Archive for ‘Nick Clegg’

February 2, 2011

Mental health is health

Today, two key Lib Dem figures in the coalition government have announced a major financial injection into mental health services in the UK. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who may have wondered how the Liberal Democrats would deal with this issue in government. One of Nick Clegg’s first speeches as Liberal Democrat Leader was on this subject.

Now Deputy Prime Minister, Clegg said of the decision:

“The evidence is clear: mental health needs to be addressed with the same urgency as physical health. We need to end the stigma attached to mental illness, to set an example by talking about the issue openly and candidly and ensure everyone can access the support and information they need.”

Even if it didn’t bring a penny back to the Treasury coffers, the £400 million investment would still be worth doing. However, it is calculated that this investment will actually save £700 million. Sufferers will require less in welfare, less care, and will be more able to work and contribute more tax. The previous Labour government also woefully ignored the mental injuries endured by returning troops, and so there was the additional announcement of a £7.2 million care package for veterans. This will fund a variety of things, from a 24-7 Combat Stress phone line, to specially trained councillors.

Mental illness is pretty common, 1 in 4 people will suffer from it at some point, and 1 in 100 people suffer from serious mental ill-health. However, it often gets ignored because you can’t always see the symptoms and, as Alistair Campbell pointed out, it’s not really a sexy issue. However, the Liberal Democrats have pushed the government in the right direction, and put mental health on the same level as physical health. A person’s physical and mental health are one in the same, not least because one often affects the other. Public moves like this will also help break the stigma and taboo around mental ill-health, as will Nick Clegg’s attempts to remove the outdated Parliamentary provision whereby an MP who become mentally ill can be removed. No such provision exists for physical health.

Mental health is health, and Liberal Democrats in the coalition have made that point loud and clear today.

January 27, 2011

Nick Clegg at the World Economic Forum in Davos


Here is a video of Deputy Prime Minister, and Lib Dem Leader, Nick Clegg talking on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Now there is a sentence no-one expected to write a year ago!
The people videoing it were seem to not be big on editing, but the discussion starts about 9 minutes in:
January 23, 2011

Nick Clegg on The Andrew Marr Show

>This morning Nick Clegg was interviewed by Andrew Marr on his weekly magazine show. Looking slightly more refreshed since the Christmas break, the Deputy Prime Minister gave a very strong defence of the governments changes to higher education funding. He admitted there had been a problem in communicating the policy, a situation he said that was partly caused by the “counter intuitive” principle that Universities could charge more, but students pay back less each month. He also seems to have had a strong influence in the debate on the replacement on control orders, the outcome of which is likely to be revealed in the next few days.

Clegg didn’t waste anytime laying into new Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls. He rightly pointed out that Alan Johnson’s replacement was key in advocating light touch banking regulation as City Minister, and was a key advisor to Gordon Brown as the previous Labour government overspent. The Coalition are clearly going to shine the spotlight on Balls, and his involvement in creating the structural deficit that they are trying to pay back, over the coming weeks and months, and why not?

Perhaps Clegg’s most telling dig was at his Business Secretary, Vince Cable. When asked about the nature of disagreements in government, Clegg said that clearly two parties in government approach a policy with differences, but that he preferes them ‘to be aired in private’. A subtle but real warning for the next Lib Dem Minister to air their dirty laundry in public, and perhaps an even more subtle one for Cable that he might not be unsacakable forever.

No doubt Clegg will receive criticism from some for holding his fire on Andy Coulson. Difficult as many of us find it to believe, Clegg was actually right when he pointed out that Coulson has never actually been found guilty of anything over phone hacking. As Deputy Prime Minister, working directly with the Prime Ministers office in which Coulson was based, it would have been wholly inappropriate of him to say anything else.

The irritation that had crept into Clegg’s demeanour in the run up to the Christmas break seems to have dissipated somewhat. Clearly it has been a very difficult few months personally for Nick Clegg, ironic given the pride he should have felt at being the first Leader of the Liberal Democrat’s to lead the party to government, but now at least he was back reeling off the achievements from the manifesto, and manning the party trenches. It was also reassuring to see a Lib Dem giving a responsible approach to the necessary reforms of the banking system, instead of indulging in cheap bank-bashing rhetoric, and rounding off a good overall performance from the  the Lib Dem Leader and Deputy Prime Minister.

January 4, 2011

>As control orders row rumbles own, Clegg and allies must hold strong

>Over the weekend it was thought Deputy PM Nick Clegg had scored a big victory by winning the debate to get control orders scrapped. This is obviously close to the truth as their has been a backlash against the proposed move. First Lib Dem Lord Carlile said that while he disagrees with the orders, the ‘coalition will not be forgiven if a 7/7 style terror attack occurs’, deeply worrying from a man that advises the Government on counter terrorism. Former Home Secretaries Lords Howard and Reid, as well as Tory stalwart Malcolm Rifkind,  have weighed in too.

