Thursday, 3 June 2010

What does the Deputy Prime Minister do? Nick Clegg's new responsibilities

As a result of the formation of the coalition Government, a number of responsibilities will be transferred from the Secretary of State for Justice to the Deputy Prime Minister.

Nick Clegg has already been given special responsibility for political and constitutional reform; now Prime Minister David Cameron has listed the powers which will help Clegg bring this into effect:

Lembit Öpik's standup debut - a star is (re)born?

"Thanks to 13,976 Tory voters for kick-starting a career I didn't even know I wanted."

-Former Lib Dem MP Lembit Öpik performed his first standup comedy gig last night, winning plaudits for his delivery, if not his jokes.

Julian Hall of the Independent gave him two stars:

There was a kind of bittersweet irony that, on the day of the first Prime Minister's Question Time of the coalition government, the former Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik was performing an open-spot stand-up gig in a tiny basement comedy club. Opik, it could be argued, has performed comedy in a niche environment on both sides of the election.

Formerly engaged to one of the pop duo The Cheeky Girls, and one of the more flamboyant MPs of the last parliament, Opik's celebrity lifestyle seemed to have caught up with him last month when he lost one of the Liberal Democrat's safest seats, Montgomeryshire.

Not a man to be deterred – he once cheated death after a paragliding accident – Opik wasted little time in arranging this stand-up spot after the election, though the brouhaha that has surrounded it suggests it is a conduit to further celebrity activity rather than a career in comedy.

The Guardian's Paul Fleckney gives a good account of Lembit's act, which featured shoe ventriloquy, self deprecation and celebrity hecklers. He summarises:

Behind Opik's Liberal Democrat rosette (which he wore on stage, presumably in self-mocking reference to his disastrous election night) you could sense confidence, lucidity, composure, sharpness. His set had structure. All of this gives him two years on other novice comedians. One gag about becoming mayor of London, which gently ribbed Boris Johnson, and another about being ignored in a lift by Nick Clegg, were nicely delivered.

You can also listen to Lembit's introduction, with Labour MP Stephen Pound and arts editor Will Gompertz's verdict at the BBC Radio 4 website.

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Outstanding service to the Lib Dems: your nominations, please

The Liberal Democrats are seeking nominations for their two party awards, to be presented at September's Autumn Conference.

One award will be given to a party member who has been elected to public office; the other to a member who has never been elected.

David Laws speaks frankly about privacy, acceptance and low Lib Dem pay

David Laws has spoken of his relief now that his sexuality has been revealed, and explains his motivation was privacy rather than profit.

From the Daily Mail:

We were conscious this was a much more expensive way of managing our lives than if we had just been honest about our relationship, because if we had, we could have claimed a significantly greater amount of money than we did.

We would often say to ourselves ‘this is ridiculous’, as a consequence of having this bizarre private life, we are costing ourselves far more than if we had just been honest about things.

To me in particular it seemed that was a price worth paying to protect our privacy.

To me, what is really important for people to understand is that none of the things that we did were done to make financial gain. They were done to protect our privacy.

I guess it was pretty stupid really, because all of the people I have spoken to since have accepted it without hesitation: my parents, family and friends. Not being honest with them has meant a huge price over recent years.

David Laws also said that he used the money from his City career to fund his political one:

Vince Cable tops popularity poll; Clegg ahead of Cameron

A nationwide survey by PoliticsHome shows that Vince Cable, Business Secretary and outgoing Lib Dem deputy leader, has a higher approval rating from the public than David Cameron.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg enjoys a clear popularity gap ahead of the Prime Minister, holding an approval rating of 17, compared to David Cameron's rating of 11.

While the two men both attract the approval of 39% of the public, fewer disapprove of Mr Clegg (22%) than Mr Cameron (28%).

From the Guardian:

The strong rating for Cable will hearten his fans, who were concerned when he announced last week his resignation as Lib Dem deputy leader. Cable said this was designed to allow him to devote more time to his ministerial duties.

There has been speculation that Cable, a former Labour member, is the least comfortable of the five Lib Dem cabinet ministers. But he did speak up in favour of the Lib-Con coalition at the crucial Lib Dem parliamentary meeting on the grounds that a Lib-Lab coalition, while politically preferable, was not viable. The poll by PoliticsHome can only strengthen his position within the coalition.

Read the full results here.

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Deputy leadership contest: Hughes "backed by more than 50% of Lib Dem MPs"

Nominations closed at 5pm yesterday for the Deputy Leadership of the Liberal Democrats, and it's going to be a contest between Tim Farron and Simon Hughes. Already the Independent is calling it for Simon:

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat left-winger, was on course last night to become the party's deputy leader.

The former party president is understood to have secured the backing of more than half of its 57 MPs. Although he voted in favour of forming a power-sharing deal with the Conservatives, he is likely to prove a thorn in Nick Clegg's side.

Following the close of nominations, he will be standing against Tim Farron, the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, who is thought to have the support of some 15 MPs.

Simon Hughes said,

The months ahead are a huge opportunity for our party. We must make sure that the skills and ability of every single Liberal Democrat MP is used to the full.

Now the Liberal Democrats form part of the coalition Government, the role of the deputy leader will change, but it will also be extremely important as a voice that is unashamedly partisan but unflinchingly loyal. It is vital the independence, radicalism and distinctiveness of the Liberal Democrats are maintained.

Hustings will be held next Wednesday, 9th June, at the Parliamentary Party meeting. The ballot will be held at the end of the meeting, and the result declared immediately afterwards.

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Nick Clegg – working partner; working parent

The Independent today features a relationship-focused interview with Nick Clegg. It looks mainly at two areas for balance: work/family and his working partnership with David Cameron:

Mr Clegg... insists he is determined to keep family life and government work as separate as humanly possible.

In this aim he has found an ally in the Prime Minister, who is also the father of small children. Both agreed to change the timing of a cabinet meeting to fit in with the school run. "I try - I haven't entirely succeeded yet - as much as I can to take the kids to school," he says before adding: "To walk them to school."

"In a sense I'm very lucky because David Cameron has young children. We agreed the other day we were going to slightly delay the start of the cabinet meeting to allow us both to take our children to school, which is a reflection - if any was needed - of the fact that we are both of the same generation in this new politics." He adds that he is "very rigid in saying 'no' to endless dinner invitations, to try to make sure I'm back home regularly to put the kids to bed".

And like so many working parents who have to do the odd bit of catching up once those kids are in bed, Nick, we learn, was on the phone to Danny Alexander at midnight on Sunday, following the weekend's dramatic events.

On communicating with David Cameron, his "partner in government":

We speak every day, if not several times a day - it's a very strong working partnership. We have each other's mobiles, BlackBerries, emails.

We work quickly - we are able to arrive at difficult decisions quickly. We understand the constraints we are both working under and we're very pragmatic and workmanlike about the fact our partnership is absolutely essential in making sure the coalition works.

Nick Clegg won't get any questions at the first Prime Minister's Questions of the new Parliament later today, but he refers to the "architectural antagonism of the chamber" and the "yah-boo across the despatch box."

However, he insists:

I am very keen the Liberal Democrat voice should continue to be heard in Parliament and it will be.

Just how this will be achieved isn't quite yet understood, but many of us are already watching to see what kind of start is made in this new partnership in government.

Read the full interview here.

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.