With Nick Clegg now a mere backbencher, his former staff appear to no longer feel the need to protect the Liberal Democrat from negative publicity. Today Clegg’s former campaign manager Ben Rathe has written a blog in which he reveals what happened when his search for a location for Clegg to give a speech — at the Liberal Democrat conference in 2013 — went spectacularly wrong:
‘It was the Liberal Democrat Conference 2013, and my role back then was planning all of the visits that Nick Clegg was doing over the course of the 5 days in Glasgow. This included finding somewhere suitable to announce a new 5p charge on plastic bags, which had the unusual honour of being a policy liked by both Liberal Democrat members and the Daily Mail.’
Rathe picked out a ‘lovely nature reserve just south of Glasgow called Cathkin Marsh’. As Clegg was deputy prime minister at the time, the police has to check the area ahead of the speech. However, during the trip to do this, Raine learnt a worrying fact about his choice of location:
‘”Interesting place for a visit” said one officer after the recce, which had mainly involved walking around a marshland on a wooden boardwalk.
I, thinking he meant they usually take politicians to schools, factories or nursing homes, launched into an explanation about why we’d chosen this location, the environmental impact discarded bags can have etc etc. I was swiftly cut off.
“No, I mean because of what the locals use it for,” he said.
Now, “what the locals use it for” is never a good sentence to hear, because usually “the locals” are never using ‘it’ for anything good. I didn’t want to ask what he meant, mainly because I knew what he was going to say if I did, but felt that I had to.
So I did.
And then came the reply I had both expected and dreaded.
“Oh, it’s a dogging site.”
While the press never cottoned onto this fact at the time, Mr S suspects hacks will enjoy reminding Clegg of his visit to a dogging site for years to come.