thank you for the sympathy Claire, but I’m actually much more chirpy than you imply.”
Ed Miliband has hit his lowest ever personal rating by gold-standard pollsters ICM for the Guardian. The Labour leader has dropped 14 points in the last month to -39, below even Nick Clegg, who has a rating of -37. Cameron has lost last month’s positive rating of +2, dropping to -5, though Osborne has seen an increase in his own rating from +5 to +6.
Boris says that it’s Blair who “surely needs professional psychiatric help”, but others are genuinely worried about another politician. While the Deputy Prime Minister has been a bit gloomy over the last few years, family friends of the Cleggs are increasingly concerned by how low he has been since this month’s national drubbing at the polls. Those pictures of him looking drained and almost teary were authentic.
“He’s in a really bad place,” says one friend of Miriam. It has not gone unnoticed that Mrs Clegg made a rare appearance this week at Nick’s side during his fight-back speech on Monday. Normally Ms. Gonzalez makes a big deal out of the fact she is a successful career woman and the main breadwinner, steering clear from the day-to-day traditional duties of a party leader’s wife. “He’s sound. Even Nick’s greatest critics would struggle to argue he isn’t the most resilient individual”, Clegg’s spokesman assures us somewhat unconvincingly…
This event has a slight feel of melancholy + you look like a spat out Smartie Quentin Letts tells @nick_clegg
“Clegg told listeners that he and I are ‘at one’ on the issue of Recall, that he supports ‘radical’ Recall but has had to compromise because of the Conservative backbenchers. I wish that were true, but it is the opposite of the truth. I have debated the issue with him many times, and until very recently, he was vehement in his opposition to a proper Recall system.
Nick Clegg is the architect of the current Recall Bill. It is a disgrace even by the standards of modern politics – and it will be rejected by Parliament, as it has been rejected by every single democracy campaign group in the UK. It is nothing more and nothing less than a con. Bottom line is that even after his ‘Recall’ is introduced, it would still be possible for an MP to join the BNP, fail to show up in Parliament, fail to speak to constituents, break all promises, even take a 5-year holiday without qualifying for Recall.”
“If I can be blunt, it’s bullsh*t and he knows it. It’s straightforward deceit and he has said this simply for effect. The truth is that on the Conservative backbenches there is strong support. Where there is kickback it’s coming from people holding red boxes and people in the Cabinet Office. I wouldn’t hold it against Clegg if he opposed he idea, but what’s absolutely unforgivable is that he opposed it but pretends to be in favour.”
Readers will remember back in March when Guido broke the story that Nick Clegg had been accused of using civil service resources to prepare for his debates with Nigel Farage. At the time sources familiar with the situation reported that Clegg’s taxpayer funded preparation had strayed into party political territory. This would be a clear breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct, which says any briefings received by ministers must be non-partisan. In the debates Clegg appeared as Leader of the Liberal Democrats…
In search for the truth, Guido requested a copy of Clegg’s preparation for the debates from the Cabinet Office under the Freedom of Information Act. Today, after some delay, the Cabinet Office have confirmed that they do possess the briefings Clegg received, but are refusing to release them despite admitting there is a public interest in doing so:
“There is a general public interest in disclosure of information and I recognise that openness in government may increase public trust in and engagement with the Government. However, these public interests have to be weighed against a stronger public interest of the workings of a private office.”
Clegg has the opportunity to clear his name and prove he did not use civil service resources on party political activity. If he is innocent, there is no loss to him or the Cabinet Office by releasing non-partisan briefing papers. For some reason however, they are not doing so. Those more cynical than Guido might suggest they have something to hide…
No. 10 last night confirmed that the Recall measures mentioned in the Queen’s Speech would mean it is MPs on the Standards Committee and not local voters who will decide whether shamed MPs should be booted out. The reforms will change nothing, MPs are still marking their own homework.
Zac Goldsmith has been one of the main proponents of a genuine Recall Bill to give power to constituents. He called up Nick Clegg on LBC this morning to let him know what he thought of the government’s impotent proposals. Clegg said it was all the fault of Tory backbenchers:
What do the LibDems pictured above have in common? Well, for starters they are all councillors or council candidates in Vince Cable’s constituency of Twickenham, all featured on his local LibDem website. Here are their names from left to right:
Susan Burningham – council candidate in Twickenham Riverside
Roger Crouch – council candidate in Twickenham Riverside
Ben Khosa – councillor in St Margaret’s & North Twickenham
Jonathan Cardy – councillor in Fulwell & Hampton Hill
John Coombs – councillor in Heathfield
Arnie Gibbons – ex-councillor in Whitton
What else do they have in common? They have all signed the LibDems4Change petition organised by anti-Clegg plotters calling on their leader to resign. Six key figures in Vince Cable’s local party are signed up members of the public plot to oust Clegg. Mathematically improbable when you consider that only 1% of the party membership is publicly backing the putsch. By coincidence Lord Oakeshott was in Twickenham as recently as Monday last week. Presumably Vince will tell us he knows nothing about this either…
Clegg says that as far as he is concerned Cable “was absolutely not aware of polls done elsewhere”. Which is the line that Cable is sticking to in China today. Though Oakeshott insists he told Cable about the four polls “several weeks ago”, around the time the pair met in open sight. The LibDem leader is being very trusting indeed…
The Clegg fans over LibDemVoice have launched a delayed rebuttal operation, releasing a poll showing 54% of 992 members want him to stay and 39% want him to stand down. Always one for statistical excellence, Guido brings you the findings in a format LibDem HQ would be proud of:
Nothing to worry about…
UPDATE: Vince has broken cover slam Oakeshott for commissioning the ICM poll. He calls it inexcusable.