The People’s Republic v Nick Clegg

Dear citizens, your help is required!

The Cleggster is going to be interviewed for the readers of Company Magazine this Tuesday, and your humble Head of State (as she clings for dear life onto the upper end of Company’s target age range) will be asking the questions. Cameron and Brown are going to be interviewed by their own respective bloggers.

I have a few ideas of my own and a few ideas from the magazine – but all suggestions for questions and areas to explore are most welcome. I’ll have about 20 to 30 minutes I think (which goes in a twinkling) and it would be nice to get a balance of serious and fun-without-being-dappy. So I reckon that’s no reality tv questions, but probably no great yawning discussion of electoral reform either. You know the sort of thing. Go on. Make my job easy.

All this reminds me of reading, about a year ago in some broadsheet or other, a disparaging reference to Nick Clegg’s perpetual enthusiasm for schlepping round the country and talking to people. This approach was construed by the writer as a failure, on the basis that Clegg still wasn’t leading the opinion polls despite having “had a chat” with just about everyone in Britain.

It’s easy to see why Clegg’s town hall meetings and frequent interviews with particular outlets (mumsnet, reddit, Attitude etc) might not be popular with the mainstream political media. When he’s off talking to people, answering questions and getting shouted at, be it in person, online, or in the pages of some non-political publication, he is bypassing the opinion formers and there’s very little they can do about it. They can’t even observe it fully for themselves. I can’t see the Guardian politics desk camping out in Rochdale of a wet Thursday evening.

What the broadsheet in question got wrong, of course, is the idea that he really has finished talking to everyone in Britain. He’s never going to be finished. It’s going to take an awful lot of nifty keyboard work and waiting around in draughty stations to compensate for the party’s lack of exposure in the mainstream media. I suspect this is one of those campaigning “techniques” that isn’t so much a technique as an experiment. We don’t know yet whether it works, whether it is possible to bypass the mainstream media and have that translate into a chunk more votes on a national scale. And unfortunately we won’t know it works until right up to the moment when it does.


  1. Sheesh. You read this mag? Whose website is divided into categories ‘style’, ‘beauty’, and ‘celebrities’? Have they even heard of parliament, voting, parties (no, not that sort of … never mind).

    Well, I’m sure you don’t need me to suggest that you ask him about ‘airbrushing’ then; though it may cause more discomfort for Company than for Clegg… (Perhaps you could ask him to identify which images in the latest edition of the magazine he considers suitable images for girls or young women to aspire to?)

  2. I would, but uh I had the chance to ask him a question before and he ignores the questions which require a braincell.

    (He also got the answer to another chaps question wrong.)

  3. I would say that last comment’s grossly unfair to Nickers. The variety at these public meetings is pretty astonishing, for anyone who’s not been to one: there were the inevitable questions about education, PR, hung parliament etc, but then there was an Iranian refugee asking why he wasn’t supporting regime change there, a slightly hysterical woman with a very technical question about home education, and a challenge from one woman to become a Vegan (among many, many others). At least one of them was planted (unless a member of the public spontaneously showed interest in the pupil premium), but all of them required a great degree of dexterity and intelligence. I can’t say that he ‘ignored’ any questions at all – taking questions in threes allowed him to devote the most time to his pet subjects, but I can’t say that he didn’t give a decent, 3-5 minute answer to any of the questions. His rather strident answer on the last question about Europe also showed that he wasn’t afraid to tell the truth as he sees it.

    It is interesting to see his recent appearances though: Oxford, Rochdale, Eastbourne, with Watford upcoming… can anyone spot a trend?

  4. Does bypassing the opinion formers work? You bet it does. If you read David Plouffe’s book it was the beginning, middle and end of the Obama campaign strategy.

    Rather than appease the pundits, they spent a year building a grassroots organisation to speak directly to the American people and directed every strategic resource to building that organisation.

    Look what happened!

    So I suppose my question would be… Nick, one of your most noticeable initiatives since becoming leader is your Million Door Challenge. Why is it so important for party volunteers to knock on doors?

  5. Ask him if he have any conception at all of how excluding and alienating his relentless banging on about the importance the family can feel to those who opt for other domestic arrangements.

    1. Does he do that so much now though? I agree that was very alienating when it was going on but it seems to have receded a bit (or maybe I haven’t been paying attention).

      I had a related question in mind which I am trying to work out the phrasing for, but the gist of it is does he think politicians get the balance right between legitimate concern for the nation’s health and relentless labelling of everyone under 30 as a binge-drinking waster. I certainly find that pretty alienating.

  6. the gist of it is does he think politicians get the balance right between legitimate concern for the nation’s health and relentless labelling of everyone under 30 as a binge-drinking waster.

    Or, in a similar vein, “why do politicians veer from hysterical moral panic to outright sycophancy whenever anyone under 30 is concerned?”

    Because they’re only binge-drinking wasters half the time.

  7. I’ve got an easy opener – why does the government habitually blame the people for causing the problems of society? and how could we be sure things would be different under a LibDem leadership?

    I’ve also got a tickler on the issue of a hung parliament which I’d like to see put to him – given,the increasing difficulty of seeing any coalition forming under the leadership of Brown or Cameron, would he force a minority government, or would he be prepared to step into the breach in a ‘unity’ cabinet? And if so, which members of the other parties front benches would he be happy to see in it?

    1. Alas. It turns out, as of yesterday evening, that I don’t get a choice of questions after all. This is why I don’t deal with the MSM. Remind me next time.

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