Preview: Nick Clegg and Jemima Khan interview

“Why are the students angry with you, Papa?”

As we revealed on Monday, Jemima Khan has guest-edited this week's New Statesman. One of the highlights of the issue, which hits the news-stands tomorrow, is an interview between Jemima and Nick Clegg, whom she calls the "Tim Henman of politics". Here, to whet your appetite, are six of the most memorable exchanges.

1. Clegg on Cameron and the Murdoch clan

The Deputy PM makes it clear that, unlike David Cameron, he won't be dining with Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch anytime soon. "It's not my world. It's never going to be my world," he says. Here's the full quote:

Well, I'm assuming that they weren't sitting there talking about News International issues . . . Look, you're putting me in a very awkward spot. If you've got an issue with it, speak to Dave. I don't hang out in Oxfordshire at dinner parties. It's not my world. It's never going to be my world.

2. Tennis with Cameron

Asked if it's true that he plays tennis with Cameron, Clegg replies:

"No, no – well, er, I think we've played one game of tennis. Of course we meet from time to time but it's always basically to talk about what we're doing in government."

Who won?

“Ah no, that's a state secret," he jokes. (Cameron won.)

3. "Why are the students angry with you, Papa?"

Clegg admits that he worries constantly about the emotional effect his work has on his children. His nine-year-old son is starting to "sense things" and recently asked him: "Why are the students angry with you, Papa?"

4. Tears of a politician

Clegg says that he attempts to lead a relatively normal life but doesn't always get the balance right, which leaves him "quite miserable". In the evenings, he likes to read novels and "cries regularly to music".

5. Clegg hits back at Miliband

Following Ed Miliband's refusal to share a pro-AV platform with Clegg, the Deputy PM hits back, accusing the Labour leader of "ranting and raving".

I see it exactly for what it is. [Ed] is a perfectly nice guy but he has a problem, which is that he's not in control of his own party, so he constantly has to keep his troops happy and he thinks that ranting and raving at me is the way to do it.

6. Afghanistan

Clegg denies rumours that he wanted to call for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and says the coalition has made much progress in recent months.

We've now got an exit date, which we didn't have before, and a much better set of weapons on the ground. And crucially you've got the British government saying to [President Hamid] Karzai – who I had dinner with recently – this cannot be won militarily. Once you're in that far and you've had that many people die and be maimed, I think it would be morally questionable to cut and run overnight.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

Richmond is a wake-up call for Labour's Brexit strategy

No one made Labour stand in Richmond Park. 

Oh, Labour Party. There was a way through.

No one made you stand in Richmond Park. You could have "struck a blow against the government", you could have shared the Lib Dem success. Instead, you lost both your dignity and your deposit. And to cap it all (Christian Wolmar, take a bow) you self-nominated for a Nobel Prize for Mansplaining.

It’s like the party strategist is locked in the bowels of HQ, endlessly looping in reverse Olivia Newton John’s "Making a Good Thing Better".

And no one can think that today marks the end of the party’s problems on Brexit.

But the thing is: there’s no need to Labour on. You can fix it.

Set the government some tests. Table some amendments: “The government shall negotiate having regard to…”

  • What would be good for our economy (boost investment, trade and jobs).
  • What would enhance fairness (help individuals and communities who have missed out over the last decades).
  • What would deliver sovereignty (magnify our democratic control over our destiny).
  • What would improve finances (what Brexit makes us better off, individually and collectively). 

And say that, if the government does not meet those tests, the Labour party will not support the Article 50 deal. You’ll take some pain today – but no matter, the general election is not for years. And if the tests are well crafted they will be easy to defend.

Then wait for the negotiations to conclude. If in 2019, Boris Johnson returns bearing cake for all, if the tests are achieved, Labour will, and rightly, support the government’s Brexit deal. There will be no second referendum. And MPs in Leave voting constituencies will bear no Brexit penalty at the polls.

But if he returns with thin gruel? If the economy has tanked, if inflation is rising and living standards have slumped, and the deficit has ballooned – what then? The only winners will be door manufacturers. Across the country they will be hard at work replacing those kicked down at constituency offices by voters demanding a fix. Labour will be joined in rejecting the deal from all across the floor: Labour will have shown the way.

Because the party reads the electorate today as wanting Brexit, it concludes it must deliver it. But, even for those who think a politician’s job is to channel the electorate, this thinking discloses an error in logic. The task is not to read the political dynamic of today. It is to position itself for the dynamic when it matters - at the next general election

And by setting some economic tests for a good Brexit, Labour can buy an option on that for free.

An earlier version of this argument appeared on Jolyon Maugham's blog Waiting For Tax.

Jolyon Maugham is a barrister who advised Ed Miliband on tax policy. He blogs at Waiting for Tax, and writes for the NS on tax and legal issues.