Call Clegg 5th June
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats
Nick takes your questions live on LBC for this week's Call Clegg.
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This is LBC Call Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg takes your calls with Nick Ferrari at Breakfast. Call 0845 6060973 tweet at lbc973 text 84850. This is Call Clegg on LBC.
NC: Its 9 o'clock, on Thursday 5 June, you're listening to Call Clegg with me Nick Clegg here on LBC. I am taking your questions for the next half an hour. Do get in touch on 0845 6060973 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can watch of course on the website, lbc.co.uk. So let's go straight to the first caller who is Adam in Aylesbury. Hello Adam.
A: Good morning Mr Clegg.
A: I have a question for you about pension reform which was a bit theme in the Queen's Speech yesterday.
A: The ability to spend pension savings freely is very eye catching but it totally ignores the problem of saving enough money in the first place. You must know how difficult that is. With the economic problems we've got with interest rates and inflation as they are. I think the problem is that you and other politicians have voted to shield yourselves from those problems. You've granted yourselves a guaranteed retirement even though you make the big decision on the economy, the decisions that move everyone else's retirement prospects up or down. To me it's like a chief executive not wanting shares in the business he runs. And if you and other politicians had to save for your future like everyone else you'd actually feel the ebb and flow of the economy, the consequences of your own decisions. Surely that would make all of you better at running the economy?
NC: Just Adam can you expand a bit about why you think in a sense people are not able to get the central point you are making which is that your ability to save depends on your ability to earn in the first place. Are you referring to something specific or you're making a general point.
A: It's the freedom to go and buy a Lamborghini is irrelevant if I can't save enough to buy one. And my ability to make those savings depends on how well the economy is run.
A: And if the economy is run by people who have opted out of the consequences of their own decisions who've got a guaranteed retirement because inflation, interest rates, investment returns mean nothing to them so how can I have any hope...
NC: Yeah I don't. Yeah sorry I just want to check that we are going to agree to disagree. I strongly disagree with this idea that somehow, say what you like about the government and the political class but I don't think you can somehow claim that we haven't tried our damnedest over the last four years to fix a deeply damaged British economy and try and instil growth into the economy and instil the sense of optimism and confidence in the future. Most importantly of all, people can save if they're in work and earning money in order to save and I think it is an extraordinary thing that we have seen, far from all the predictions of three million people out of work, we've seen 1.7 million new jobs being created. We've cut taxes because of a Liberal Democrat measure of raising the point at which you pay income tax to £10,000 and beyond so people keep more of the money in their pocket and then they can save more. So I just don't accept this idea that we haven't tried very hard indeed with some significant measure of success to put the economy on a much surer footing...
A: [unclear 00:03:37].
NC: ...which of course you're right you don't have the confidence to say I get that of course.
NF: But what about Adam's idea that perhaps you are in a rather rarefied position in that you're politicians and that you don't necessarily have to make the same sort of payments into a pension pot that perhaps Adam and certainly that I do.
NC: Well as you know Steve Webb, the Lib Dem minister responsible for pensions reform has made huge changes many of which are actually seeking to ensure that people have a decent pension in the time...
NF: But not the sort one might get if you're a politician.
NC: Well let... No hang on.
NF: You actually work and you earn it.
NC: No, no I'm not saying that. But whether it's the move towards auto enrolment, a hugely important step to ensure that people do save where they can or whether it's through, not through necessarily savings you've satisfied but simply what you're entitled to get having retired through the state pension where we've seen the largest cash increase in the state pension ever because of the Liberal Democrats triple lot guarantee that it increases by a decent amount. So Adam I just simply don't accept either on the pension reforms that Steve Webb has pioneered which are truly radical. They're some of the most radical changes this government has introduced in any area of public policy or in our attempts to do exactly what you say which is to create the conditions in which people can save in the first place. I just don't think our record is as bad as you suggest.
NF: A quick response. Very quick. One line from you Adam to the Deputy Prime Minister.
A: You're saying its great news from inside a gated community.
