Coffee House

Whitehall is falling in on Nick Clegg

13 May 2014

2:00 PM

13 May 2014

2:00 PM

The Cold War that everyone in Westminster thought would never kick off is well and truly under way. Time was when ministers and advisers imagined that the letters and internal briefing documents detailing the dirty laundry of this government would stay firmly locked in Whitehall desks. But in the past few weeks, the leaks have increased, and they seem to be spreading around the village. Nick Clegg was confronted with the latest on the World at One this afternoon: a document showing that the Cabinet Office has given the Deputy Prime Minister’s favourite free school meals policy a red rating, meaning it is at risk of failing.

Clegg tried to fight back, arguing that it was fully funded and that the proof of the pudding would be in the eating (he seemed curiously keen on food-related idiom today, including the ‘meat and potatoes’ of the Treaty of Rome, the ‘motherhood and apple pie’ in David Cameron’s EU policy, and ‘entrails’ emerging from Whitehall departments). But he also expressed his frustration at the leaks, arguing that it was a serious matter that correspondence like this was making its way into the public domain. He said:

‘It is quite normal in Whitehall for people to constantly review the state of readiness of a policy, but let’s just be really clear, it is now mid-May, this is going to happen in September, it will happen in September, it is fully-funded, we’ve even gone further than that, we’ve legislated for it to make sure it is really there to stay.’


He added that when the scheme begins in September, the ‘onus will be on people who are spending all of their time at the moment seeking to denigrate a policy which is shown to have educational benefits, social benefits as children have lunch together, and to have…’

The problem for the Deputy Prime Minister is that these leaks will keep coming, and it’s not just on free school meals, of course, where the hostility is mounting. At Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions, he was pressed by Mel Stride on his chairmanship of the Home Affairs Committee (more on that here) and by Nick de Bois on his refusal to support reform of sentencing for repeat knife offences.

Rachel Sylvester reports in her column this morning (£) that Clegg suspects that Michael Gove is the source of this leak, when it is a Ministry of Justice policy and has nothing to do with the Education Secretary. This does make Clegg look even more paranoid than Norman Baker, but it also goes some way to explaining why Clegg is bothering to fight so hard on this issue, as he considers it vital to maintain his defences against what he sees as the Gove camp. He told the programme:

‘I don’t know why people are foolish enough, or childish enough, to leak Cabinet correspondence like this, it’s a very serious issue to hand over Cabinet correspondence in the way that occurred.’

But the longer he fights on this issue, the more of Whitehall will fall in on him, with leaks coming not just from the Education department, but the Ministry of Justice and the Cabinet Office. There are various theories about what this means for the coalition, but one thing is clear: it’s not going to get any easier.

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Show comments
  • pobinr

    I can’t make produce or design anything. I can’t mend anything either because I stayed in the classroom for another 3 years after school & studied something as useless as Social Anthropology. Fortunately I live in an area where English is still the main language spoken as there’s not too many immigrants so fortunately my children won’t wind up in a classroom full of translators. So there’s was no need for me to send them to a private school.

    I have no practical experience at doing anything of any use & have no real grasp of what reality is like for real people as I am a plastic person. But I can talk & I enjoyed talking on the Euro gravy train for 5 years & my wife makes a fortune out of the EU.
    So I am what is known as a ‘Career Politician’
    Just about the most disingenuous form of life on the planet.

    So you see I preach the EU to everyone so that when I finally get my just deserts I’ll have the Euro gravy train to return to.
    I make sweeping statements that are not backed up by substance or facts;
    ‘We will be the lonely man of Europe ‘
    ‘We’ll be johnny no mates or even Johnny no Jobs Britain if we leave the EU’
    ‘Euro sceptics are racists & xenophobes’
    Being in the EU protects our jobs’
    [what by millions coming here taking jobs on ever lower & lower pay]
    Unlike people like Nigel Farage who actually have intellects & who discuss the facts in detail

    I talk in clichés;

