What is Nick Clegg trying to say about Cameron?


9:05 am - April 26th 2011

by Paul Cotterill    


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I tend to agree with Sunny and others that the Clegg’s attack on the top Tories is synthetic. It’ll be kiss and make up on May 6th; there isn’t anywhere else for the LibDems to go now, and I’m doubtful that the Tories will want to jettison them just yet.

What’s more interesting is the way Clegg chooses to describe Cameron and co, synthetically or not. In calling them a ‘right wing clique’, I think he may giving away more than he knows about his experience of dealing with the Cameronian inner circle.

I’ve suggested before that what makes the Cameron regime very different from the Thatcher government is the tightness of the regime’s inner circle, based as it is less on ideological consensus (though there is a broad one) than on deeply embedded class loyalties.

Those in the inner circle are almost exclusively, especially with the departure of Coulson, from an upper class clique that even Clegg has access to. He may be from a rich background but his European family background and marriage make him an outsider to the Eton/Oxford set nowe in charge.

When Clegg calls the Tory elite right-wing, I don’t think he’s talking about their political economy; as a paid-up Orange Booker he is probably further to the right than Cameron is instintively. Rather, I think Clegg is using right-wing as shorthand for even for socially elite than him.

In identifying this, of course, he’s in total agreement with David Davis.

Of course, any pain Clegg suffers at the hands of those who believe they are his betters is an irrelevance to the Left. Even so, I think it’s important for the Left to recognise how Clegg – having seen the Tory elite up close – portrays them, because it should give us confidence to keep casting them in this light too.

To my mind Labour, and much of the Left continues to be just a little too respectful of the Cameron clique, nervous that the calls of ‘class war’ will ring out if we attack the Cameron coterie on the basis of their backgrounds and their inner circle’s utter ignorance of the lives of real people.

In part this remains a legacy of the Crewe and Nantwich byelection, which Labour’s head honchos subsequently decided had been a counter-productive approach. This is unfortunate, because the broad strategy was ok – just partly poorly implemented through the use of poor student-style theatrics.

Despite this hiccup, I remain convinced that a key anti-Tory strategy is to keep banging on, not about their background for its own sake, but about how genuinely distant from the real world Cameron and his cronies are, how the policies they are pushing through simply have no connection with the real world (get a job and lose your home, for example), and how hypocritical they are to pretend they are in any way in it together like us.

We should take confidence from Clegg. However whiney he sounds complaining about being outside the clique, there’s a kernel of truth there. And if even he sees it, then it’s pretty bleeding obvious.

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About the author
Paul Cotterill is a regular contributor, and blogs more regularly at Though Cowards Flinch, an established leftwing blog and emergent think-tank. He currently has fingers in more pies than he has fingers, including disability caselaw, childcare social enterprise, and cricket.
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Reader comments


1. Meic Lorens

Yes, let’s face up to the fact that class war has broken out again, and the ‘real people’ living in the real world didn’t start it. Let’s not pretend it isn’t happening but get armed for the struggle, beginning by shoving an overwhelming ‘Yes to AV’ up Cameron’s snooty nose.

Hey, I’m just a normal guy: rich and Oxbridge. Just like you.

But HE is rich, Oxbridge and ETON. Totally, utterly different.

I’m sure most people will really appreciate that distinction.

You may need to offer more evidence to support this theory – otherwise it’s just baseless and partisan speculation, of which there’s plenty on the internet already.

I’ve never been given any reason to believe Clegg is more right-wing than Cameron, nor that he would use a standard political term to refer instead to a specific class and wealth and social set. I’d be interested to hear your reasoning in more detail.

(ps Did you ever read the Orange Book? As I remember it, Clegg’s contribution was all about Europe, and about half the essays actually called for more state intervention to achive socially beneficial aims.)

4. Jonathan Phillips

What Clegg ought to be saying about Cameron is that he is a cynical liar who knows perfectly well that nothing that he, or anyone else in the No camp, has said about AV is actually true. The campaign against AV has been dishonest from the start, the most disgusting in British political history.