NC: Well Adam, look I know it's the easiest in life these days to say oh you politicians you've got absolutely no idea. Politicians, let me break some news to you. Politicians are actually human beings. They are made of flesh and blood and I find a lot of politicians of all parties by the way, I'm not making a party political point here, are very, very assiduous at working in and for and on behalf of the communities they represent. Week in week out MPs go out there much, much more than many people I know in business frankly and go out there and talk if you like, spend time with help, go and visit, spend time in the living rooms, go and visit the schools of their, how can I put it, of their customers. Now I know the political class is deeply unpopular. I get that. There's a huge amount of public anger and frustration about politics. Boy do I know Westminster and Whitehall needs reforming. The longer I've been there the more anti-establishment I've become because I wish it was, I've tried my best and I wish it was more reformed. But I really wouldn't Adam, if I could just gently suggest, just breezily declare that anyone who's in politics somehow suddenly isn't a member of the human race that simply isn't the case.
NF: Adam thank you. Shall we move on Deputy Prime Minister.
NC: Yeah, Urj, is it Urj in Maidstone?
U: Yes, hello Mr Clegg.
U: Good morning. I was having a conversation, I dialled in to Nick's programme yesterday and it was essentially in lines with the all the [unclear 00:06:25] assessments going on with the Birmingham school system.
U: And this led to me asking questions essentially of what, I mean Ofsted had warnings from before as well about this...
NC: Had what sorry the lines a bit funny because I think...
NF: Warnings. Warnings from Ofsted yeah.
U: Warnings from four years ago apparently as well. So what assurance is that government putting in place for someone like me or any other, it doesn't have to be, I'm a practising Muslim, but any mother, I'm a mother of a three year old she's going to reception. This really takes my... I don't know if I need to take an Ofsted report seriously next time or not. So what assurances is the government going to put in place that something like this won't happen again where there were warnings from four years ago? And the other thing is has this incident or this highlighted a need for maybe a state regulated state school in your view as this probably may help prevent such attempted takeover by any community or any person of any denomination?
NF: Well that speaks for the whole idea of faith schools I think Urj doesn't it? So there's two aspects for Mr Clegg to address. Stay on the line, let's see what he says. Mr Clegg.
NC: Urj, firstly I simply cannot reasonably declare on the nature of those warnings, who provided them, whether they were responded to properly. As you know there are claims and counterclaims about one of the letters that has come to light, is it authentic or not until I see what the Ofsted reports say and indeed the other reports that are going on into these schools in Birmingham. That's precisely why these investigations are being held. But you as a mum of a three year old going to a school and as a practising Muslim you have every right to say well hang on a minute, how can I make sure that my kid gets an education, doesn't get indoctrination. There's a big difference between education and indoctrination and of course all we want is the former by the way in all schools. And of course do remember in this case this is a variety of different kinds of schools. So there are academies and non-academies, community schools and more autonomous schools involved here. So it's clearly not just associated with one type of school that appear... where things appear to have gone awry. And I think Urj, you're right to say that there is, that Ofsted plays now and will continue to play a particularly important role in inspecting schools to ensure that schools do what they're supposed to do which is provide a first rate education but not to provide which is the concern here, basically a venue for ideological indoctrination of our children, including your children. So that's what... we all know what we want. We all know now I think we're looking that this is now being put under a very exacting magnifying glass in Birmingham. There are frankly going to be question marks not only about what warnings were taken up or not. There are going to be big questions I suspect also about the local authority because the local authority plays a big role in the governance in some of these schools as well and until I've seen these reports and I haven't seen any of them yet Urj, I can't give a fuller account of what happened there. What I can give you, as a dad myself with three children at school and you're a mother of a little one who is going to go school soon is that I want for all children what every single parent wants which is slightly regardless of what kind of school they go to. You just want teachers who are dedicated to imparting knowledge and an appetite for learning in a professional way and not doing so with a particular ideological axe to grind.
By the way, just on…since Nick mentioned it, faith schools, my experience is that the vast majority of faith schools are highly effective, precisely because they realise they've got to be engines of integration, not silos of isolation. I actually find that quite a lot of faith schools, because they have a faith identity, want to reach out to other faiths. And, if I think of some of the faith schools in my own constituency, in South West Sheffield, they're brilliant, they are some of the most outgoing schools and they want to educate their...
NF: Not all are like that unfortunately, it would appear.
NC: Well, of course, it would appear, in Birmingham that may not be the case. But, that is precisely what needs to come to light by way of these reports.
NF: Okay, thanks. Just related to this, who started the fight, Gove or May?
NC: I've no idea, and to be honest, look…
NF: How badly do they dislike each other?
