Will Nick Clegg kill northern liberalism?

1:00 pm - August 1st 2010

by Neil Robertson    

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When Irving Patnick reputedly described Sheffield as the ‘People’s Republic of South Yorkshire’, he may have been referring as much to his own isolation as he was the radicalism of the 1980s. As the city council defined itself in opposition to the Thatcher governments, so Patnick was defined as a solid blue hold-out in a county drenched in red – the ‘enemy within’, if you like.

For decades his well-heeled Sheffield Hallam constituency – home to farmers, doctors & lawyers, owners of factories & steel works – had loyally returned Conservative MPs, and even as the red flag was hoist above City Hall, Patnick remained a stubborn voice of opposition.

If Sheffield really was a breakaway republic, his Hallam constituency would’ve been a fringe rebel enclave – blue to the bitter end.

(Image by incurable_hippie)

Of course, demographics, lifestyles and party loyalties have all changed significantly since then; the Conservative vote has collapsed since 1997 and its current Lib Dem incumbent enjoys a generous majority. But whilst the make-up of the constituency might’ve altered since Patnick’s days, there’s still a sense that it’s as estranged from the rest of Sheffield as it was in the 1980s. As Jonathan Raban noted in the New York Review of Books:

‘These Lib Dem gains reflected the rise of a younger, modern, middle class of people who traveled widely, valued their membership in the European Union, balanced their fear of statism against their university-bred ideas of social justice and fairness, and were keenly protective of their own personal liberties and civil rights. Sheffield Hallam might have been their capital-the young families in renovated old houses, new Audis, Priuses, and Smart cars on gravel driveways, the restaurants, boutiques, and health food shops along Ecclesall Road. Lozenge-shaped Lib Dem placards proclaimed “Winning Here,” and so they were, but the annoying smugness of that phrase seemed part of the character of the place. Sheffield Hallam knows, rather too well, that it’s where the winners in South Yorkshire live.’

Image by Brett Patterson (Flickr)

To his credit, Nick Clegg never sought to present himself as just the MP for a few affluent suburbs on the Derbyshire border. In the general election campaign he would talk about ‘my city of Sheffield’ and contrast the life chances of a child born in the impoverished parts of the city with one born in the comfort of his own constituency. He didn’t merely seek to speak for his constituency, but for Sheffield as a whole, and it was an approach which won his party respect, votes and seats.

Just a few months after polling day, Clegg may now be starting to understand how it feels to shuffle in Irving Patnick’s shoes. Whilst a coalition with the Tories might have been received badly enough in a city where they remain an endangered species, the long-running controversy over Sheffield Forgemasters is where the most hurt and mistrust is felt.

It’s a city which is deeply proud of its past and eager – sometimes over-eager – to return to the days when its steel production was of world renown. Knowing that it was one of the few companies in the world capable of producing those reactor components only compounded that pride, and the cancellation of the loan which would’ve made it possible was welcomed as warmly as a boot to the gullet.

But it was once the story assumed national significance that the greatest damage was done. With contradictory accounts emerging from Forgemasters, Clegg and the coalition, plus the news of a Tory secretly lobbying for the loan to be scapped, conspiracy began to take the place of where a straight story should’ve been. Cries of ‘betrayal!’ were soon replaced by whispers of Tory sleaze, and Clegg started to be spoken of as their barrowboy.

To say that Labour exploited Clegg’s discomfort is an understatement. When Jack Straw chose Forgemasters as the focus of his first PMQs, he did so not because it was a matter of national importance or even a particularly current news story. No, Straw chose that topic because it could embarrass the Deputy Prime Minister and his party across the North. It was a rather unsubtle attempt to ‘prove’ one of Labour’s most longstanding critiques: that a liberal party cannot represent the interests of the working class; that Labour remains their only home.

(Image from Liberal Democrats)

The daunting challenge for Lib Dems in the years to come is to demonstrate how that impression is wrong. Voting and constitutional reform may both have great democratic importance, but they’re not nearly as high a priority for the party’s voters as they are for its activists. The fear must be that, in the midst of the coalition’s spending cuts & tax hikes, Labour holds aloft both their push for an AV referendum and the Forgemasters fiasco as emblematic of the party’s self-interest & subservience to the Tories. It is not without reason that some members fear that council & Parliamentary seats across the North are now extremely vulnerable.

As an MP, Clegg’s seat is almost certainly safe; it would take an almighty revolt to reverse Sheffield Hallam’s long history of voting against the grain of the city. But what is much less clear is how many of Clegg’s regional colleagues will still have jobs after the next election, and whether the prize of finally being able to sit in government has come at the cost of the demise of northern liberalism. For a politician, there are few worse things than being alone.

