'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Monday, 3 September 2012

Teflon Cable vs. Nick 'the bad new magnet' Clegg. Discuss

Teflon Tony they used to call him and with good reason. Nothing used to stick. A million people marched on the streets to stop him going into Iraq, the largest demonstration this country has ever seen. He ignored them and went in anyway. 2 years later he won another landslide general election. It's a rare and invaluable quality in a politician. Clinton had it too - that's why he called himself 'The Comeback Kid'.

Nick doesn't have it.

He has the opposite. He's a magnet for bad karma. 

Tuition fees: Nick Cleggs fault

Apparently it's Nick Clegg who has killed the NHS. Even though it was a Tory policy initiative and it was Lib Dems who turned it into something vaguely palatable/less bad (pays your money, takes your choice). And the NHS doesn't appear to be dead

Snooping will be next. A terrible illiberal Tory proposal will be neutered by the Lib Dems - and Nick Clegg will have it hung round his neck. 

And as for idea about 'owning' tax policy...,oh dear....

Now all this may or may not be terribly unfair. But it is perception - and in politics that quickly becomes fact.

Which is why Vince Cable would probably make a successful leader of the party. Because he does have that Teflon quality.

How many folk even in the party, let alone outside, blame Vince for the tuition fees debacle or even associate him with it particularly? Yet it was his policy, his decision - and I have even seen advice to him which suggested he naming it a graduate tax would save many issues, which he ignored. But Teflon like, he has got away with it.

Ditto on Murdoch. The Jeremy Hunt debacle still rumbles on months later - Vince was biased the other way, caught red handed - yet a few days later the matter is forgotten ( probably important to say I think Vince was on the side of the angels there).

This isn't a post saying 'Nick must go'. Apart from anything else, it's the wrong time in the electoral cycle to shift leader. Similarly this isn't a post saying 'Vince for leader'. although I would like to say once again 'Vince for chancellor'. We could do with some Teflon hands in No. 11 right now.

But I do think Nick is unfortunately a magnet for the wrong kind of news while Vince will let bad news slide off him.

And that's a quality the party needs to make the most of.


  1. But surely Vince would not be quite as popular if he were actually the leader. Nick is getting the blame because of his position.

    I'd bet you anything that Cable would not have 80% approval ratings in or outside the party within 3 months of becoming leader.

    As a party we need to develop a much better campaigns and messaging strategy. We are much better than 2 years ago, but still not quite sharp and good enough.

  2. I'm sure Vince wouldn't stay as popular in the party as leader. Tony Blair was never very popular in the Labour party of course. It's whether the politician can keep his popularity in the country.

    That probably also means dividing the country. The two most successful politicians in the the last 50 years 9in electoral terms) are Blair and Thatcher - who evoke wildly differing views for either side of the political spectrum.

    I think the campaigns and messaging thing is true - but i wonder how that will play in the country? After all, currently neither of the parties in government can get their policies through, and we spent 2 years saying tuition fees happened because we didn't win the election....

    There's about 5 blog posts in there...


  3. The difference between Vince and Nick's time in government can be summarised in facial expressions. Nick often looks like he's enjoying it, whereas Cable has seldom looked happy since the election. I think this, in part, explains some of his Teflon coating. Vince would remain a more popular leader than Clegg, simply because he wouldn't look as if he's enjoying it.

    The details/facts are fairly unimportant; nobody really cares whether Vince was to blame for tuition fees - what's important is how it's perceived at a cursory glance. That far zoomed out, all you can see is happy Clegg, destroying the fabric of society whilst holding hands with the Tories, and angry Vince, who looks like a frustrated old Granddad that could do it all better without that silly, shiny boy in the way.

    The upshot of this is if you get into bed with an opponent, don't look as if you're having a good time. If the campaigns/messaging strategy is better than it was 2 years ago, and we're now seemingly on a path to electoral oblivion, isn't that an exceedingly bad signifier and proof that there is no future with Clegg?

    I'm not suggesting that Cable is the only answer - merely that retaining Clegg is like Superman retaining Kryptonite boxer shorts, and a cast-iron way to ensure that Lib Dems have negligible say in how the country is run in the coming years.

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