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Paranoia of politics

Gavin Allen | 09:28 UK time, Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Such is the paranoia of politics. On Thursday we thought we'd been handed that rare Westminster gift: a gaffe on a platter (though in this case for platter read e-mail). Now I'm beginning to wonder.

politics_show_logo.jpgAhead of a Clegg-Huhne Lib Dem leadership debate at the weekend, a Huhne office researcher had helpfully sent us a briefing note on the policy differences between the two contenders. It was entitled "Calamity Clegg".

So much for positive politics and one party united for liberalism. Instead here was one camp united in bitterness against the other, openly lambasting them as a disaster, a flip-flop candidate who couldn't make his mind up one week to the next. Poor naive researcher, sure. And we felt for her. Briefly. But thank you God - this was too good an opportunity to miss.

Could we reasonably reveal the contents of the e-mail? You bet - it hadn't been sent as an off-the-record document and hadn't even been directly solicited. And it threw light on what one candidate's team really thought.

Maybe, mused our presenter Jon Sopel, we'd get Chris Huhne to apologise publicly on air for such a personal attack?

Chris Huhne and Nick CleggNot a bit of it. Instead Nick Clegg looked alternately surprised, aghast, irritated and finally insulted as Chris Huhne meticulously disassociated himself from the contents of the e-mail and then proceeded to lift attack phrases from it. (You can watch the debate here.)

And the daggers were still there in the green room afterwards - the potential stab in the back made all the easier by an apparent determination not to look at, let alone talk to, each other.

So, a thoroughly bad day for the Lib Dems? Perhaps. But winning is everything and I've been wondering if it was all a cunning plan and we were the stooges. Flick through the newspaper coverage yesterday - what's the phrase that sticks in the mind from every broadsheet and half the tabloids? Huhne apologetic? Huhne red-faced? Huhne humbled? Nope. Calamity Clegg. You might think that's as good as a free press release from the Huhne camp to the one in 1000 of you who'll be eligible to vote in the contest from this week.

I would ask the Lib Dem researcher - but either way I'm guessing she couldn't possibly comment.


  • 1.
  • At 10:37 AM on 20 Nov 2007,
  • Adam wrote:

There was a time when you could just about believe that the Lib Dems were above that sort of petty slanging matches that Labour and the Tories seem to love so much, or "Punch & Judy Politics" as I believe it's sometimes called.

I suspected that the Lib Dems were embracing the shameless way the other political parties operate when I saw the way they got rid of Kennedy. This latest episode just shows further that there really is no mainstream political party in the UK any more that's more interested in serious policy making than cheap political point-scoring.

What a shame.

  • 2.
  • At 11:13 AM on 20 Nov 2007,
  • Kendrick Curtis wrote:

It's a shame that you didn't enlighten the viewers as to the contents of the email, simply reading out the title. The document itself is really pretty mild stuff, and I think that you failed your audience by not pointing that out.

  • 3.
  • At 03:16 PM on 20 Nov 2007,
  • DaveH wrote:

I would expect nothing else from the likes of Chrios Huhne - a man, who makes great play of his "concern" for the environmant. I wrote to him some months ago wondering why on a day when he was on about "greeness", his (and unfortunately my) local LD councillor was backing a neighbour's ridiculous extension, which would gobble up much of his front garden. his answer? They gave the local parties complete autonomy - say on thing, do another. That's Huhne for you (and no doubt Clegg or any other LD).

An additional note to this (which simply adds to my nagging paranoia). Sopel has just e-mailed me a line from Ladbrokes, suggesting that Nick Clegg is still odds on favourite to become the next leader of the Liberal Democrats - but his odds are on the drift. And note the last line of this
statement from Ladbrokes spokesman Robin Hutchison: "Huhne still has a lot to do if the odds are to be believed, but as we saw with Davis and Cameron at the end of 2005 the tortoise can beat the hare. It hasn't been in the most dynamic of markets in truth, but what money we have seen since the weekend has been for Huhne after he stuck the boot in."

  • 5.
  • At 05:54 PM on 20 Nov 2007,
  • Bernard wrote:

Yes, you are spot on Gavin. You were the stooges.

It seems to me, Chris Huhne has been studying American political strategies.

This is classic Karl Rove tactics.

Chris Huhne should be ashamed of himself. Nick Clegg should punch him on the nose. The voters should vote for Clegg.

  • 6.
  • At 09:54 PM on 20 Nov 2007,
  • kempsy wrote:

I think someone needs to watch the West Wing as I think in the first or second series a very similar ploy was done as part of a campaign, using a video tape in this instance instead. It does look like you have been used as suckers to allow Chris Huhne to use nasty political insults while at the same time disavowing them. No doubt Nick Clegg is furious and I suspect not only at his opponent!

  • 7.
  • At 07:51 AM on 21 Nov 2007,
  • Clifford wrote:

'Gaffe' is a word only used by politicians. Sorry to see a reporter lacking the independence of thought to find an alternative.

  • 8.
  • At 03:27 PM on 22 Nov 2007,
  • Ray Lee wrote:

On the qustion of identity cards etc, the recent loss of discs shows yet again that identity is always at risk. Security systems are only as good as the people that use them. Which country has improved it's security for the individual by introducing identity cards? How does possessing DNA, which belongs to the individual- and obtained perhaps against their legitimate wishes, secure safety for the individual? Democracies should constantly be looking for ways to free the individual from contraints of the State, not the opposite. It might make Police etc jobs easier (and I am an ex police officer) but that is not the priority for the Public at large.


Ray Lee

  • 9.
  • At 09:33 PM on 22 Nov 2007,
  • John Fortune wrote:

The UK has no respect for personal privacy.Online,offline,emails,parcels,whatever,The Government simply believes in social engineering-the accumulation of all data relating to peoples' lives for the purpose of social engineering determined by them.The taxation regime is a typical example, as are the laws on DNA testing , Surveillance , etc. We in England live in a totalitarian society with 60 million told what to do on every subject and action from the bedroom to the pub by less than 400. There is no real freedom of speech, no real free enterprise ,and any money individuals earn or save is deemed by the state to be owned by the state.

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