NC: I mean, I don't want to sound too pious and lofty about this, but it really is, as Urje's call just demonstrated, where she's concerned about her three year old daughter, it really is, I think, a bit more important than, you know, what is said about one Minister's attitude towards another. At the end of the day this…
NF: But, can you see it fizzing between the two of them?
NC: No, I'll tell you what I see, we discuss these things in something in government called the National Security Council, something which this coalition government set up, David Cameron chairs it, I'm the Vice Chair. So, we, quite rightly in this government, as the two senior people in the government, make sure there is collective discussion where Theresa May and Michael Gove obviously have important contributions to make. The issue at stake here is actually quite…if you just set the personalities aside, is quite…is very serious, but straightforward to describe but more difficult to tackle. We all know we have laws in place, and measures in place, to deal with violent extremism, of course.
The question is, how do you challenge some of the thinking that can lead to people becoming violent extremists, and that's where the debate is. No one disputes the fact, in fact that's what's going on in the investigation looking at these schools that you need to challenge people who pedal ideological forms of extremism. And, there I think…funnily enough I was listening to Hazel Blears on the radio this morning, I think she quite rightly said, look language about a war on an ideology from an office in Whitehall, or draining the swamp, you can't do that from an office in Whitehall. It's people in the communities themselves who are the best antidotes to extremists in those communities, it isn't politicians in offices in Whitehall who can suddenly declare that they're going to put an end to an ideology they don't like.
NF: I know what listeners enjoy about you is your candid nature, so when I ask you again…
NC: You're going to seduce me into this.
NF: Can you see it fizzing between the two of them at the Cabinet table?
NC: I'd love to suggest that our meetings in Whitehall are fizzing in any respect, they're often a lot more earnest than that.
NF: But, they don't get on those two do they?
NC: I think they…look, ask them, I don't know, ask them, to be honest at the end of the day I want us as a government on this really, really…
NF: Do they sit next to each other?
NC: I can't recall…
NF: How does it…presumably the PM's in the middle, then you're on his left?
NC: No, no, I sit opposite him. I'm not going to get into the furniture that has no bearing at all on this…
NF: It's what the listeners enjoy, you must know which end of the table they sit.
NC: We have little mints in a bowl in the middle of the table, if that has any bearing on it. That has about as much bearing on this as whether Michael Gove and Theresa May sit next to each other.
NF: Are they at the same end of the table or are they kept a table apart?
NC: We have one bowl of mints one side, one in the middle and one…
NF: I sense the Deputy Prime Minister is not for answering this question.
NC: I am not going to take it seriously.
NF: We move on, this is Call Clegg, it's your show, on we go.
NC: Michael in Waltham Abbey.
M: Good morning Nick.
NC: Hello Michael.
M: Good morning Nick.
M: Good morning. Nick, I watched the, I call it a publicity stunt, you and Mr Cable sitting in the pub having a pint together.
NC: A private little pint, no one was watching.
M: I have to say I watched it quite carefully, and it was the most uncomfortable pint I've ever seen two men have.
NC: You're kidding.
M: Your eyes, you couldn't even look at Mr Cable. He looked like he just didn't want to be there. My question to you is, look, we're not stupid, we all know what Mr Cable has done, he's been involved in some underhand tactics. And, do you really believe in your heart of hearts, a, he's innocent, and, b, you'll be leader of the Lib Dems in 12 months' time with that sort of antics going on?
NC: On the latter yes I do, you know, obviously there's a lot of soul searching going on in my party quite rightly, and I'll be talking about that in the coming days, about my own thoughts about how we move forward from here. Because, we had a really, really, really bad set of election results, but look…
NF: Where will you be talking in the coming days then?
NC: You'll be the first to know, Nick.
NF: Oh you haven't decided yet?
NC: No, I haven't, but of course…I want to take some time…for instance, last night we had a long meeting of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party, bringing together all the Lib Dem MPs. There was unanimous backing for my leadership at that meeting, but also an acknowledgement by me, and everybody else there, that of course we've lost a lot of support by going into coalition and taking these difficult decisions. And so, we want to campaign with renewed vigour about the kind of things that we think people perhaps don't know about, about the great things we've done in government, the service we've tried to provide to the nation, but also the things we want to do in the future.