One of the the coalition’s strongest suits has been the civil liberties agenda, influenced strongly by the Liberal Democrats. The good progress on Contact Point and ID cards must be followed up by the scrapping of control orders. It is not about scoring a cheap win for liberalism, as suggested in the Guardianista, it is about what is the right and wrong way for our country to conduct law enforcement. The UK cannot continue bypassing due process and the principle of innocent until proven guilty. Lib Dem Lord Macdonald, who is conducting the review, says that the orders would not have prevented 7/7 anyway.

It has been a tough few months for Nick Clegg and his allies, but on this they must stand strong and scrap control orders.

December 20, 2010

>Cameron is right to keep lid on Tory Oldham campaign, and Clegg should do the same in Con/Lab marginals

>There have been lots of mutterings in recent days from Conservatives about their party not putting up a proper fight in Oldham East & Saddleworth. While David Cameron is doing a vague impression of being interested, it is obvious that he would prefer Lib Dem Elwyn Watkins to win if Conservative Kashif Ali cannot. More interestingly, he seems to be prepared to limit the campaigning Conservatives supporters do in order not to take votes away from the Lib Dems.

Despite what the rabid right wingers are snarling, there is nothing wrong with this at all. As well as having a responsibility to the Conservative Party, for the next four and half years Cameron has a responsibility to the coalition government he leads. Clearly during the time the coalition agreement stands, i.e. up to the 2015 General Election being called, it benefits him to have either an extra Lib Dem or an extra Conservative MP elected in a by election. It increases the government majority. Were the seat to be a Lib Dem/Conservative marginal then fine, both parties should go for it, but in this case there is a real risk of another Labour MP being elected if the Conservatives win a significant amount of votes. By extension, Clegg should also call of the hordes of leafleters in a similar way in a Lab/Conservative marginal by election. Until 2015.

This does not amount to an electoral pact. Lib Dem and Conservatives taking votes of each other does the coalition no good when they are in government together. VN does not think that ‘coalition candidates’ should be run in the 2015 general election, and the Liberal Democrats should not enter into an electoral pact with anyone in the general election, local elections, and devolved institution elections. Their negotiating position was so strong because they were open to offers from both parties. Coalitions are made up of two parties, they are not a permanent merger. However, for Westminster by-elections, while this government is in place, it makes sense for either the Liberal Democrats or Conservatives to put up a stronger fight while the other takes a back seat.

December 14, 2010

>Laying bare the year of… Nick Clegg

>In this new festive feature, the VN team will look into the year of a variety of high profile figures. Today we start with Deputy PM  and Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg.

Portrait of Nick Clegg.Image via Wikipedia

At the start of 2010 nobody knew who Nick Clegg was. The day the election was announced in April Clegg walked through Waterloo train station in London, unimpeded and unrecognised. At the end of 2010 he is Deputy Prime Minister in Britain’s first peace time coalition government, continually surrounded by armed policy, and taking on the role of this season’s pantomime villain.

Many will consider the turning point to be that first Prime Ministers debate when Clegg shone. It created a wave of ‘Cleggmania‘, with people realising that there genuinely was another player in town.

VN though has another moment when Nick Clegg showed he really could stand out from the crowd:

“It’s over, you’ve failed, it’s time to go” roared the Leader of the Lib Dems across the Commons chamber at one of Gordon Brown’s final PMQ’s.

Weeks later he would see this through, brusquely demand Brown step down as Prime Minister and Labour Leader before allowing his negotiators to talk to their Labour counterparts formally.

Instead of the rabble rousing that would normally occur on the back of winning a million more votes and leading your party to government for the first time, Clegg had to be more contrite at his party conference in September. “Stick with us, and together we can change Britain for good,” he urged delegates.

Clegg is deeply and instinctively pragmatic. He displayed this when VN interviewed him earlier in the year. This pragmatism led to him moving from a pre-election promise of scrapping tuition fees, to changing the system to include a near trebling of them with a better pay back system in government. The policy has caused riots on the streets, effigies of him to be burnt. He has (unfairly) gone from being the man who brought so much hope to people, to a hate figure who gets dog waste pushed through the family front door.

People may will forget what a feat Clegg pulled of getting the once unelectable Lib Dems into government. People may well distort the things he has said and done this year. One thing is for certain though, Nick Clegg won’t forget 2010 in a hurry.

December 10, 2010

>Dr. Evan Harris interviews Nick Clegg on Higher Education funding

>Former MP Evan Harris is now Vice – Chair of the Liberal Democrats Federal Policy Committee. He lost his university seat in Oxford, despite the Liberal Democrats manifesto policy to abolish fees, and is generally considered to be in left, social – liberal wing of the party.

Here he interviews Deputy PM and Party Leader Nick Clegg on Higher Education funding. It is clear that the party were desperately trying to make a graduate tax work, and perhaps the fact they couldn’t says a lot. There is also an interesting discussion about how to deal with such explicit pledges in the future, with Clegg expressing regret the furore over this has cast a huge cloud of the delivery of the four key pledges on the front of the manifesto.

