Over on Liberal Democrat Voice, Caron Lindsay writes a very timely article entitled “The lessons we must learn from for Nick Clegg’s next holiday”. This refers mainly to the David Miranda and Guardian drive crunching news stories.
Beneath the post, Mark Pack comments:
…the party’s slowness isn’t just about the Home Office or when the DPM is on holiday. Too often the party is too slow to get its message out in the media and even slower to communicate properly with members.
I agree. Nick Clegg was totally not on holiday when thumb screws had to be applied to him over the course of several weeks (which included the plum communications opportunity of the Spring conference) before he begrudgingly issued anything approaching a cogent defence of the Commons parliamentary party’s agreement to secret courts.
The problem is that Nick Clegg is not a thoroughly instinctive liberal, like most of the party. He is generally a strong leader and a very good DPM. He can work himself up into a most convincing liberal lather when it suits him, but it does not come altogether naturally to him. This ripples down to the party’s communications behaviour. Meanwhile we get weekly (mostly) platitudes in his email letter to members.
The communications operation of the party is , and continues to be, often shambolic when it matters. The response to the Chris Rennard issue was typical. They had weeks of warning to prepare a “one shot” defence statement but instead made a complete horlicks of the whole thing, issued one position then changed position several days later. That is, of course, completely the opposite from what you should do in a PR crisis, after weeks of warning. A complete shambles.
But sadly, I don’t think Nick Clegg realises any of this. He has a tin ear where many matters considered important by the party membership are concerned. A sixth former could have issued a perfectly acceptable liberal statement on the Miranda and drive crunching issues by email within minutes of them surfacing. It has nothing to do with Nick Clegg being on holiday.