    We’ll build a bridge to the 21st century.
    We’ll grow the economy.
    We’re going to reform government.
    We’ll reach across party lines.
    We’re here to serve the people.
    We’ll fight for working families.
    We’ll empower people.We’ll leave no child behind.
    We must put children first.
    Our children’s future is at stake.
    We have to look to the future.
    Together, we’ll build our future.
    We are focused & engaged
    We have a road map built on a raft of measures

    I waive my arms around as if I’ve been to the B.Liar school of how to patronise people with body language >
    I spout left wing junk whilst loving my upper middle class lifestyle. The millions of East Europeans coming here because of the EU that I love so much, don’t bother me too much because I live in a nice middle class suburb where none of them live.
    So unlike most of the rest of you plebs, I don’t have to feel as if I live in Poland every time I go out my front door. Besides they’re never going to put me out of a job by undercutting me on work by living in 4 to a bed sit they can afford undercut British tradesmen who have mortgages to pay.
    The more of England we concrete over & build on as homes for immigrants the richer we become. You see it It creates more & more jobs.
    More & more wealth for you & me & our children. But not built near me please.
    And the more immigrants that come here taking our jobs the more we protect our jobs.

    Being a EUrophile is almost like a religion because without even understanding my own reasons why, I’m happy to see UK taxpayers who are barely able to pay their energy & food bills, being forced to give £17 billion a year to the EU for unelected Eurocrats to throw at whatever takes their fancy.
    Even though we don’t even have enough money to fund our own police, hospitals & schools properly & pensioners who’ve paid taxes & national insurance for 45 years barely exist on their pension.

    Yours sincerely (and I want you to know that I really really do mean that most sincerely)

    Nick Clegg

  • Sentinel

    “Clegg suspects that Michael Gove is the source of this leak, when it is a Ministry of Justice policy and has nothing to do with the Education Secretary. This does make Clegg look even more paranoid than […]”

    Wouldn’t the MoJ policy docs be circulated to other ministerial departments (red boxes, collective responsibility and all that)?

    And didn’t Gove used to be a journalist?

  • thomasaikenhead

    …he seemed curiously keen on food-related idiom today…

    Did he have anything to say about the halal/kosher religious slaughter secrecy and cruelty issues?

  • Mrs Josephine Hyde-Hartley

    Instead of leaking everything.. why not use the “raising a concerns policy” as a suitable repository for proper public perusal? This might seem clumsy and awkward but anyone could easily go and raise a concern with their M.P. who of course must respect the position of an ordinary member of the general public ( with or without a contract). I understand all such stuff gets shredded at the end of a Parliamentary term anyway.

  • MirthaTidville

    Just goes to show that the Dim Lubs are truely ideas more no less..As soon as Cleggie starts to play with the big misters he falls flat on his face.Not fit for Government and never will be

  • swatnan

    Its all orchestrated to give journalists something to write home about.
    There must be a Ministry of Propoganda at the heart of Whhitehall which Clegg and Cameron are not telling us about.

  • CharlietheChump

    Early election! (rubbing hands)

    • Tony Quintus

      Not possible without a vote of no confidence or failure to pass a budget

  • Smithersjones2013

    And who was it who was regularly briefing on the 2011 budget negtiations and so forth. What goes around comes around. Suck it up Libdems……

    PS Anyway what does he expect when he is (justifiably) ridiculing Cameron’s repatriation of powers delusions…..?

  • Denis_Cooper

    Just heard about a local school where the children have been informed by their RE teacher that UKIP is a very bad party.

    I wonder if Clegg has any view on pro-EU political indoctrination in our schools, which I understood to be unlawful:

    Not that this would ever deter the eurofanatics, who believe they are above the law.

  • Grey Wolf

    Non news!
    The only news-worthy development would be Clegg getting kicked out of Lib Dem leadership.

  • BigAl

    All you have to say is ‘boundary changes’.

    • telemachus

      One of his triumphs

  • Hello

    “this is going to happen in September, it will happen in September, it is fully-funded”

    No, Nick, it isn’t. Maybe he needs to sit down with Vince and have a chat about what a “deficit” is.

  • Andy

    Dominic Cummings said all that was needed to be said about the ghastly Clegg. He is a sh*t of the first order and the sooner he leaves public life the better.

