David Laws is not the only one who has struck a blow to Nick Clegg’s ‘new politics’ – his Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone, is also struggling to fully grasp the ‘new politics’ nettle. Read on…
This idea – that Clegg is heralding a new dawn, entirely different from what went before – has always sounded over-blown. I’m a big fan of the idea that you should keep expectations in check and then busy yourself to beat them: it’s better, particularly in politics, to under-promise and over-deliver.
The problem with Clegg is that he has done precisely the reverse. With a complete inability to self-deprecate, Clegg has built himself a plinth, adorned it with a shiny plaque which reads ‘new politics’ and placed himself on top for all to see (Clegg, remember, has claimed to be bringing about political reforms not seen since the Great Reform Act – of 1832!).
This leaves him with a long way to fall and, I’m not too sorry to say, Lynne Featherstone is helping to topple Clegg from his rhetorical heights. This may be inadvertent or something more mysterious – Featherstone ran Chris Huhne’s leadership campaign so is no fan of Clegg. During the election campaign, her website barely mentioned him and, instead, was full of Cable-adoration (right up until – you guessed it – Clegg did well in the first leaders debate and then he was all over the Feather-web).
Speaking of her website, it’s well worth a look. It’s very glitzy and slick; cool links to social media and pictures of Lynne looking sultry and incredibly popular. But it’s also fascinating for the almost complete absence of intellectual thought or insight.
This is the woman who announced her Ministerial appointment and then celebrated by, wait for it, having a bath! What was her thought process? ‘Wow, great call from No.10, Dave seems so nice, how exciting, equality – phew – big challenges ahead, what first, I know, where’s the Radox?’ I wonder what would she have done if she’d got a Cabinet job? Gone for a swim?
On the big issues, she can come up short. Her post on proposals for anonymity in rape cases runs to little over 150 words, doesn’t make much sense and contains the phrase ‘tip of the rape iceberg’. It has since triggered an incredibly interesting fertile debate on her website to which she has contributed – (pause to double-check her website) – nothing. You would think the Equalities Minister would have a bit more to say, wouldn’t you? I know she’s busy running the country, but she managed to squeeze in some time to post a message about bats. Yes, bats.
On special needs in schools – she chucks up a post to say how wondrous, fantastic and gorgeous the children are – but backs away from any kind of explanation of how her Government’s policy may, or may not, impact on said children.
I’ve saved the best until last. Coming back to Clegg and his new politics, Lynne starts off bang-on message – I quote:
“For me – the way politics is conducted with jeering and negative point scoring – has always seemed an odd showcase to the world if we want to look like grown ups making and taking grown up decisions”
Excellent, Clegg-ian stuff! She carries on in the same vein:
“In this brave new world – I was/am hoping that perhaps the conduct and manner of politics can keep up with the change.”
New politics indeed! It’s going to be great isn’t it? Civilised, mature, reasoned.
Well, maybe for a whole 12 hours.
Now, you need to know her next post was not weeks after the last one, perhaps when the glow of new politics had faded or following unforeseen events which forced a change of mind. No, her follow-up post was the next morning. She went to bed on May 25th full of the joys of the new, woke up, and immediately posted this:
“I love it!”
Love what, Lynne? An exciting new equalities-type policy that will make a difference to millions of disadvantaged people? Not quite.
The Lib Dems had won a few seats in a local Council by-election (by the way – this didn’t actually take place in Lynne’s constituency. Nor did it alter the overall control of the Council).
Well done to them, I say, but is there no place for grace in the new politics? Or perhaps, dare I ask, some kind of analysis of why people voted Lib-Dem, what were the messages and ideas that won them over?
Nope – with another delicate turn of phrase – Lynne’s derides her opponents: they had been “crowing” and had “bombed” she says. Beautifully put. And that’s about it from Lynne.
If this is the new politics, give me the old one back!