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About the author
Neil Robertson is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He was born in Barnsley in 1984, and through a mixture of good luck and circumstance he ended up passing through Cambridge, Sheffield and Coventry before finally landing in London, where he works in education. His writing often focuses on social policy or international relations, because that's what all the Cool Kids write about. He mostly blogs at: The Bleeding Heart Show.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Libdems ,Our democracy ,Westminster

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Reader comments

I don’t think there ever was such a thing is Northern Liberalism. Any dabbling with voting Lib Dem has been under the misapprehension that Lib Dems were actually closet socialists.

My impression is that in northern constituencies, the LibDems are more likely to be in contention with Labour candidates at elections but with Conservative candidates in southern constituencies.

Of course, that characterisation makes Sheffield Hallam a “southern” constituency but the battle for control of Sheffield city council is effectively between the LibDems and Labour, the traditional incumbents since time immemorial.

Btw have they discovered yet where the £14 million disappeared to?

Hmm. Burnley went Lib Dem at the election after being Labour since 1935 and has strong socialist roots; I wonder what colour it will be in 2015..?

Seeing some of the leaders of local Orange Tory Party publically attack, not just be critical, of Nick Clegg I don’t think his seat will be as safe as you say. To quote the leader of their party in Liverpool. “Thanks to Nick Clegg across the north our party will be completely wiped out”. Never has a party waited so long for power, then committed political suicide. Cannot wait for the Orange Tory bun fight at their Party Conference…oh yeah forgot to mention….it is in Liverpool.

He hasn’t helped his case by constantly telling lies and then being found out very quickly:


Does anyone know when the last time the Orange Tories were last in single figures in national opinion polls…..it might be nice little present for those meeting in Liverpool in September 🙂

“‘Thanks to Nick Clegg across the north our party will be completely wiped out’. Never has a party waited so long for power, then committed political suicide.”

Think about it: almost certainly, for next five years, Cameron will be PM and Clegg deputy PM.

“Short-termism” is rife in politics as well as financial markets.

My ol’ mum, northern as owt, nearly voted Lib Dem for their talk of mansion taxes and anti-war rhetoric.

People didn’t vote for the Liberal Democrats. They voted for what the Liberal Democrats pretended to be. They voted for the nice looking boy on TV who looked straight at the camera.

“Think about it: almost certainly, for next five years, Cameron will be PM and Clegg deputy PM”

Almost certainly……really.Yougov have the Orange Tories at 12% now and this is the pollster that overestimated the Lib Dem result in it’s last opinion poll before the election more than all the others.In opinion polls more than a majority of people do not think it will last the full term, not even those of the falling percentage of Orange Tories will think it will last.

Do you really think the Orange Tory Party will let themselves slip into oblivion?

@Red Rag

Orange Tories? Seriously? You seem to have descended to the same level as those who called Labour ZanuLabour and such variations. Why you should be taken seriously in the slightest I don’t know.

As to the article itself, while the polls are varying drastically, at local by-elections the Lib Dems have been doing well, and all but a few polls are from yougov, who dropped the lib dem poll rating very quickly after the election. Other polls have shown it being much higher recently. Comparing actual votes to the polls, Lib Dems remain okay. Could be better, but not as bad as the doom mongers are saying.

Labours attack over AV continues to be laughable, showing how little importance they attach to electoral reform. On the forgemasters, the left leaning lib dems get why it was cut, and agree with it for the most part. It was little better than an electoral bribe by Labour, and as it was to support nuclear power, we’re pretty glad it got cancelled. For those who attack us for not achieving everything we campaigned for, it proves that all too many still do not understand the basic meanings of coalition and compromise. We’re still fighting for what we believe in, and unlike when the Labour party was in government, we’ve had to make compromises to get some of what want. We didn’t sell out and cheat the electorate like Labour did, in power by itself, for 13 years

Perhaps when Labour and many of its members realise that we’re not the tories lapdogs, just like we were never Labours lapdogs as many of you turned out to believe, we’ll get on better. Till that day, Labour remains as bad in our eyes as the tories continue to. At least the tories, despite a small outdated fringe, have turned out to understand compromise. Never thought that would be true.


we’ve had to make compromises to get some of what want. We didn’t sell out and cheat the electorate like Labour did

Ah… we “make compromises”, you “sell out and cheat”. It’s all clear now.

No Lib Dem has explained to me Nick Clegg’s volte face since 2008:

The day before I was elected leader, Mr Cameron suggested we join them.

He talked about a “progressive alliance”.

This talk of alliances comes up a lot, doesn’t it?

Everyone wants to be in our gang.

So I want to make something very clear today.

Will I ever join a Conservative government?


Quoth the raven: LOL!