As for Clegg, he seems to have turned his back on the best part of a century of Social Liberalism and for what? The loan of a ministerial limousine. All he can honestly say to Cameron is: Thank you for letting me ride in your car, sir.

The Lib Dems could have had so much more power, and retained their identity, by offering critical and conditional support to a minority Cameron government, and kept totally shtum about electoral reform until he had shown that the Lib Dems could function responsibility in a parliament of minorities.

5. Lisa Ansell

I think one of the problems when a website decides to go back on the principles it has claimed to hold dear, in favour of supporting a political party, is it gets very difficult to fill up the pages. When a website is marketed as the bridge between activists and mainstream politics and a new place for ‘the left’ to discuss what it should do, it needs to do so to maintain the appearance of that position in the mainstream media and political circles.

Unfortunately the party of ‘the left’ that this website has decided is all our best hopes has decided that it is perfectly acceptable that mothers be forced into dependence on men, carers be forced into destitution without the things they need, and people who are ill are to be quite literally pushed out of their homes and have any state support removed- and it is acceptable that the people not represented in a male dominated political system are the first port of call for cuts to protect more voter friendly services.

This leaves ‘the left’ as it identifies itself in a muddle.(Labour is about more than people on welfare you know…sad fact but true…lol)

So at a time when people all over the country are waking up to the reality of this situation-and activists, journalists, individuals and groups are producing fantastic campaigns, and the effect of the cuts is beginning to beceome apparent- readers of the Labour supporting political blogosphere will get endless Heat magazine style political writing. What Kerry Katona and Jordan REALLY meant when they said x…sorry Nick Clegg. Heat magazine specialises in speculating on thoughts and feelings of celebrities, to satisfy those who aspire to be in that world..

What is Nick Clegg ‘REALLY’ trying to say about Cameron? When you have a machine to aid telepathy you will probably know. What is REALLY happening in the country is fairly easy to identify. It is happening all around you.

I predict that this website will fill its pages with ever more meaningless speculation about the minor differences between the approaches of the three main parties- and will move further and further away from reporting on ‘activism, feminism, the cuts, equality, and other concerns of ‘the left’, in order to avoid having to discuss the incongruence between its previous ‘left wing’ positions and the ones it takes now. It will instead concentrate more and more on pretend speculation about what Jordan really meant when she said she loved Pete- sorry- Nick and David.

6. Lisa Ansell

And don’t forget the rallies! Well, the rallies where there is a photographer …

Adam @3: Liberal Conspiracy has an editorial policy limiting articles to a few hundred words, so there’s not much room in this short (off-the-cuff) piece for the kind of evidence you require. I do however link to a couple of longer pieces written at my place which I suggest support the brief case here pretty well, being based both in reasonably well accepted political science modelling of the way central government’s work (and the current Tories’ version of that model), some pretty basic facts about the make up of the ‘inner circle’ and a review of some examples of the distance between inner circle-driven social policy and policy implementation reality.

I accept that this is not a cast iron case, and that my interpretation is contestable (as it has been in the comments on those mini-essays), not least because the very nature of the inner circle militates against the gathering of such evidence. However, I do think there’s enough circumstantial evidence, including the way in which senior members of the civil service appear now to be reacting negatively to the Tory modus operandi) to allow me to draw some conclusions.

Of course I’m partisan. This piece is not intended to be ‘objective’ political analysis (no such thing, really); it’s supposed to be a spur to Labour to re-engage with Tory-bashing in the way I contend is justified by the nature of that Tory government.

As for the Orange Book, I accept what you say about Clegg’s contribution to the book itself, but seven years on from its publication I think of more relevance is the way as leader he embraced the freemarket (e.g. ‘reform’ of the NHS) writings of other senior LibDems in his early speeches, for example.

8. Flowerpower

He {Clegg} may be from a rich background but his European family background and marriage make him an outsider to the Eton/Oxford set now in charge.

