Lib Dem diary: Have we got our Nick Clegg back?

Charlotte Henry: 'Nick Clegg - the liberal–to-his-fingertips leader I'd pounded streets, knocked on doors, and been criticised on TV for - reappeared.'
Charlotte Henry: 'Nick Clegg - the liberal–to-his-fingertips leader I'd pounded streets, knocked on doors, and been criticised on TV for - reappeared.'

All week I'd been gearing up for more disappointment. After the introduction of secret courts and Leveson laws I was wondering where the liberal (and indeed in the democrat,) had gone in the Liberal Democrats.

Then something happened. Nick Clegg, the liberal–to-his-fingertips leader I'd pounded streets, knocked on doors, and been criticised on TV for, reappeared.

Live on his Call Clegg phone-in on LBC radio this morning, the deputy prime minister declared the snoopers charter was not going to happen while the Liberal Democrats were in government. It marks the second time Clegg has killed such a bill.

According to a Lib Dem source, the Tories knew the bill was not gong to go through, and that a discussion to that effect had taken place between Nick Clegg and David Cameron.


What they didn't know was that he was gong to doing to do it live on radio, a week before the local elections.  As my source put it: "I don't believe we have to clear our media strategy with them."

Apparently Lib Dems considered the bill so bad, so irredeemably illiberal, that it was decided it could not be sorted by tweaking and Clegg wielded his veto.

The move is not just brave for the manner in which it was done, but also the context. Stopping supposed anti-terror measures on the principle of being illiberal, days after the terrible attacks in Boston, is seriously gutsy.

Theresa May and David Cameron listened intently and nodded while the securocrats whispered in their ear, but Clegg saw how disproportionate, how illiberal, how misguided it was.

It's almost like we've got our Nick Clegg back again - the one who has led parliamentary walk-outs, who told Cameron and Brown that "the more they argue, the more they sound the same" and offered something different in 2010.

Clegg's act of defiance might not win many votes directly, but it will give activists a  huge spring in their step as they plough through Tory shires, fighting to win county council seats in next week's local elections. 

It's a reminder of the principles that Lib Dems are really fighting for.

That's not to say it's all been plain sailing. One conference call between Internet savvy campaigners and Clegg SpAds trying to defend the original proposals will remain infamous in the party, but we got to the right point in the end.

Have no doubt, that the Conservatives or Labour left in power unchecked by Liberal Democrats would have rammed this bill through. After a difficult few months, it's nice to agree with Nick again.

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