“People didn’t vote for the Liberal Democrats. They voted for what the Liberal Democrats pretended to be. They voted for the nice looking boy on TV who looked straight at the camera.”

I nearly voted for the little boy lost, to my eternal embarrassment.
But sense prevailed at the last minute, thank god

What seems odd is how little the mystery of Clegg, and exactly when he had his Damascene conversion re the cuts, has been discussed or even reported in the media.

I found some Lib Dem friends hadn’t heard as they were too busy socially and working.
It delighted me to tell them about it as it stoked their already massive sense of disenchantment with their leadership.

PS welcome back from your holiday RedRag. Missed your blog while you were away.

It isn’t that you’re the Tories’ lapdogs- it’s that you do these things regardless of the Tories. Clegg promised pure cuts to the Spectator before the election remember- his only concession was that cuts should only come once the recovery was secure. Which it turns out he said without meaning.


The difference between compromises and selling out is obvious. We’re in a coalition. Labour ruled by itself, and still managed to go against what it says it believes in. How you can compare the two when it comes to making decisions, I do not know. Some weird logic I assume.

As to Cleggs speech, you obviously didn’t read the lines following on from the bit you quoted. The bit that says government based on pluralism, rather than one party rule. The part that adds the context to his speech. Selective quoting for the fail.


Too many people did what you did on election day, and gave both Labour and the tories seats they shouldn’t have kept. You voted based on the fear both Tories and Labour had been busy putting out since the first debate. You voted for a party that has continually thrown away its promises for no reason. Now you criticise a party for negating the worst of the tories, and actually getting some of its promises into action?

As to the timing of cuts, nice to see people continuing the idea that politicians should never change their minds, even when the evidence does.


The point is that Labourites could argue exactly as you do for the Lib Dems that when in power they had to make “compromises”. Don’t try and dress the U-turn on VAT, the NHS, free schools etc up as some sort of moral position, cos it ain’t so.

Secondly, ok let’s quote some more from that speech I linked to!

David Cameron has taken a conscious, strategic decision? not to have any policies.

They have commissions, and papers, and ideas, and possibilities.

But not one concrete promise.

This is sham politics from a party bereft of belief, that will say anything to get elected – and Britain deserves more.

You know their proposals for tax breaks for marriage are so ill-thought out, they would even give cash to a man who’s ditched his stay-at-home-wife and shacked up with his secretary.

Well, quite. How about this from last year?

Labour thinks there are no limits to how much you can borrow and no limits on what you should borrow for.

That’s why they made the monumental VAT mistake.

The Conservatives are at the other end of the scale.

They’re so opposed to Labour’s borrowing they want to slash public spending back to the bone – starting next year.

The bastard Tories! Imagine slashing spending in 2010… erm…

Our Prime Minister [Gordon Brown] would rather paw at the feet of a Congressman than shake the hand of a European colleague.

That attitude diminishes Britain and it must stop.

The only thing that could be worse is the Conservative approach.

How on earth do these people think themselves fit to govern…

When at a time of global crisis…

When international agreements and cooperation are more important than ever…

Their foreign affairs’ spokesman William Hague’s only real contribution was a speech a couple weeks ago where he romanticised about the English-speaking world.

Yeah, what a fuckwit Hague was… oh damn, who’s that next to Clegg on the front bench? Should I go on? I guess those quotes are from so long ago… so how about something more recent?

We will not have to raise VAT to deliver our promises. The Conservatives will. Let me repeat that: Our plans do not require a rise in VAT. The Tory plans do.

Do you now understand why people who were formerly attracted to the Lib Dems feel slightly pissed off at Clegg’s shameless power-tripping? Do you get it yet? The man is a liar, a charlatan, and a fraud. He may as well join the hateful scum in the Conservative Party as I’m sure they’d welcome him with open arms, now he’s propping up their government in return for the AV sweeties.


Not a moment goes by when I don’t feel mightily relieved I didn’t vote Lib Dem.

Clegg has shown himself to be the worst sort of opportunist.
What makes it so appalling is his pretense that he was somehow a new different honest politician.

Remember when he looked at the camera during the first debate ?
He scored cheap points by laughing at Cameron and Brown sparring.

What does he do now ? He has a go at Labour all the time, using his new found Tory best buddies as a shield.

The man is a hypocrite and worse than that he is a hypocrite who pretended he wasn’t in order to gain the public trust and votes.


Riddle me this-

The Liberal Democrats campaigned on a stance of not cutting this year while the recovery was still shaky. They did so right up til election day. Then their stance changed, Clegg said that he changed his mind on the 15th May in a discussion with Mervyn King after the agreement had been made. King said that the conversation they had contained nothing new. Clegg was lying. Clegg said on TV on Thursday that he had changed his mind before the election and just not bothered to tell his activists to change their tune.