As far as Vince is concerned, actually Michael I'm going to…it was Nick Ferrari who challenged me months ago and said, why don't you go and have a pint with Sir Vince Cable. So, there I go, dutifully do what you tell me, and now Michael rings me up and says we weren't clear…
NF: How uncomfortable was that pint?
NC: Well, listen, all I can say to you Michael is, you try and have a pint with hundreds of people literally tapping on the windowpane with their cameras, and try and pull that one off effortlessly, as if it was a normal Saturday evening pint down your local. I mean, look, Vince Cable and I we work very well together, I don't believe at all that he was involved in some untoward plot at all, I haven't done so right from the beginning. Clearly Matthew Overshot is a completely different matter, he's now left the party.
NF: What's your view of him?
NC: Look, Matthew Overshot, has always been of the view that we shouldn't be in coalition at all, so his view is that we should just basically cut our losses, pull out altogether, and then he adds to that a fair amount of, sort of, personal commentary as well about this, that…
NF: Would you ever have a pint with him, or would you pour it over his head?
NC: No certainly not.
NF: You'd pour it over his head would you?
NC: Certainly not, I don't think Matthew Overshot and I are gong to be having a pint in public or private any time soon. But, the point is, I just so fundamentally disagree that what you do when there's real heat on, in politics just as in life, is that you bail out and buckle. I just think the worst thing to do, given how much we have…the sweat and tears we've spilt in order to prove that we can do the right thing for millions of people up and down the country, by cutting taxes, providing better pensions, providing better apprenticeships, better funding for schools and so on, is to just at the last moment… Okay, you might not like the list, but it's one I'm proud of so I'm going to slip it in from time to time.
NF: I can't let it be too much of an electoral broadcast…
NC: Well, the last thing you're going to do is just when it gets tough…
NF: …on this day of days.
NC: The last thing to do is…
NF: Why didn't you finish your pint?
NC: I think I drunk most of the pint.
NF: Well, I'm told that Mr Cable finished his but you left some.
NC: Well, that is a truly malicious rumour which I must check on, I'm seeing Vince later in the afternoon, I will check. Are you saying that I can't down a pint like the best of them?
NF: Don't, how quickly can I get a pint of Archers Mild Ale is what you chose apparently.
NF: Why mild ale?
NC: Because, the guys behind the bar told me it was one of their favourites. I asked them what's one of their…
NF: How much would a pint of that cost normally?
NC: I don't know, probably £4 something like that.
NF: I don't drink it. I must give you this…
NC: It's a lot cheaper…well, it's a lot cheaper…
NF: By the way, the pub landlord in the Guardian, have you seen this?
NF: Well, show this to your children. Has rated pictures of politicians from Barak Obama, Michael Portillo, Margaret Thatcher…
NC: Al Murray this?
NF: Yes, William Hague, I'm afraid you score bottom rating along with the Prime Minister, but there you are, take that for the kids for later as we move onto the next call.
NC: Opinion polls are bad enough, but this really is the devastating blow.
NF: I'm afraid Al Murray is not in your corner at all.
NC: Norman in Rickmansworth, hello Norman.
N: Good morning.
N: Why did you feel listening to the people means that limited parliamentary time should be given to legislating on plastic bags rather than guaranteeing a referendum in 2017? Surely, this would end the need for a protest vote for UKIP, and force people and all political parties to address head on this very real issue at the next General Election that everyone wants dealt with.
NC: I totally agree with you, Norman, that we should…I mean, we have legislated for the circumstances in which a referendum will take place.
N: No, I'm saying pass a Bill now…
NC: No, Norman, sorry, can I just answer the question, I know you want me to answer, you know, let me just tell you the facts.
N: My question not yours.
NF: Let's here from the Deputy Prime Minister.
N: No, hang on, let me tell you the facts. In 2011 we legislated for the first time ever, that's what you're challenging me to do, is to say why do you not legislate to give people the guarantee of when a referendum will take place, and we did that in 2011. By the way, both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, we came together, no government has done this before, and we said, do you know what, we accept what people say when they say it shouldn't be up to politicians to decide when there's a referendum, give us the guarantee in law. And, that is what we did, and no government has done that before.
Now, the Conservative Party have changed their mind since then, they're perfectly free to do that, but they've changed their minds and now actually we're just going to deicide that some arbitrary date in the diary that the referendum should be held. Look, I am for a referendum, I've long campaigned in favour of a referendum. When the Lisbon Treaty was ratified I thought it was appalling that the Tories broke their promise about holding a referendum on that, and in fact it was my party that stood up and said, we must have a referendum when we ratify these Treaties, not do them behind the backs of the British people.
