Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Clegg's speech; it simply doesnt add-up....

. Nick Clegg used his first anniversary as leader to make a widely trailed speech to the think-tank Demos and was widely trailed throughout the media. Liberal Democrat Voice carries a much fuller report here. Iain Dale had some fun with this by playing a little word substitution game and he concluded that it showed that the fundamental problem for the Liberal Democrats was that we are struggling to create our own political space. To me however it shows that the problem is the confused and contested nature of that space, Clegg speaks thus on the difference between liberalism and socialism;

"A liberal believes a progressive society is distinguished by aspiration, creativity and non conformity. A Socialist believes a progressive society is characterised by enlightened top-down Government."

However, Clegg is left in a rather paradoxical situation of saying on the one hand 'top-down' government has no role in moving society forward but trumpeting policies that often actually accept governments role in that partnership. In the very same speech, turning to the question of the environment, Clegg says;

"we need international regulation to protect our environment from self-interested elites."

So, in other words the only power strong enough to challenge these self-interested elites would be by the coming together of governments to regulate?? I think that is a fair assumption from what Clegg says, turning to the economy;

"liberal economics rests on the idea that we have to get the rules right to allow the dynamism of a liberal economy to serve society's wider needs."

So, again we are clearly in a position where it is totally clear that there is a role for 'enlightened', progressive government. The fundemental problem with what Clegg said in his speech is not that it is all horribly wrong etc,etc it is that there is no overarching conceptulaisation that binds the narrative together and can contain within it the obvious contradictions. On the one hand he leaps from condemming his top-down preception of socialism to realising that there is a role for the state. This is the paradox he can't resolve; it is one we need to as a party or else the cost will be in a squeeze at the polls and a huge loss of seats.


Jon said...

On the one hand he leaps from condemming his top-down preception of socialism to realising that there is a role for the state. This is the paradox he can't resolve

There is absolutely no paradox with believing that socialism is not the only form the role of the state can take. One of the most basic differences: regulation is not the same as nationalisation.

You seem to confuse top-down government with having a legal system, even though the latter allows for a smaller, bottoms-up approach to government. You've not actually pointed out any contradictions or paradoxes whatsoever.

Darrell G said...


Who creates said legal system if it is not 'enlightened' or progressuive government??

Letters From A Tory said...

Very interesting dissection of Cleggy. He might like liberalism but the party is still full of lefties who want to shove up taxes, which is why the Lib Dems are doomed to fail.

Darrell G said...


Very subtle how you work what I say into your own political agenda ;) when I dont even mention taxation as an issue....on a wider point I have no problem admitting that a fairer tax system would see more people brought into tax and higher taxes for the upper brackets :)

Costigan Quist said...

Hi Darrell,

Good post. I disagree with you, but my reply got a bit long and involved for a comment so I put it on my blog.

Hope you'll come back at me - unlike Letters, I imagine you'll be able to stick to the topic :-)

John said...

Letters has no intention of sticking to a topic he is all out to propagandise the Tory view and totally twist the Lib Dem in an anti-intellectual fashion.

Funny though that does work sometimes - maybe we should do it!

`Tories don't know if they'd shove up your taxes or not`

Darrell G said...


Thanks for the response. I have replied on your blog. :)


Well quite but it's much easier to let them just twist in the wind I feel...;)

Anonymous said...

The ideological debate in the party is be becoming increasingly grating for anyone interested in serious politics.

Our biggest challenge is that despite some success in local government, we can't seem to present ourselves as a party that can come into government not only with the most appropriate solutions (of which we have many) but the competance to govern, take responsibility for the running of government departments etc. Hence Vince Cable is seen as ouor only real asset.

Really, this endless ideology debate about liberalism makes us look at best like a first year university political ideas seminar, and at worst like a sixth form debating society.

Solution - I'm not sure I have one, and it is surely the reason why several previous leaders were so keen on angling for co-alition governance, so that at least our senior spokesmen would get some experience of sitting in ministerial chairs, however junior. 90 years is a long time out of power. Can only suggest that we focus on recruting srious public service professionals, lawyers, former civil servants and the like to give us a bit more credibility, otherwise the 'commentariat' will continue to dismiss us as a bunch of internet nerds.

Darrell G said...


The problem with almost the entirity of what you say is that the ideological debate has its reflection in real policies and the real world positions of our party so you cant just ideally dismiss it like you do here.

It's telling that you dont have any solutions; the whole purpose of working things out ideologically is to give us real world solutions...

Unless of course you think serious politics is just mindless activism...