Now what is that? Labour didn’t manage to achieve many of their promises, sure. Nick Clegg wanted the opposite to what he was campaigning on months before the election and didn’t tell the electorate.

Changing your mind is fine. Don’t continue to campaign on your original commitment and then go “Oh actually, what you just voted for wasn’t what we intend and we haven’t intended it for months. Sorry!” after the votes are in.

16. David Boothroyd

In no real sense is Sheffield ‘Nick Clegg’s city’. He was born in Chalfont St Giles, went to school in London, lived mostly abroad until 1998, and was then MEP for East Midlands (which doesn’t include Sheffield). His connection with Sheffield only came when he was selected as candidate for Sheffield Hallam in 2004.

Given the way Lib Dems always go on about their candidates being local people I would also expect them to be honest when they are not.

Sure Clegg and/or the LibDems come across as liars.

However, the notion that after we go through the worst periods of cuts in several generations, everyone is just going to fall straight back in love with the LibDems (and the Tories even) is a crazy one.

Without wishing to be alarmist, the country is about to suffer unimaginably as a result of what’s coming in October and the years ahead. 25-40% are enormous cuts, we really won’t know what’s hit us. Even a giant tax cut in four years, if the government hasn’t folded, will be a drop in the ocean.

The fact is that the LibDems are the variable and they stand to lose.

18. George W. Potter

@David Hold on, so the only tie people are allowed to have is the place where they happened to be born? They aren’t allowed to relocate and even if they move somewhere and live for decades they should still be considered an outsider?

Wow. You’re a real progressive aren’t you. Next you’ll be telling us that the only Englishman is one whose family have lived here since 1066. Are you sure you aren’t closet BNP?

The Labourites would prove themselves massive fools trying that argument, as they are theoretically one party, and should be able to stick to what they promise in an election, when they’re the sole ruling party. So, that argument really doesn’t work, even when casting around for something, anything, to throw.

As for the rest of what you quote, your point exactly? You’re missing the whole coalition & compromise thing, again. This seems to be a common theme. Unless we get everything we want, we’re obviously selling out. No compromise! No accepting the reality of the situation, ever. So please, he’s not a charlatan, he’s not power tripping. As for hateful scum, Labour members are proving who has the hate in this day and age. Pure spite is what it seems like. I still don’t like the tories, but Labour members are doing their best job to make it very hard for any future coalition between us. I know some willing to have a good debate over the actual issues, who understand what coalition government means, what compromise is. Unfortunately, the loudest of you just do not seem to get this, and you really have to if things are going to change for the better at the next election.

The worst sort of opportunist? For getting Liberal Democrat policies into action for the first time in 80 years? Grow up!

As for the first debate, you have an interesting recollection of it. Clegg came up with a number of good policy points. yes, he scored off both Brown and Cameron, but he also offered an alternative rather than cheap points scoring. As for having a go at labour all the time, when you watch him speaking ion the House of Commons, he’s reacting to the questions he’s asked, and the shameful way Labour are pretending they were never in power, and so could never have solved anything in the last 13 years.

Hypocritical? Hardly. You’re left wishing the election had turned out differently, just as I do. The difference is you’re bitter the Lib Dems didn’t turn out to the Labours lap dog, but went for getting the most of our policies into action.

Clegg should have been more open with how his view was, I agree. The big thing is, he wasn’t the one who got to set lib dem policy once the election was going. Doesn’t matter what he thought at that point, the party had chosen its manifesto, the final contents being decided by our elected Federal Party Exec and Policy Committee, based on the input from the party members. It was his job to convince us later that agreeing to starting cuts now was best, which he did at our Special Conference, with amendments.

@Rich: He brazenly lied. He said the opposite of what he thought in the run up to the election and afterwards gave contradictory versions of when he supposedly changed his mind.

It doesn’t matter that the Lib Dems had put no early cuts in their manifesto- the Liberals in coalition talks were arguing against that position with *Labour* mere days after we went to vote on that manifesto. They knew full well that backroom talks gave them a carte blanche to do what they wanted regardless of what they campaigned on and what the party voted for.

21. David Boothroyd

Look George W. Potter, don’t try that reductio ad absurdam rubbish with me as it makes you look an even bigger idiot than you looked before. Nick Clegg had no connection with Sheffield until he tried to get selected as Parliamentary candidate there and that was less than six years ago. And the only reason he tried to get selected there is that the seat was winnable for his party. He has no independent interest in Sheffield and would happily have fetched up anywhere else if it had a Lib Dem seat going begging.