So, I just don't accept your assertion, Norman, that people like me have not been forthright in both arguing for a referendum for many years, and legislating for the circumstances in which they'll take place. I agree with you, there's an argument that the Conservatives have now, if you like, changed their views on the timing of it. But, I'm perfectly entitled to say, look at what we've done, not what we've said, what we've done, we've legislated to give you the guarantee in law that a referendum will take place the next time these rules change.
NF: Norman, a quick response.
N: My response is, so then why won't you use the parliamentary time now you have the power to force the Bill before parliament. You have the power, use it instead of plastic bags.
NC: I don't think it's an either or, and I would just first again remind you that we did spend considerable parliamentary time during this parliament, in 2011, doing exactly what you recommend, passing into law the guarantee setting out the circumstances in which a referendum will take place. On plastic bags, this is something that I've pushed for more than anyone else in government, there was a great deal of resistance in parts of government. Oh no it would be unnecessary red tape for businesses and so on. If you look at what's happened in Wales, a charge of 5p, and indeed in Ireland, if you look at what happens elsewhere, it has had a fantastic effect in cutting down on the use of these plastic bags, that don't degrade quickly at all, that do immense damage to wildlife, and that often are a real eyesore to our countryside and the environment we live in. And, by the way, the money, this is very important to remember because I think this has been forgotten, and I certainly insist on this, the money goes directly to good causes, it doesn't go into George Osborne's coffers, it goes to good causes. So, I don't think…
NF: All the money will?
NC: Yes, I mean, I'm sure there will be some…I need to check exactly what admin charges there might be.
NF: What about all the jobs for people who make these plastic bags, people who sell these plastic bags, what's going to happen to them?
NC: Well, look, the evidence is that the vast majority of people, this is by the way a very, very rare occasion where there's been a joining of forces between and the Daily Mail, a unique constellation which I think is very unlikely to be repeated.
NF: They're reviewing their position even as we speak.
NC: I'm sure they're now suddenly raising doubts about their support for this. But, I've delivered this in government, as I say, against a lot of resistance, because I think if you look at what's happening…
NF: But, what about the people who make the things, and sell them, what happens to them?
NC: Well, Nick, sorry, sometimes you have to take big decisions, having that amount of plastic bags swirling around our countryside, strangling wildlife, suffocating fish, disfiguring our countryside is something that we don't want as a country, particularly when we can do something about it. People can use recyclable bags more often, remember we're not imposing this on the small shops, and the small retailers…
NF: Does there need to be a law though, does there actually need to be a law?
NC: I think if you're going to say to the big retailers, look, you've got to do this, you're free to decide, which is what we've said…
NF: Have [inaudible 00:22:59] charge, but to make it a law, don't we have enough laws, it's not very liberal is it?
NC: Why are you so fixated about the law? If you want something like this to happen…
NF: Well, you nudge, you keep nudging, you don't mandate.
NC: I think there's been plenty of nudging on this. And, by the way, as you know, some retailers have introduced these charges, others haven't, so we've said, look…
NF: Yes, most of them have seen a drop in takings, but there we are, Marks & Sparks has.
NC: Well, as I say, if you actually look at what's happened in… I mean, this isn't, sort of, back of the fag packet stuff, because it's actually happened in other countries, and in Wales in particular it's been incredibly successful at cutting the amount of, I think, unnecessary…
NF: So, when you…
NC: …unnecessary environmental damage from plastic bags swirling around the place.
NF: At the Lib Dem conferences when you sell goods, how much do you charge for the plastic bags when people take away their mugs and their books?
NC: We have hemp bags most of the time in our conference centre, but I'll get back to you on that one, Nick.
NF: Alright, why am I not surprised. Now, that refers to the Queen's speech. Earlier in the show we spoke with Zack Goldsmith, this was the idea about how if you wanted to sack your MP you could. But, as you might be aware, Mr Goldsmith is not convinced by what he heard yesterday.
NC: I am very, very aware.
NF: He had this observation for you:
ZG: What does he think the voters will do in the weeks, or months, or years to come, when they face another scandal and they learn that the recall powers he has given them have not actually empowered them to hold that MP to account? And, that certainly will happen. How does he think that will impact people's voting intentions going forward, what will happen to the level of public rage?
