Tuesday, 13 November 2007

If Cameron is Clegg lite...?

The comment that “Cameron is Clegg lite” troubles me a lot, especially because Nick Clegg said it himself.
Lite is a low-calorie, slimmer, weaker, more dilute, more basic, version of the original. The converse of lite is heavy, full strength, even “classic”. If Cameron is “Clegg lite”, what is the full-strength version?
With Nick Clegg, if you turn the sound off, you see someone who looks like Cameron, without a doubt. The similarities of age and physical characteristics between the two men are not something Nick Clegg can do anything about; but I wish he would give the way he dresses and his hairstyle a makeover, to make himself more distinct from Cameron. It would be a miscalculation to think that being easily mistaken for Cameron was an electoral asset. After all, Sir Winston Churchill deliberately cultivated an unmistakeable appearance; being short and bald didn’t matter at all.
More importantly than appearance, if you close your eyes, what do you hear? In January 2006 Matthew D’Ancona wrote in the Telegraph, apparently quoting from Nick Clegg: “He does not think that "clobbering middle England is the solution to our problems either economically or politically"”. D’Ancona added: “In an interview last September - long before Mr Cameron had said he would never endorse an insurance-based health service - Mr Clegg was warning that "it would be really, really daft to rule out any model from Europe or elsewhere" and that "breaking up the NHS is exactly what you do need to do"”. The implication that Clegg talked like Cameron was clear.
The Telegraph perceives Nick Clegg as like Cameron. In May 2007 the Telegraph comments page said that Clegg was: “a free marketeer with a commitment to localism. The Left-wing activists distrust him, but that perhaps is no bad thing.”
Last month, again in the Telegraph, Simon Heffer wrote: “Mr Clegg is felt to be more of a "Tory" than Mr Huhne. This is not just because he once worked for Leon Brittan, but because his belief in traditional liberal values of the sort adopted by Margaret Thatcher in her economic programme is thought to be rather strong.”
In January 2006 Nick Clegg told the Daily Telegraph that “slightly callow packaging and re-packaging” had been “the hallmark of David Cameron's leadership of the Conservatives” and that Cameron had been engaged in “rather hollow, presentational manoeuvres”. Absolutely; but if Clegg wins the leadership election, I hope his own style of leadership will not just be a heavier-gauge version of that.


Paul Tyler said...

I really worry about Lib Dems who rely on the Daily Teluhalf for their information about their party colleagues

Ed said...

Jo, I think you may be over analysing a neat bit of counter positioning. A bit like me suggesting you are saying the answer to our problems DOES lie with clobbering middle England. Which I'm sure you are not. Are you???

Barrie Wood said...

Hmmm ...our Tory PPC here in Torbay describes Clegg as 'Cameron Lite' - an oxymoron if there ever was one ! But he DOES come across in a spun, calculating fashion ala Blair and Cameron. Who needs more of the same ?

Barrie Wood said...

Hmmm ...our Tory PPC here in Torbay describes Clegg as 'Cameron Lite' - an oxymoron if there ever was one ! But he DOES come across in a spun, calculating fashion ala Blair and Cameron. Who needs more of the same ?

Jo Hayes said...

The Telegraph is a reputable paper with quite a big readership and unlikely to have misquoted Nick Clegg. If you prefer, I could quote The Times: "With the face of a choirboy and the instincts of a fox, Clegg ticks all the boxes in an era when image is everything." That sounds to me like Cameron.
I go on evidence, and what Clegg said about himself is evidence. It is an admission - perhaps unintentional - that he sees himself as on the same continuum as Cameron. I'm afraid I am allergic to counter positioning. To me politics is about getting things done, and I want to know how a Clegg programme would differ in its essentials from a Cameron one. The progressive majority of the electorate will not be attracted by a Lib Dem programme that blurs into that of the Tories.

Tristan said...

What I read into that comment on policy is that some Tories are really liberals...

Thatcher stole some of our creed, but left the rest behind. The Tories since WWII have had elements of liberalism (Churchill anyone? He also wanted the Conservatives and Liberals to merge, and several Liberal seats were held thanks to packs with the Tories).

Thatcher made some of this more explicit, but also ignored many other parts.

If some Tories feel comfortable with Clegg because he's a liberal, then they are. There's large sections of the Tories which won't, because they're not.

Clegg (and Huhne for that matter) are nothing like Cameron in one important way, they have a commitment to liberalism and policies, not some vague 'niceness' and hand waving.