Further it’s complete hypocrisy from his party which goes on and on about its candidates being local and complains about other candidates being ‘parachuted in’. If Clegg wasn’t a parachutee then no-one is.

Clegg is a CIA plant. I’m telling you. He is part of a process of taking over left of centre parties and screwing them over. He is doing to the Lib Dems what Blair did to Labour. No doubt he will be well rewarded when he finishes politics just like Bliar.

23. pat wilkie

Lib Dems in government should be measured by their manifesto. I remember clearly that the manifesto had just 4 pledges on the front which the Lib Dems said they would try to get through come hell or high water, and whomsoever was in power. The important thing was that whatever else had to be negotiated away in coalition with either party then these 4 pledges were the basic priorities of the party.
Measure them on this –
If they fail then yes – they are useless and do not deserve to be voted for. However read them and see, even in the first 11 weeks just how much they have managed to achieve.
To expect them to be able to stop the Tory or Labour (if they had got sufficient votes) juggernauts is thoughtles and does not understand coalition government, expect from them what they promised to achieve – and it was only these 4 basic pledges.

23 Oh great, so they are only going to go for 4 things? Can we stop calling it a coalition then and use a better word, how about capitulation.

“To expect them to be able to stop the Tory or Labour (if they had got sufficient votes) juggernauts is thoughtles and does not understand coalition government”

Nonsense. They have the votes to stop anything they want. But do they have the balls to do it? That is the question, and so far the answer is no.

” It was little better than an electoral bribe by Labour”

The site in question is in a safe Labour seat and almost all the projected workforce would have lived in safe Labour seats as well. Funny sort of bribe, really. But then we tribalists in the Evil Red Party are very stupid, so I suppose you (and your dear leader) may well be correct.


The fact there are many constituencies in that area that aren’t safe labour seats seems to have run away from you at high speed. Even in the safe seats, it’s not right to keep voters your way by slinging them a government backed loan that doesn’t deserve it.

So yeah, you are being tribalist.


It also appears to have escaped your notice that more than those 4 points have been agreed, and those 4 points by themselves are very important. Unless you disagree with electoral reform, less tax paid for the worst off, more money for education for poorer kids, and green industry. Typical Labour argument. You don’t like what we believe in, so us getting what we want must be wrong.

“Unless you disagree with electoral reform, less tax paid for the worst off, more money for education for poorer kids, and green industry. ”

But you don’t have electoral reform. All you have is the chance of a referendum. And you have allowed the tories to tack on to the bill a giant gerrymandering that will inure their victory for many decades in a first past the post system. You are signing your own death warrant. And every other party except the tories.

As for tax maybe you don’t think the poor pay VAT. Which thanks to your leader ,the poor will be paying an extra 2.5%

Oh, and don’t forget that worthless piece of paper called the Coalition Agreement:

“We will stop the top-down reorganisations of the NHS”

The white paper represents the de-nationalisation of the NHS which is the biggest top-down re-organisation EVER to have happened to the NHS

“We will stop the centrally dictated closure of A&E and maternity wards,”

Nope. In fact last week the NHS Chief Executive told local commissioners that they must move quicker on “reconfiguring” facilities and that if people complain, they should effectively be ignored (from healthpolicyinsight):

“If local stakeholders or individuals have concerns, they will need to provide valid and robust evidence to support their position. This is to avoid schemes which otherwise meet the four tests being delayed by potentially vexatious objections”

What about this one?

“We will ensure that there is a stronger voice for patients locally through directly elected individuals on the boards of their local primary care trust (PCT).”

From the NHS White Paper timetable

“PCTs are abolished: From April 2013”

So no elected PCT boards then?

From the worthless Coalition Agreement:

“The local PCT will act as a champion for patients and commission those residual services that are best undertaken at a wider level, rather than directly by GPs.”

Nope, these are going to the unaccountable super-quango the NHS Commissioning Board, so rather than being handled by an elected local organisation, that commissioning will be done by an unelected, unaccountable central organisation. How’s that for LibDem or Tory localism?

Finally, I should draw your attention to this from the worthless Coalition Agreement:

We will give every patient the power to choose any healthcare provider that meets NHS standards, within NHS prices.

The last bit is omitted from the White Paper. I put a tenner on a co-payment system being in-place before the first patient is allowed to choose “any willing provider”. If that happens then it will be the end of “free at the point of delivery” and the end of the NHS.

Oh I forgot, that is what Nick Clegg wants.

In an interview for the Indy in 2005 young Mr Clegg said:

“One very, very important point – I think breaking up the NHS is exactly what you do need to do to make it a more responsive service.” Then he goes further, even refusing to rule out the insurance-based models used in mainland Europe and Canada.