NC: Right. I will say this directly to Zack as well, but I'll say it now on the radio. I've said this to him in the House of Commons, I've talked to him for months on this. Zack and I are completely…well, I actually have got no object at all to the, kind of, radical, what they call California style recall that Zack likes. It has absolutely no hope at all of being passed into law, because of profound objections from his own Conservative colleagues, I've had to battle, day and night, to get even this modest recall measure agreed in the Queen's speech against Conservative Party resistance. There is simply no way that his own Conservative Parliamentary Party would ever touch his proposal with a barge pole. So, all I would say, if I say it with any frustration I've been trying to say this for months, is his choice is this. Either you aim for the stars and get nothing, because his own party won't support it, or you at least get some kind of recall mechanism onto the statute book. And, at the end of the day, I'm an ideological politician who wants to change the world and all the rest of it, but I'm also a practical man. There is simply no way that the, kind of, revolutionary power of recall that Zack has campaigned on…actually funnily enough I've got quite a lot of personal sympathy with, would ever make it on to the statute book, not least because of the objections of his own party.
So, what I've done in government is to say, okay let's at least get something on the statute book, by the way, completely in line with our coalition agreement commitments, to make sure there's a trigger so that people can…so you have a petition in a local area, and if there's 10% of people who then say they want there to be an election it happens. And, that's what we're now going to try and get so I would say to Zach, look first talk to his own party, rather than constantly taking pot shots at my attempts to get something on the statute book, because that's where the resistance has lain for the last several years. And, secondly, the choice for Zack and people like that, is simply…and by the way this is the case in reform more generally, do you want no reform and be terribly pure and holier than thou about it and have no reform at all, or do you at least want to have some reform on the statute book.
NF: But, if it's true that it has to be a committee of MPs that sit above it…
NC: No, let me…
NF: I appreciate you have to get…I hear exactly you have to get a middle ground, but it's not particularly satisfactory.
NC: Let me explain, in the coalition agreement we said, and I insisted on this, being in the coalition, we said, and do you remember this was in the wake of the MPs expenses scandals, we said there should be a power or recall so that crucially, I think the wording said something like, where there has been proven serious wrongdoing, that constituents then have a right. How you prove serious wrongdoing that is where we've got into hot water with people like Zack. Because, Zack basically thinks, I don't really care whether serious wrongdoing is proven or not, people should just be able to assert it. What, I think, a lot of people are saying is, well hang on you've got to have some…prevent it becoming a complete kangaroo court, you have to have some mechanism by which you can prove that serious wrongdoing has taken place, as we said in the coalition agreement.
Now, he disagrees with that, fine, but he's got to stop constantly claiming that somehow this is some dastardly dilution of a good idea, when his own party have objected to it tooth and nail in government, and I know that more than anyone else. And, secondly, if you did what Zack Goldsmith wants, do you know what would happen, nothing at all. And, at the end of the day, me as a reforming campaigning politician, I want in my time in government, to get things done. And, they might not be everything you want, they might not be what all the radicals want, but it's better than doing nothing at all.
NF: A couple of email questions, Deputy Prime Minister. Graham in Bushey: 'In a recent YouGov opinion poll you had an approval rating of -65 which is even lower than Gordon Brown at his lowest point. Are you surprised it's only -65?'
NC: What a charming question. Look, it's obvious isn't it, we lost a huge amount of support as a party…
NF: Why are you not popular?
NC: Well, don't ask me, ask other people. What I do know is that when we went into coalition, and I do get this, of course I get this, there were a sizeable number of people…and, if you actually look, if you're interested in polls, and I try not to look at them too closely sometimes, but if you actually look, the cliff edge drop in our support actually happened the moment we went into coalition. We literally overnight went, I think, from 23% to 12% or 13%, just bang like that. Why? Because, of course I get, you know, there are people who basically may have voted for the Liberal Democrats as, I don't know, almost a left wing alternative for Labour.
