Nick Clegg disowned by government at PMQs!


4:42 pm - July 21st 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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Extraordinary farce today. James Lyons at the Daily Mirror just tweeted:

Clegg wasnt speaking on behalf of Government at PMQs, says Number 10

This was followed up by Paul Waugh at the Evening Standard:

Clegg PMQs fiasco gets worse. No.10 at Lobby briefing says Clegg was speaking “in a personal capacity”.

Speaking in a personal capacity, while being Deputy Prime Minister? How… amusing?

Update: There is now speculation that the No 10 spokesperson will have to clarify their remarks.

Update 2: James Lyon adds:

Clegg’s despatch box declaration that Iraq was illegal “a personal view”, says Downing Street

What a blunder.

Update 3: Paul Waugh recounts a day of PR blunders and u-turns by a government that doesn’t know its arse from its elbow:

* Cameron decides to help out in the gaffe-stakes by declaring: “We were the junior partner in 1940 when we were fighting the Nazis.” Churchill spins in grave. [US entered the war in 1941]

* Michael Howard attacks Ken Clarke’s “foolish” claims that prison numbers are less important to crime levels than economic booms

* Tories brief that Cable’s graduate tax is not going to happen in the way he thinks

* Lansley U-turn on death tax upsets backbench Tories

Update 4: Clegg’s spokesperson responds:

Clegg’s spokesman puts out a statement saying Clegg was only expressing ‘long held view’ on Iraq and govt awaits Chilcott

Long held by many of us, but does that include the Tories? Or is that the new Coalition position?

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Been considering this while blogging it up – Clegg has effectively put his principles ahead of Coalition stability. Shouldn’t we be encouraging this?

*ducks* *runs*

Of course! I welcome the fact that Clegg is actually speaking the truth rather than towing erm, Tory party line.

*Gets popcorn*

Oh come on.

Clegg has always made it clear it is his opinion that the invasion of Iraq was illegal. It would be farcical if he went back on this. Aren’t we grown up enough to recognise that members of the government have long-held opposing views of the action taken 7 years ago?

Sigh.

in what way is it a blunder? Clegg gets to play to his base, the Tories get to play to theirs, on an issue that doesn’t require them to actually change anything they do. In what way is this a blunder?

6. David Boothroyd

It’s the second time he’s done this. When he was speaking in the Queen’s Speech debate he was asked whether the Government would support a Yes vote in the referendum about powers for the Welsh Assembly, and said unequivocally that it would. As soon as 10 Downing Street heard about it, they put out a statement explaining that Clegg had made a mistake and that the Government only supports having a referendum without endorsing either side.

In what way is this a blunder?

Well, you see the cabinet is supposed to sing from the same hymn sheet. They are bound to, under Cabinet Collective Responsibility.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabinet_collective_responsibility

So while we may agree with Clegg – it’s still a constitutional blunder.

Cabinet collective responsibility only covers the decisions being made by the present government. To say that all cabinet ministers should have the same view on every decision taken by past governments is ridiculous.

Odd how Iain Dale etc called PMQs for Clegg today yet his performance has caused all kinds of message control problems for the government. If this was Labour we’d see ‘Government in disarray’ headlines all over the place.

Amusing in a way but puzzling in another, just how can this coalition function in the long term if every time Cameron’s not around they make unforced errors like today?

To say that all cabinet ministers should have the same view on every decision taken by past governments is ridiculous.

Sure, but what Nick Clegg said is not the view of the Tories either.

To be honest, I quite like it when cabinet members start disagreeing with each other publicly about decisions that haven’t yet been made. The whole ‘united front’ stuff gives me the creeps.

Why should Clegg express the view of the Tories? The legality of an invasion that happened seven years ago is not an issue that the present Cabinet needs to take a joint view on. The blunder, if there is one, is Number 10 feeling the need to make a statement on the matter.

Whether or not we agree isn’t the point… As Deputy PM, it’s not appropriate to express PERSONAL OPINION at PMQ. He was *deputising*

Oh bliss , Conservative trolls don’t believe in Cabinet govt.

Gosh, isn’t it amazing all these people saying that cabinet collective responsibility is no longer important just because new boy Clegg forgets the rules. LOL!

Let me remind you guys that coalition does not mean that the parties run the country separately, instead they are supposed to run it together. If Clegg disagrees with his superior then he has to bite his tongue and then grin and bear it.

Remember, it was Clegg who always wanted this “new politics” of coalition (Cameron had to accept it after the electorate refused to give him the landslide that was his privileged right to receive) so you would have thought that Clegg would know the rules, wouldn’t you?

*blnk* CCR is irrelevant because this cabinet hadn’t bothered to make any particular decision on the issue one way or another. So there was no (cross-)party line to toe one way or another.

Maybe they’ll remedy that by giving Clegg a hymn sheet before they send him out next time – but I hope not.

I wonder how much the labour and tory old guard found themselves squirming as the man in the dispatch box described their actions as illegal.

17. Cynical/Realist?

Add in that the government clearly hasn’t got a fucking clue what its doing in Afganistan.

18. Ken McKenzie

So, let’s recap.

Acting to answer questions from the House on behalf of the Government, Nick Clegg, in order to avoid actually doing his job and answering a question on Government policy that has a significant effect on his own constituents, forgot he was supposed to be representing the Government and used his own personal opinion on a matter of significant public interest – but which the Government hasn’t got an official view, and on which his own allies see things completely differently – to cynically score a cheap political point rather than answer the bloody question.