“I don’t think anything should be ruled out. I think it would be really, really daft to rule out any other model from Europe or elsewhere. I do think they deserve to be looked out because frankly the faults of the British health service compared to others still leave much to be desired.”

Finally, this is from this week’s I’m sorry I haven’t a clue:

A letter from a Mrs Trellis from North Wales: “Dear Mr Cameron, I have a picture here of you and your new friend Nick, and the thought came into my mind that this is what a Conservative with a small c looks like”

Just my thoughts.

We got the best electoral reform we were going to get out of either party. Far more than could have been expected from the tories. It includes House of Lords reform as well! Labour did minor tweaks over 13 years, and we’ve already got more laid out than Labour promised at its best!

As for gerrymandering, only Labour supporters could see equal sized constituencies as gerrymandering. Theoretically we should have equal sized constituencies already, but we don’t. You’re defending a broken system that benefits you, and shouting gerrymandering just makes you look stupid beyond belief. You’re defending an already gerrymandered system, albeit one that’s mostly a result of time rather than direct change.

As for the VAT, I’m not a fan of it. There are better taxes. Then I realised someone would have to spend over £7000 on high VAT rate goods to be worse off, if they have a job. If you don’t have a job, but somehow still have lots of money, it’s not much extra each week. I don’t know about you, but I need to spend my money on rent and food, so spending £7000 on expensive goods seems unlikely. The most expensive thing I’ve bought this year would be less than £3 more expensive. I can live with that.

30. George W. Potter

It seems fairly simple to me. The Lib Dems campaigned on their manifesto. They said that in the event of a hung parliament the party with the largest majority had the first right to seek to govern. They said that in the event of a coalition there would be four main policies they’d make sure to get through.

In the wake of the election results, the Lib Dems had coalition negotiations with both the Conservatives and Labour. Since the electoral arithmetic was against a Labour coalition, and because the Tories were offering the better deal, they entered a coalition with the Tories. The Coalition government is operating on the coalition agreement which contained a mixture of policies from both parties. So far the Lib Dems have done an excellent job of getting their four key policies through.

The coalition is also doing stuff which Labour talked about for 13 years but failed to do. Civil liberties, electoral reform, Equitable Life, etc. Thus the Lib Dems are doing what they said they would do and have done a damn sight better in their 12 weeks than Labour did in their 13 years.

Most of Labour criticism is the rankest hypocrisy. As just one example, they attack the Coalition for the £44 billion spending cuts which Labour introduced before the election. Or how about the legislation for fixed term parliaments? A Labour manifesto commitment which they opposed when the Coalition tried to introduce it.

Bottom line: the Lib Dems have done what they said they would, so have the Tories. Sadly the same can’t be said for Labour and if there’s one thing, as a social liberal, which has guaranteed I will never, ever consider voting Labour, it’s the way they’ve behaved in the past few weeks.

Nice Mr Clegg “I don’t think anything should be ruled out. I think it would be really, really daft to rule out any other model from Europe or elsewhere. I do think they deserve to be looked out because frankly the faults of the British health service compared to others still leave much to be desired.”

Little runt.

32. George W. Potter

@David: I take it then that 6+ years living in one place isn’t long enough for you to consider it home then? I don’t know precisely when Clegg moved to Sheffield but I’d say that after living there and representing it for over 6 years he’s entitled to refer to it as his city.

Hell, I moved to Guildford recently, I’ve only been here a year but it feels more like home and I know more about it than I ever did about East Sussex. So why don’t you tell me, how long do I have to live here before I can call it home? I’d be very interested to know.


Sally, you show clearly the difference between the Lib Dems and Labour here. We’re always willing to look at alternatives, even if we ideologically might not like them. If it gives a better end result in line with what we want, it’s worth trying. You stick to something however bad it ends up being. Bad politics.

“Bottom line: the Lib Dems have done what they said they would, so have the Tories. ”

Claptrap. Both parties said they would not put up VAT. There was noting in the tory party manifesto about the shake up of the NHS.

Why are you allowing the tories to rail road you into so much change so quickly? Change that you do not have a mandate to do.

Anyway, I’m off to watch Sherlock o the BBC. Before the Lie Dems sign up to abolishing that as well.

Sally, perhaps if you weren’t such a hypocritical person, your views would be taken better. As it is, you defend a party that lied constantly for 13 years. That privatised as much as it could. That ignored its own manifesto repeatedly. No concessions or compromise needed to be made then, it being a one party rule, but it was. And you treat us as worse for making a cross party deal and not being a bunch of lying little shits in government? Sheesh.

36. Peter Ward



Pot . Kettle. Black.

The Lib Dems are fulll of those from front to back. Do not claim that Labour or any other political party has the monopoly on it.

