Nick Clegg radio phone-in as-it-happened

Ian Dunt By

08:49 - Don't worry, we won't be doing this every week, but for our glorious deputy leader's first radio phone-in on LBC, we thought we'd cover all the anger and bitterness in a live blog. Kick off is at 09:00 GMT.

08:55 - This is quite the coup for LBC, which is making a considerable amount of noise about how historic an event it is. The radio station is a very impressive little upstart. It has built a solid reputation and easy access to senior political figures in a short period of time. (Full disclosure: I often act as a pundit on LBC).

08:58 - There is a problem with using LBC however. Firstly, it boosts that sense of Westminster types being London-centric, and it has a generally right wing audience, meaning there will be lots of angry cabbies shouting at Clegg about immigration and crime. Anyway, one minute until Clegg faces the voters.

09:00 - Call Clegg. Christ save us. Here we go.

09:02 - Nick Ferrari, the host does the introductions. First he asks which Tory politicians he admires. Clegg scoffs. He says he admires anyone from any party who is willing to take difficult choices. "There are plenty of people I admire but don't particularly like." That's a nice line, good start from Clegg. He says he would go for a drink with ken Clarke if he had to go for a drink with any Tory.

09:05 - The first caller is disarmingly polite. She tells Clegg it's commendable to appear on radio to answer questions. This couldn't go well, could it? Surely not. Clegg comes across well though: human, reasonable, polite, unpatronising (not sure that's a word, try not to think about it).

09:06 - On child benefit, Clegg makes a difficult point as best he can. "I respect your sentiments but I don't think it's fair," the listener says.

09:08 - Next up is John in Surrey, who also sounds depressingly reasonable. He says he's a Liberal Democrat who joined in '73 and has torn up his membership card. This is great stuff. "Have you got your membership card with you?" he asks. The man reads out the lines on the card about no-one being "enslaved by poverty". He adds: "How do you reconcile that with this government's attacks?" Clegg: "You say you're ashamed, but I'm actually immensely proud."

09:11 - Clegg, somewhat unconvincingly lists policies for lower earners. "John doesn't want clichés, and he doesn't want slogans, he wants to know what we've actually done. At least grant us the credit for doing these very big things which will help." John replies: "It's all very well saying all that. On tax threshold, that's great giving everyone a reduction in tax, but benefit cuts have taken away double." Clegg questions that and Ferrari allows him to but in. Ferrari might just be giving Clegg a bit too much leeway here.

09:13 - Clegg is a professional politician and he is being given the opportunity to get out all his points. He dominates the conversation. John is asked who he will support instead of the Lib Dems. He says he can't support anyone right now.

09:15 - Short advert break. Us lot who basically only listen to Radio 4 find these things confusing and upsetting. So far it's been very easy for Clegg, although he is holding himself well. Ferrari is making sure this does not turn into him being put in the village stocks, although the balance may not be quite right yet. As a professional politician, it's easier for Clegg to dominate the conversation. Nevertheless, the quality of the debate is higher than expected due to a judicious choice of callers

09:17 - Lauren is the next caller. She says in 2010 Clegg praised his manifesto. Now tuition fees and the educational maintenance allowance have been U-turned on. He supports his policies and says they are not "tokenistic". For the first time he seems irritated. He needed to be much more sympathetic than that - he gets the tone wrong.

09:19 - Clegg insists tuition fees are basically a progressive graduate tax. Ferrari ensures Lauren gets to talk again. She expands from university fees to issues like the benefit cap, Sure Start and the EMA to show how the coalition stifles people's chances. "I don't accept that a system which means students don't need to pay upfront is as discouraging as you say," Clegg says.

09:21 - Clegg did use the word 'squillionaire' by the way, which made me slightly queasy. How much does he regret making the tuition pledge? Ferrari asks. "I won't start singing on your programme but I've apologised as fully and candidly as I could. It is certainly one of the biggest regrets that we made a commitment we were unlikely to be able to deliver," he says.

09:23 - Clegg is asked about Obama's comments that the UK is more valuable to America while in the EU. He says "you've got to be strong in your neck of the woods". Clegg says Cameron will be speaking as "Conservative party leader" when he delivers his EU speech.

09:25 - Sara is the next caller. She's a military wife in her late twenties. She asks about cuts to defence, I think, but the line is problematic. She asks about support for couples who are being forced to leave jobs in the armed forces. Clegg struggles with this a bit. He says they want overwhelming majority of redundancies to be voluntary.

09:27 - Why is his party so unpopular? Clegg is asked. He says joining coalition was always going to be "monumentally controversial". He adds: "We've come into government at a time of..." You know where he's going with that. "People, perhaps not with bunting and wild-eyes enthusiasm, recognise what we're doing," he insists.

09:29 – The next callers asks why is there so much foreign aid, given the cuts. "It's not just the moral thing to do, it's in our own interests," Clegg says. He suggests it stems extremism and immigration.

09:30 - Next he's asked if he ever wore a onsie. "I was actually given a big green onsie in Sheffield which I possess in its packaging. I own one but I haven't worn it. It'll be something I do in the privacy of my home," he jokes.

09:32 - From the Lib Dem point of view that went about as well as could have been expected. Callers were broadly polite and reasonable, no-one told him he should be burnt at the stake. He generally came across well - he is adept at these things, although his anger can get the better of him. His worst point came with the student caller, where he allowed irritation to come across. From his perspective it's probably the frustration of not getting a fair hearing, but to voters it sounds superior.

09:35 - The Clegg masochism strategy may not pay off but you have to credit him with being willing to engage in it. I suppose a man with his back to the wall will try anything.

09:41 - LBC did well here. Ferrari is a host who is happy to interrupt frequently and he was determined to give Clegg enough room to speak, without it turning into a shouting match. The station made sure there were no foaming-at-the-mouth ranters allowed on, but they made space for smart, reasonable people to make some pretty damning criticism. It wasn't kid gloves stuff. Both the station and Clegg will be giving themselves a pat on the back. I very much won't be back live blogging this next week, but I wouldn't be surprised if a few stories emerge from this fixture in the months to come.

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