Apart from Cameron himself, there’s only one person in the Cabinet who is both Eton and Oxford by background. That’s Sir George Young, leader of the House, who is hardly of the inner clique.

The only other old Etonian – Oliver Letwin – has Ukrainian Jewish antecedents – so he hardly fits your implied WASP characterization of the set in charge either.

You seem to be dealing in false stereotypes.

I wish people would pull their heads out of their bottoms, and stop all this clap trap about Cameron being less right wing than Thatcher. He is more right wing than Thatcher , but he has learned the lessons of GW Bush where you lie, and pretend you are more moderate than you really are.

Bush invented the term ‘compassionate conservatism’ which was bullshit but was a nice slogan, just likes Cameron’s pretend concern for the environment. (which by the way, has been quietly jettisoned) Cameron’s agenda is far more radical than people understand. The health service is being sold off without the people realising. Cameron’s claim to support the NHS was a lie, like his Lie about not raising the tories favourite tax, VAT. Cameron lied about not taking a majority role in the AV vote but has gone back on that. And there is talk now that Cameron will commit the ultimate lie and pull the plug on the whole shabby co-alition, and call an election in the Autumn, with a destroyed lib Dem party, and a bankrupt Labour party. And with a first past the post newly gerrymander system he will win an overall majority on about 35% of the vote. The ultra brown shirt wing of the tory party is very useful to Cameron because it makes him look more reasonable. The more the David Davis and Normon Tebbit’s complain, the more Cameron likes it.

And we can thank IDIOT Clegg for all this. His naivety knows no bounds. He comes out against internships not realising that his own past would be dragged up. The man is a walking disaster.

Quoting the Institute of Fiscal Studies:

“During Margaret Thatcher’s premiership public spending grew in real terms by an average of 1.1% a year, while during John Major’s premiership it grew by an average of 2.4% a year.”
http://www.ifs.org.uk/bns/05ebn2.pdf

11. Flowerpower

“During Margaret Thatcher’s premiership public spending grew in real terms by an average of 1.1% a year, while during John Major’s premiership it grew by an average of 2.4% a year.”

… and during this Coalition government’s term it will contract by 3.7% from an artificially high peak created by fiscal stimulus in response to recession. Under Cameron, public spending will remain higher than it was under Blair’s Labour government.

12. Big Bills Left Tonsil

“”from an upper class clique””

Yes, because Labour did so much for working class English families and children!!

So much in schooling, housing, cultural identity and job security.
So bloody much!

Did anyone proof read or spell check this?!

> …from an upper class clique that even Clegg has access to.

> …nowe in charge.

> …as shorthand for even for socially elite than him.

> …in it together like us.

Apart from that, good commentary.

P.S. Pro tip: modern browsers have spell-checkers included. Firefox, Chrome or Opera.

@1: get armed for the struggle, beginning by shoving an overwhelming ‘Yes to AV’ up Cameron’s snooty nose.

I agree. We could start by spreading this graphic as widely as possible.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    What is Nick Clegg trying to say about Cameron? http://bit.ly/eLEt3S

  2. Liz K

    RT @libcon: What is Nick Clegg trying to say about Cameron? http://t.co/2giGfFA (& why we should/should we care?!)

  3. Ronaldinhio

    Nick Clegg about Cameron? His social strata prevents us "all being in this together" | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/dhDEdS3 via @libcon

  4. Christopher Ward

    RT @oneoflokis: RT @libcon: What is Nick Clegg trying to say about Cameron? http://t.co/2giGfFA (& why we should/should we care?!)

  5. Jane Phillips

    RT @libcon: What is Nick Clegg trying to say about Cameron? http://bit.ly/eLEt3S

  6. John Symons

    RT @libcon: What is Nick Clegg trying to say about Cameron? http://bit.ly/eLEt3S

  7. Daniel Pitt

    What is Nick Clegg trying to say about Cameron? http://bit.ly/eLEt3S #ConDemNation





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