George W Potter:

To claim the lib Dems have done more in 12 weeks than Labour in 13 years is obscene in the extreme and you know it is.

And the lib dems accuse us of hyperbole.


In this case, Labour certainly has the lead in being hypocritical by several light years. Also, you’re rather insulting and inaccurate to say we’re full of hypocrites from front to back. Obviously never been to a lib dem party conference.

As for the 12 weeks thing, we’ve managed to accomplish many things Labour failed to do in 13 years, so yeah, it’s good to say it, and repeat it. Pointing out Labours hypocrisy on the issues is fun.

@George W. Potter

I think that when you have students who’ve lived in the city longer than Clegg, who just graduated this year, then yeah… it’s fair to say his constant bleating about Sheffield during the election (then pull back reveal stab to the chest) means we can sneer at the man as a phony.

Like how he doesn’t even know the name of the institution he “worked for” – kepts calling it Sheffield University during the campaign (there are two universities in Sheffield, NEITHER is called that – he worked not for Hallam, but for ‘The University of Sheffield’, if you don’t get the semantics, look it up) – and all he did in his “lecturing” was TWO seminars where he told rambling stories and kept asking the lecturer who was sat there for facts he didn’t know.

That he used this to show how he knew how students think (gah!), well every time he invokes the name of Sheffield his tongue is forked.

“The fact there are many constituencies in that area that aren’t safe labour seats seems to have run away from you at high speed.”

Are there? There are fourteen constituencies in South Yorkshire and all but four have Labour majorities of over 10%. Of the four remaining, one is Clegg’s own seat (where Labour came – and always come – a poor third), one is almost certainly too far away to benefit from a project in inner Sheffield, which leaves two. And as I doubt that this project would have been an effective electoral bribe in Penistone & Stocksbridge, that leaves one constituency (the new Sheffield Central) which, alas, doesn’t have the sort of employment structure likely to benefit much from the project, except in a knock-on way. If the Forgemasters loan was intended as a Labour bribe, then the Party couldn’t have picked many less likely sites for an electoral bribe on the magnitude that this loan was were it a bribe…

“Even in the safe seats, it’s not right to keep voters your way by slinging them a government backed loan that doesn’t deserve it.”

First off I happen to think that the loan was justified and on a wide variety of grounds (from the benefits to a local economy that could do with a boost to strategic reasons). And secondly… you aren’t really making any sense here, actually. Logic does not have to be your enemy!

So yeah, you are being tribalist.

Have you ever come across the concept of irony? Serious question.

40. Peter Ward


I assume we have moved on from Tory to Lib Dem trollery.

I personally would herald the schools, hospitals, colleges and universities built under the labour government as being a little more important than the opportunity to vote in a referendum on AV.

The destructive cuts that are coming that Hokey Cokey Clegg is saying he agreed with did not agree with before the election put the ‘baubles’ offered to the Lib Dems into perspective somewhat.

Rich. Do you believe unemployment is a price worth paying too?

Labour was sinking in the polls at the time, so it spending money to keep seats is no shocker. As to benefitting the local economy, it certainly would have. But not at the cost to the government, and so everyone else. In terms of return on investment, for the government it wasn’t good. Spending cash to create jobs is good, but it has to be worthwhile, and this certainly wasn’t. The cancellation also pleases the anti-nuclear part of me due to what the loan would have done..

As to the irony, yes I do understand it, unfortunately you ended up being tribal despite joking about it…

Nice you pick just one thing the coalition is doing. And ignore that Labour overspent on all of those, with horrific contracts, and its usual way of doing things of throwing money at a problem until it went away. As it seems civil liberties, ect, don’t matter to you from you missing them out in comparison, it’s unlikely I’ll convince you.

As to unemployment, Labour did such a sterling job there. Why you’d have more confidence in Labour being in control when the result speak for themselves, I do not know. Reality bites hard.

42. Peter Ward


Most people like the ‘idea’ of civil liberties and I would happily state that I did not agree with the the centrist civil liberties legislation that was passed by Labour and will be pleased to see it repealed. However, given the choice between being free and hungry or not so free but fed most people will unfortunately choose the latter.

Your comment on throwing money at things etc sounds like an ad Hominem based on no evidence or anecdote at best.

With regards to unemployment a lower level of unemployment in recession than under Thatcher. I would consider that would be an achievement. Whats to come will be unemployment above 3 million maybe even approaching 4 Million should the much vaunted optimistic (heroic) forecast of private sector growth does not materialise.

Obviously throwing people on to the dole, out on the streets is fine as long as they are ‘free’. But are they truly free if they have no means to subsist?

Well, for me, like most lib dems, freedom goes along with equality and fairness. The ability to do what you want doesn’t exist if you don’t have basic living standards.

