Excuse me for not being wildly chuffed to wake up after 16 hours in bed feeling sick, sore and sorry for myself to see the Guardian telling the world that Nick Clegg has picked the team who will prepare for potential Coalition negotiations ahead of next year’s General Election. As an aside, the description of Chris Huhne as having been on the social democrat wing of the party is hilarious. He spun himself that way, but in reality was more right wing than Clegg in my view.
Now, it is A Very Good Idea to do this. The preparations put in ahead of 2010 stood us in very good stead. We need to work out a decent strategy – although that does need to be done in conjunction with the rest of the party. Not in public, but there’s a place for much more co-ordination than there was last time. For example, if we were going to give way on one of our key pledges, it might have been a good idea not to have made such a huge thing about it during the election campaign.
And I’m pretty impressed with the team. It’s much more balanced than the all male team that went in last time. Having Lynne Featherstone and Steve Webb in there makes me very happy. I think it’s lacking someone from the North of England, though, and someone with local government experience. Both of those could be sorted immediately by adding someone like Kath Pinnock and Suzanne Fletcher. That local government perspective is very important because there will be experience there of managing complex coalition negotiations and you need someone who understands the interactions between central and local government.
The point, though, is that as a member of the party’s Federal Executive, I knew nothing about this before I saw it on the Guardian website. Nick has made more of an effort in recent months to work on his relationship with the party and its activists, but he does need to be more aware of the little courtesies that are required. This should have been run at the very least by FE before the press found out. I’m even hearing murmuring from within the Bubble that this came as a bit of a surprise when they heard about it last night.
Coming a few days after party activists were dismissively described as “sandal wearers” by someone inside the Westminster Bubble, this undermines the positive work that he’s been doing a bit.
This could easily have waited until the next meeting of FE on 7 April. The key people could even have been consulted at Conference which is only 3 days away.
This is a perfectly sensible move, but a bit more effort needs to go in to remembering that the party exists and that there are some people who really should be consulted about stuff.