Midlands questions for Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg Image copyright PA
Image caption One of Nick Clegg's major challenges will be responding to the decline in Lib Dem support

What would you ask Nick Clegg if you had the chance to talk to him during the run-up to his party's main annual conference?

This is what I am asking myself at the moment because that's exactly what I will be doing later this week.

In advance of our four main parties' annual get-togethers, I will be talking to each of their leaders in turn about the challenges and issues that matter most to us in the Midlands.

And if you have something you would like me to ask Mr Clegg about an issue that concerns you, I'll do my best to bring it up with him.

Remember, this is our chance to talk about our part of the country, so try to steer clear of questions that could apply equally to anywhere else.

To help focus your thoughts here are some of the talking points which I think particularly apply to the West Midlands.

Regional pay

George Osborne's plans to vary public sector pay from one region to another have been generally opposed by most Liberal Democrats.

Doctors, nurses and civil servants would earn less in the Midlands than their counterparts in the South East.

Critics believe this would worsen the North-South divide but leading Conservatives say a 'one size fits all' approach would limit the number of public sector jobs that could be supported in lower cost areas.

They say it would militate directly against the relocation of public sector jobs in more deprived parts of the country.

It would also reduce the size of the public sector wage bill.


Nick Clegg said in a BBC interview recently that Birmingham Airport could become a major UK hub.

This will be among the options to be considered by the government's aviation inquiry headed by Sir Howard Davies.

Could this help take the Heathrow 'third runway' dilemma off the agenda altogether as well as giving our region a much-needed jobs boost?

But at what cost to the region's environment?

I'd like to hear your thoughts on air travel in the West Midlands.

Parliamentary boundaries

Mr Clegg has withdrawn his support for boundary changes which most observers think would benefit the Conservatives overall as the result of reducing the number of constituencies by 50 and ensuring they are all of broadly equal size.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Clegg said the coalition 'contract' had been broken on proposals for Lords Reform

Nick Clegg said the coalition 'contract' had been broken when a Conservative backbench revolt forced David Cameron to drop proposals for Lords Reform.

The issue had become an article of faith for many Liberal Democrats.

Local Conservatives said Lords Reform was never in the Coalition Agreement.

They say that the Conservatives had delivered on their side of the deal by having a referendum on the Alternative Voting system.

They claimed it was now Mr Clegg who was acting in bad faith by withdrawing his support for fairer constituencies.

Police Commissioners

The Liberal Democrats will be fielding candidates in just two of our region's five police force areas.

These are in the West Midlands and Gloucestershire.

This is widely taken to indicate Liberal Democrat indifference to one of the main elements of the coalition government's localism agenda.

Or is it because of the collapse of support for the Liberal Democrats?

Slipping behind?

The party's poll ratings are currently running at about half of what they were during the run-up to the 2010 election.

They are currently in danger of slipping behind UKIP into fourth place.

Image copyright AFB/GETTY
Image caption David Cameron and Nick Clegg

The West Midlands has long been electorally stony ground for the Liberal Democrats.

They have only three MPs in a region of over 60 constituencies.

The party also has just one of the region's seven MEPs.

Cheltenham is the only local authority they control outright.

The coalitions in which they served as junior partners in Birmingham and Newcastle-under-Lyme were emphatically defeated in last May's local elections.

Next year's council elections and the European elections a year after that will inevitably be interpreted as critical tests of his party's support and of his leadership.

Questions and answers

Has this triggered some questions of your own?

Go to the comments section below to let me know what you think and I'll do my best to raise it during this week's Sunday Politics West Midlands programme.

I will also be talking in the studio to:

  • Liberal Democrats' West Midlands Leader, John Hemming MP, Birmingham Yardley;
  • Gisela Stuart MP, Labour, Birmingham Edgbaston.

And of course you will also be able to watch that interview with the Deputy Prime Minister.

There will also be an interview with the UKIP leader Nigel Farage MEP, whose party conference is being held in Birmingham between Thursday, 20 September-Saturday, 22 September.

Join us in our regular, new, earlier slot from 11.00 on BBC One in the Midlands this Sunday morning - 23 September 2012.

The other good news it that the programme's 15 minutes longer too, but it won't feel like it!