VN doesn’t expect that this interview will change anybodies mind either way, but it is good that this final explanation has come out. Hopefully now the party can start to move on, and the system can be developed so the burden of debt does not weight too heavily on students.

You can read the transcript of the videos here.

December 10, 2010

>"A difficult decision made for all the right reasons" – inside Westminster on Tuition Fees day

>Yesterday was certainly a landmark day in British politics. Not particularly because of what got passed, the way universities are funded will doubtless change many more times, but because of what it signified.

VN Editor Charlotte Henry was in the Westminster cauldron as it all reached boiling point.

Yesterday was utterly surreal. Central Lobby was swarming with jean and hoody clad students, all seeking one last chance to make their MP vote ‘no’ in the impending vote on raising the cap on tuition fees. Democracy in action.

I had the pleasure of meeting Annette Brooke (no), Lorely Burt (abstain), Stephen Gilbert (yes), Jeremy Browne (yes), Simon Hughes (abstain),  and Jo Swinson (yes). All had sincere and genuine reasons for voting whichever way they did. Lovely Lorely also wins an extra prize for providing myself and VN contributor Thomas Hemsley with one of the best cups of tea ever, in Parliament’s ‘Pugin Room’!

Seeing MPs engaging with their constituents was fantastic, and as it should be. The Lib Dems MPs I met rightly pointed out what vast improvements have been made due to their engagement in the process. I don’t like that the government is asking young people to start their working life having to pay off £40,000 worth of debt, but this pay back system should not put people of going to university, and is far better than anything Labour or the Conservatives would have brought in on their own.

The most surreal part of the day came when I was going to comment on the BBC on behalf of Liberal Youth. I was outside Saint Stevens Entrance, so was going to be interview via an ear piece. In the ear piece is a live feed of what is going out live. Moments before I was about to go on air violence erupted in Parliament Square, (I had had to move out the way of the line of police horses who were going towards Parliament Square on my way to the interview.) I stood waiting to go on air for about 40 minutes, listening as police officers were thrown from their horse, protestors were stretchered out, and smoke rose from firecrackers. Hope you understand now if I looked a bit distracted by the time the finally got to my brief cameo!

As the division bell rang I was sitting in Central Lobby. The vote passed and, despite some saddening resignations, the coalition still stands. Don’t believe the hype, no Lib Dem did this with glee. They did it to make the overall package for funding universities work both for the institutions and those that attend them. In typical Lib Dem fashion, many agonised about it almost until the moment they walked through a lobby.

Hopefully the Christmas break will clear the air, and Clegg and company can go on with the good work they are doing in government. Yesterday though will live long in my memory as a day the Lib Dems stood up and made a difficult, unpalatable decision, but did it for the all the right reasons.

December 8, 2010

>Tuition fee myth busting goes into overdrive before vote

>Nick Clegg, David Cameron and the coalition have gone into overdrive today to try and bust the myths surrounding the proposed changes to HE funding.

This morning Deputy PM Clegg was dispatched onto the Victoria Derbyshire show on 5Live and, agree or disagree with the policy, did a pretty sterling job of  busting the myths perpetuated by the NUS, and laying out why this is an improvement on the Labour mess.

Latter Cameron went on the offensive in PMQs, attacking Ed Miliband and Labour backbenchers for their hypocrisy over years on the issue.  He has also delivered a speech on the future of universities at the CentrForum think tank.

If that wasn’t enough, they have taken to the interweb too, launching

Now, VN certainly doesn’t think Clegg, Cable or any other Lib Dem are the devil incarnate for backing these proposals, they are better for their presence in government, but raising the cap will put a lot of young people in an even greater amount of personal debt.

However, given the vote on raising the cap is tomorrow, today’s actions do seem somewhat too little too late.

November 30, 2010

>Clegg vs Porter…coming to a town hall near you

>The tuition fees debate just got a bit surreal today. Deputy PM, and Lib Dem Leader, Nick Clegg wrote an open to letter NUS President Aaron Porter politely outlining the absurdity of the NUS’ ‘Right to Recall’ campaign, and explaining why in many ways the coalitions proposals are much better than those of Porter’s beloved New Labour government, and indeed the NUS. In his essay of a response Porter challenges Clegg to a debate on the proposals in a public town hall meeting. Cue the ‘Rocky’ soundtrack.

VN suspects the DPM’s Office laughed with glee at this suggestion. Has Amateur Aaron forgotten the pasting Clegg gave both the then PM and Leader of the Opposition in at least two of the three leaders debates? The fee rise is an indefensible policy, but much of the remainder of the H.E. policy advocated by the coalition is not. That goes without mentioning what the proposals would look like had Clegg not been involved! Clegg would wipe the floor with Amateur Aaron, and perhaps go someway to putting this issue to bed.

The Labour front-NUS must no longer be allowed to dictate the countries political agenda. Clegg should, for once, rise to Amateur Aaron’s bait, and lance this particularly irritating red boil.

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