He might have been right that the war was illegal. But he was wrong on every conceivable level – professionally, politically and morally – to use that to try to evade a question about the effects of Government policy on his own constituents, and I rather expect some people with actual principles and a shred of common sense will have explained it to him in words of one syllable by now.

Especially, the utter idiot, when his boss is currently the guest of the leader of the country that prosecuted the war. Did he not think that this might make Cameron’s already-awkward trip even more awkward?

Were he a Tory, he’d be resigning. In fact, it raises an interesting question about what Clegg can get away with without getting the sack.

There are other significant reasons besides “collective responsibility” as to why Nick Clegg was out of order.

The legal repercussions of a British government minister saying that the Iraq war was “illegal” are potentially serious as Professor Sands QC explains in this piece in the Guardian:

Nick Clegg’s ‘illegal’ Iraq war gaffe prompts legal warning:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jul/21/nick-clegg-illegal-iraq-war-gaffe

For clarification, Professor Sands, author of: Lawless World, was especially active in 2003 in pressing the argument that the Iraq war was illegal absent specific sanction by the UN Security Council.

Oh, I’m not saying that his behaviour /wasn’t/ out of order. But I’m still glad to see it, regardless 🙂

“But I’m still glad to see it, regardless”

So am I – and I was rather surprised to read this in the news today:

“Foreign Secretary William Hague, who backed the war, said his history on the issue was ‘different’ to Mr Clegg.”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-10715629

It’s not that I want to quibble over William Hague’s different “history” but rather that I thought he would keep his head down. I mean, his boss, David Cameron, is in Washington seeing President Obama, who went out of his way during his presidential campaign in 2008 to remind any who were listening that as a US Senator he had opposed the Iraq war from the very beginning.

Those still clinging to the notion that the Iraq war was legal because of the threat to Britain’s security from Iraq’s WDM would be wise to seek urgent advice about their medication.

22. Shatterface

I’m not sure ‘Collective Cabinet Responsibility’ should extend to coalition governments.

If Clegg supports Cameron he’s attacked for selling out and if he disagrees it’s because the coalition is falling apart. He can’t win.

Abd is CCB desirable anyway? It lead us into war on the first place.

23. Ken McKenzie

Must stress, I’m delighted he did it, for all sorts of reasons, not least because he’s right.

But it was a embarrassingly Amateur Hour mistake. I think we’ll be seeing much, much less of Clegg for a while.

Okay, it was a bit student politics, but the only thing that really annoys me is that when he wants to throw a sop to his base to arrest declining poll figures he disagrees with the Tories on an issue that is purely about positioning, instead of, for example, opposing free schools or the reorganisation/privatisation of the NHS. If this is the beginning of Clegg standing up to the Tories, then great, but it just obviously isn’t.

The Coalition agreement didn’t mention Iraq – so which bit of collective responsibility has he broken?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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  2. Natalie G

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  3. DarrellGoodliffe

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  4. Nicole Healing

    If this is true, I give up: Nick Clegg disowned by government at PMQs! | Liberal Conspiracy: http://bit.ly/9vKwJV

  5. Bim Adewunmi

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  6. mrs vb

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  7. John Halton

    RT @libcon: Nick Clegg disowned by the govt at PMQs! http://bit.ly/apXIbM /// Almost as if DPM were some pointless sinecure. The very idea!

  8. Richard Joslin

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  9. Liberal Conspiracy

    We're now live-updating No 10's backtracking after saying Clegg did not "represent" No. 10's views http://bit.ly/apXIbM

  10. Alasdair

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  11. Steph Winteringham

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  12. James Longstaffe

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  13. Chris Gilmour

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  14. Greg Eden

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  15. Mario Cavalli

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  16. Charlie Elise Duff

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  17. RobSimmons

    RT @libcon: Nick Clegg disowned by the government at PMQs! http://bit.ly/apXIbM

  18. David Ritter

    RT @libcon: We're now live-updating No 10's backtracking after saying Clegg did not "represent" No. 10's views http://bit.ly/apXIbM

  19. Lauren G

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  24. hilary

    "In personal capacity". WTF. Am utterly speechless. // RT @libcon Nick Clegg disowned by the government at PMQs! http://bit.ly/apXIbM

  25. Rich A.

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  26. Cornelius Griffiths

    RT @libcon: We're now live-updating No 10's backtracking after saying Clegg did not "represent" No. 10's views http://bit.ly/apXIbM

  27. Margot Tudor

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  28. Tredhek

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  29. Politics&Government

    Nick Clegg disowned by government at PMQs! | Liberal Conspiracy http://bit.ly/b3ME4L

  30. Ben Coleman

    RT @libcon Nick Clegg disowned by the government at PMQs! http://bit.ly/9haxwR

  31. Matt Lodder

    Nick Clegg disowned by government at PMQs!: Extraordinary farce today. James Lyons at the Daily Mirror just tweete… http://bit.ly/cMbLi1

  32. Watch: The moment Osborne entrapped Clegg over Iraq? | Liberal Conspiracy

    […] by Sunny Hundal     July 22, 2010 at 9:05 am By now we all know of the minor controversy yesterday when Nick Clegg was supposedly representing a “personal view” when he called the […]

  33. Nick Clegg: Accidentally-on-Purpose | Robert Sharp

    […] in the House of Commons.  Government press officers spent the rest of the day trying to conjour up a new constitutional convention that would distinguish between Clegg’s […]

  34. Ceri Nicholls

    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/07/21/nick-clegg-disowned-by-the-government-at-pmqs/ oh dear.





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