As for the throwing money at the problem, the way the NHS has been treated is the most fairly obvious bit of evidence. Lots of money given, but very poorly used. The BSF program was an excellent demonstration of this. Needed program, horribly implemented and managed with great waste and a massive time lag on doing anything.

When it comes to those on the poorer end of society, while Labour did do much to help, it also vastly overinflated what it did do. I was at college doing a course so I could get to university. Labour announced funding increases for FE. The reality was that budgets were cut and popular courses reduced in size. Labour liked talking about helping people, but it wasn’t very good on the follow through. It gave the country a growing debt while the economy was apparently booming, leaving us in a much worse position when the recession did hit. Long term planning was not the Labour governments strong point.

While the welfare state is being cut, people aren’t being left on the streets to starve. That’s no freedom, I agree. They’re more likely to have a future now than the last few years though, rather than being left on the dole.

44. Peter Ward


It did not give the country a growing debt while the Country was booming (another ConDem myth I am afraid). The debt grew in 2008 as a result of the banks being bailed out and the decrease in VAT to 15%. The level of debt remained static from 1997 to 2008 and comparable to that run by previous governments. The stats are available at the ONS. The debt now is comparable to that post world war 2.

So you agree with the creation of 500 non-accountable bureaucracies in the NHS then?

Looking at the figures I can find, they appear to show a rise in debt as a % of GDP well before 2008. Even worse when you consider this was while the economy was still growing, so debt was growing as a real figure quicker than it looks. While historically debt levels have been far worse at points, that’s not a great excuse to use. Overall debt levels should have gone on down during that period, not up. So it hardly seems to be a myth…

On the 500 non-accountable bureaucracies in the NHS you mention, I assume you mean the reorganisation of the NHS. It’s not something I know much about as I haven’t had time to look at it, so I can’t really debate it yet. I don’t keep up on everything the government does.

It’s been fun how the argument has continually moved on in this thread…

“Labour was sinking in the polls at the time, so it spending money to keep seats is no shocker.”

Were David Blunkett and Clive Betts ever at risk of defeat?

If the point was to hang on to as many seats as possible, there were more effective places to invest large amounts of money into manufacturing projects; the West Midlands conurbation for example. Lots of seats with big majorities in 2005 that looked disturbingly vulnerable throughout the 2005-2010 Parliament in an area where manufacturing remains a vital part of the economy.

As to benefitting the local economy, it certainly would have. But not at the cost to the government, and so everyone else. In terms of return on investment, for the government it wasn’t good.

Do you know what a ‘loan’ is?

Spending cash to create jobs is good, but it has to be worthwhile, and this certainly wasn’t.

Why not? It is not enough to say that it is so, you must provide proof. That your leader says it was a waste of money is not good enough, as he is a proven liar.

The cancellation also pleases the anti-nuclear part of me due to what the loan would have done..

Oh, right. Ideological petulance of the worst sort.

As to the irony, yes I do understand it, unfortunately you ended up being tribal despite joking about it…

And you yourself are not ‘tribal’? Thus, irony…

47. George W. Potter

@38 I go to the University of Surrey but most students/staff use “the University of Surrey” and “Surrey University” interchangeably. You’re being pedantic in the extreme if you think that using the term “Sheffield University” reveals some deep seated flaw which we should all be appalled at.

As Ruth Sutherland of the Observer said ” Labour’s economic policy was to take money from S England and use it to increase public sector employment in the regions”. Labour has provided little reason for the self employed and those working and running SMEs to vote for them. The red tape so loved by labour does little to increase employment in SMEs. So Liberalism in the North may not be dead yet. If Labour can provide good reasons for those employed in SMEs to vote for them, then they will take votes from the Liberals and the Tories.

Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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  2. TheBiPolarBearMD

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  3. Tom Brooks-Pollock

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  4. Jonathan Davies

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  5. Beatrice Bray

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  6. Kate B

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  7. Lawrence Mills

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  8. Mike Currie

    RT @libcon: Will Nick Clegg kill northern liberalism? http://bit.ly/dqYJFd

  9. sunny hundal

    RT @hangbitch: What a fine piece of writing: Neil Robertson on Nick Clegg and northern liberalism http://bit.ly/dpnReo

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    RT @libcon: Will Nick Clegg kill northern liberalism? http://bit.ly/dqYJFd

  11. Kristofer Keane

    RT @libcon Will Nick Clegg kill northern liberalism? http://bit.ly/cMWLrZ

  12. Richard Blogger

    Here's one I made in August 2010 about NHS and Coalition Agreement http://t.co/7uDBB7pT

  13. diana smith

    Here's one I made in August 2010 about NHS and Coalition Agreement http://t.co/7uDBB7pT

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