I heard Tony Blair say this on the radio the other day, I don't normally agree with him, but I actually thought on this he was dead right. He said, the issue for the Liberal Democrats is that they went into coalition with a party, and a lot of their supporters that traditionally supported them don't like that. Of course I get that, I wish I was Prime Minister, I wish, you know, I'd won the election, I didn't, we came third, and no one got a majority. And, all I would say is, I think the very worst thing for the values that I believe in, and many of our supporters believe in, the kind of things we've talked about here, reform, the environment, fairness, better pensions, and all the rest of it, is if we back in 2010 has said, oh no it's all too difficult, it's all too controversial, we're just going to cower in a corner and throw stones at other people because we never want to get our hands dirty with power. I actually think the long run would have been…the message would have been, do you know what the Lib Dems are only good for opposition, that's the only place where Lib Dems can thrive. And, I just don't accept that.
So, yes, I accept that being coalition and then doing all the difficult things to fix the economy has created a lot of controversy, but I have an old fashioned belief that if in the long run you do the right thing for the country, and you stick to your guns in terms of your values, people will come to at least perhaps not like you, but at least respect you for doing what you're trying to do.
NF: Okay, a couple more emails, we've just got time for, Naomi in Kent: 'As it's revealed that British women's feet are getting bigger and bigger, does Mr Clegg know what size shoe his wife takes?'
NC: They are elegant and dainty, and perfect and…
NF: What size shoe?
NC: I was hoping to…I don't exactly now Miriam's shoe size.
NF: You don't know your wife's shoe size?
NC: No, well I try and buy many things for Miriam but I've never yet ventured to buying shoes for her.
NF: It's a very personal thing isn't it? Aaron in Walthamstow: 'We've heard this morning police forces have failed to uphold any complaints against racism. Does Nick Clegg think the police are still institutional racist?' I stress the word 'still' there and so I'm implying that you ever thought they were.
NC: Look, I think a lot of progress has been made since the Stephen Lawrence enquiry but I think there's still obviously some way to travel. And, I think the report from the IPCC does show that there are some quite serious failures to…
NF: 94 internal investigations, 170 public complaints, West Mids, West Yorks and Greater Manchester, not one 'conviction.' I know it's not a conviction but not one upheld. That's extraordinary isn't it, Nick Clegg?
NC: I just take at face value what the IPC has said, which is that they feel that there hasn't been enough rigour in these investigations. And, I'm sure, in fact I know, certainly all the senior police officers that I know, believe that it's absolutely their duty to take these things seriously. What I can't do, I can't comment on individual cases, and individual whether there should have been prosecutions or not. But, I think the police, I'm sure they'll do this, particularly those forces which were identified by the IPCC, will ask themselves very searching questions about how to improve their enquiries when very serious allegations like this arise.
NF: Alright, and we finish with a celebrity call. Jamie Oliver.
JO: I would love to extend to Nick, you know, is he prepared in his unique position to personally stand up, personally not professionally but personally, stand up and say he's truly committed to reducing childhood obesity by 5% in five years? Could he possibly get others, you know, within the government to do the same? Because, I think to do anything less would be morally wrong.
NF: Jamie Oliver talking on food revolution day, this is an idea to try and bring about a revolution in particularly children's eating habits. Nick Clegg, how do you respond?
NC: All I would say to Jamie is, and I'd love to talk to him about this one day, is that I think one of the biggest things that we're going to do in the coming months to really try and improve things for children is by providing healthy free school meals to all little kids in the first three years at school. The evidence, and Jamie will know this, is overwhelming that we've got far too many kids, who are poor, but not receiving free school meals, who are turning up at school with a can of something, and a slice of white bread with some chocolate paste on it, and they're failing to concentrate in the afternoon. Their education is suffering, and their health is suffering as well, and they are often then on the early steps towards obesity. I am so, so proud, I know there's endless, endless condemnation from the Daily Mail and all the rest of them, from the right wing saying that somehow we should be trying to improve the healthy meals that little kids receive at school. I think it will prove to be one of the biggest, best achievements in order to address precisely what Jamie's been campaigning on. Whether it's 5%, whether it's 7%, look, I can't pluck a percentage out of the thin air, maybe we should go more than 5%. All I do know is, again, trying to be practical, what I can do about it is try and ensure that this new radical policy starting in the autumn, despite all the cynicism, scepticism about it, is as fully and properly delivered from this autumn as possible. Because, I think that will really help deal with child obesity in the long run
NF: Enjoy your pint this afternoon with Vince Cable, Nick Clegg as ever, thank you. Call Clegg with Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, here on LBC where news is next.