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Nick Clegg survives LBC grilling intact

10 January 2013

At 9 o’clock this morning, journalists all over the country were fiddling with their radios excitedly. Nick Clegg was about to start his first LBC phone-in, and they were gleefully waiting for the Deputy Prime Minister to huff and puff his way through half an hour of enraged callers. There was even a live high-definition feed from the studio, so everyone could watch Clegg looking sad.

Disappointingly for those lying in wait next to their radios, Clegg actually performed rather well. Sure, those on the phone weren’t calling just to say they loved him, but the Deputy Prime Minister wasn’t huffing and puffing when he answered their questions about tuition fees, benefit cuts and all the other awkward things the Lib Dems have had to swallow since entering government. He was even able to close the phone-in by announcing that he was the owner of a ‘big green onesie’. This was his exchange with one caller, who offered the sort of question Clegg’s critics had been hoping for by announcing that he had torn up his Lib Dem membership card:

John from Surrey: I’m a Liberal Democrat who has just torn up his membership card. I joined the party first in 1973, and I’m afraid I cannot now say that I want to represent the Lib Dems. I’m an ex-county councillor, in Surrey, and I’m ashamed of what the party’s doing. I’m just wondering, Nick, have you got your membership card with you?

Clegg: Not on me right now, no.

John: Shall I read it out? The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community and in which no-one should be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. So can you tell me how you reconcile that with this government’s attacks on the poorest in society, including the unemployed, the working poor, and the disabled.

Clegg: Well, let me try to, I’m sorry to hear, John, that you’ve… well, let me say this john, you say you’re ashamed, I’m actually immensely proud that facing one of the biggest economic crises that this government has seen in a generation, possibly in the post-war period, the Liberal Democrats took a big collective and brave decision to say right, we’re going to step up to the plate, we’re going to work in a Coalition because no-one won the general election and we’re going to try and fix this mess, and we’re going to try to fix this mess while also trying to make society fairer. How have we done that?

John fought on the last election as did I with a promise on the front page of our manifesto to raise the point at which people start paying income tax to £10,000. That is the biggest change in the income tax system in this country in a generation.


Herein lies the reason for Clegg signing up to the radio phone-in. His strength does lie in question-and-answer sessions. Yes, he might grow grumpy and sad-looking when he’s in the chamber (although his DPMQs performances of late have revealed more wit and quick thinking), but his performances at Q&As with his own party (who are just as upset and grumpy as today’s callers) have shown him to be adept at thinking on his feet and give detailed answers. He had one very irritable session at his party’s autumn conference in 2011 where he grew a little shouty and teacherly, but largely Clegg’s Q&As have boosted the morale of his party because he treats them with good humour. At no stage did he suggest the questions were getting to him by sounding irritable.

However, this isn’t an annual event: Clegg is submitting himself to LBC’s listeners on a weekly basis. Today’s questions were largely about long-standing gripes with the Coalition, but as this becomes more routine, he might find questions which he can’t answer so easily with soundbites that he’s already used at party events across the country.

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  • CharlieleChump

    Nothing interesting in the broadcast or this post, there is much to discuss why waste space with this tosh?
    Oh, of course, yes I remember now.

  • MirthaTidville

    Isnt this the sort of stunt first made popular by Hugo Chavez??…..Cleggie is a populist in the same mould so today was I suppose, depressingly predictable.

    • telemachus

      Yes and Hugo was the most successful American leader of the last decade

  • Noa

    London centric- as usual.

    • AnotherDaveB

      It is odd. Mr Clegg is the MP for the people of Sheffield Hallam.

      • Noa

        On further reflection, Nicko not clogging the northern airwaves is a blessing.

        • AnotherDaveB

          But why local London radio? It’s not a national audience, and he has no London specific role.

  • Colonel Mustard

    My feelings toward this are ambivalent.

  • Jebediah

    Good idea. Brave as you never know what will come up next. He shouldn’t do it too long though as at somepoint it will go wrong and be all over the papers. The media seeks only negatives as news.

  • toco10

    Red Ed,Labour and its tax avoiding BBC news hacks must be very disappointed but no doubt the Labour supporting BBC will edit Clegg’s comments in the most negative way possible.Anyway thumbs up to the Coalition!

    • telemachus

      This toad weaselled and wormed his way through the programme
      The only good thing to be said is that it is a good Ukip recruiting tool to enable the demise of the Tory as well as the Liberal parties

    • James Strong

      Could you please analyse the way the BBC edit Clegg’s comments and show how this has been done in the most negative way possible?
      I’m ready to believe that the BBC is biased if you show evidence, yesterday I suggested quotes and timings.
      Otherwise I remain very sceptical of your claims.

      • toco10

        I don’t need to analyse anything concerning the BBC’s biased reporting by its news hacks-just check out the radio and television news broadcasts for a single day and any unbiased individual will come to the same conclusion as me.If you want a specific, look again at my post regarding yesterday’s BBC1 6.00 News.As for tax avoidance the BBC admits large numbers of its news hacks receive remuneration through limited liability companies which offer scope to avoid National Insurance,employ friends and family,pay dividends rather than salaries and claim expenses.If such schemes were available to all of us who pay PAYE, tax rates would have to rise enormously.Seems pretty hypocritical for the BBC’s news hacks to criticise others for avoiding tax when they themselves have their noses well and truly in the trough albeit perfectly within the current taxation legislation.

  • JMckechnie

    Phone-ins are designed, in their concept, to make the person taking the calls come out of them better than the callers: I have rarely, if at all, listened to a caller coming out of them well. It was interesting that a young student tweeted later, who put her concerns as a student, that she was treated, in her words, as if she ‘had all the political knowledge of a 5 year old’. Under that pretext, I would say that Clegg and his advisers have done well in coming up with this idea. As regards the caveat in the final sentence of your last paragraph, I suspect they have already thought about that.

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