  • Jez

    As Clegg trundles off into the annals of Political oblivion (or the European Parliament as other people put it)…. . “and so, the end is near. And so i face the final curtain….”

    • Frank

      No he is more likely to be “encouraged” to go by an offer of a Commissionership (if we are still in the EU).
      My view is that if that happens (ie Clegg being offered any EU stipend), Whitehall and its denizens may well find the ordure being flung at close personal range by very large numbers of outraged Brits. Something that is probably way over-due.

  • HookesLaw

    Clegg and the LDs have been regularly trying to undermine the coalition to their political benefit. It has not worked. And on top of thaty they are now being leaked againsts. No surprise.
    I believe they have made a mistake in continuing to try to be all things to all people even in govt. Great political parties are themselves coalitions and in a real coalition in govt there is no shame in having to pursue or support a polkicy which would not be your own. If they had been more positve then they would have retained more support.

    • southerner

      “If they had been more positve then they would have retained more support.”
      Well, they’d have had the support of you socialist Camerloons no doubt. You can’t speak for the rest of us. Always confusing opinion with fact as usual.

  • William Haworth

    They do hate him, don’t they? Who says Parliament doesn’t represent the people?

    • telemachus

      Clegg needs to be punished for giving legitimacy to Racist Farage in the debates

      • MirthaTidville

        yawn yawn

      • Inverted Meniscus

        Libellous tripe.

        • telemachus

          Clegg needs to be punished is a statement of fact

          • Inverted Meniscus

            Farage is not a racist you imbecile. For one thing he has. German wife.

            • telemachus

              Now who is the one telling lies

              • Inverted Meniscus

                Farage has a German wife you pointless imbecile.

                • telemachus

                  You understand not
                  Racist Farage puts posters threatening foreigners in Northern Cities with their large Asian populations
                  You may conclude he was talking about Germans if you wish

              • MirthaTidville

                well normally you..You tell us the Liebour party are great and we know you are lying

                • telemachus

                  In a short 12 months you will see the truth of Labour greatness

                • rick hamilton

                  In a seemingly endless 13 years we saw ‘the truth of Labour greatness’ in action. Great debt, great waste, great hypocrisy, great self-delusion, great incompetence.

                • telemachus

                  And in the first 10 years the longest period of prosperity (for all) that we have known

                • Gregory Mason

                  Now I know you’re just a troll. Move along folks.

                • telemachus

                  Until 2007 Brown was lauded by the financial pundits

                • Gregory Mason

                  Then he was proven wrong.

                • Wessex Man

                  Brown, in one of his first actions robbed the Pensions industry in this country of £5 billion per year to fund his playground economics, he managed to turn the best Pension industry in the world into the worst. He robbed men and women of a comfortable retirement, cast them in many cases onto benefits, robbed every industry of those Pension Funds investments that would have kept employment higher.

                  Brown ruined this country, ran out of money, printed money, put the NHS on life support.

                  But never mind mustn’t grumble, He and you, you fool still believe he saved the world.

                  Others, including me, will always smile when we remember the man who saved the world running around a kitchen trying to talk to the President of the States!

              • Wessex Man

                You are yet again, this hatred of Nige on your part will eat you up, you should forget that you were once a failed candidate for UKip and move on in your life!

            • telemachus

              Prominent British Asian Ukip supporter quits over ‘racist populism’
              Sanya-Jeet Thandi, who defended Ukip on Channel 4 News, urges other supporters to abstain from voting in EU elections

              • Gregory Mason

                Let’s just take the word of this ONE woman then.

                • telemachus

                  A prominent woman trumpeted by Farage

                • Gregory Mason

                  Yet still ONE woman.

              • ButcombeMan

                If I had been advising the lady on her future career moves and her aspirations, I would have advised being noisy against UKIP to gain some personal publicity.

                Cynical? Of course. That is how things work tele.

      • Gregory Mason

        I hope Farage sees this and takes you to court for libel.

        • telemachus

          Fat chance after the Sanya-Jeet Thandi resignation today

          • Wessex Man

            going by one resignation, how do you feel that now that Labour membership has dropped by a half, should Miliband resign?