Back before the 2010 general election, Vince Cable carved out a popular and respected reputation with political journalists. To a significant degree this was down to the briefing sessions he used to run where he did not so much present Liberal Democrat policy as giving journalists a free mini-exposition on economic data and economic theory.
For time poor journalists, erudite information without too much of a partisan spin was greatly valued. It’s analogous to the way in which non-partisan local information is often what makes local Liberal Democrat newsletters, whether of the paper or email kind, popular with residents. Up-to-date and clear information on global economic trends, or changes to school admission rules, is valued, gets you a good reputation and gets you more attention.
Nick Clegg now looks to be taking a similar approach to parlaying his European expertise into media relations as Owen Bennett has pointed out in the Huffington Post:
[Nick Clegg] is back in front line politics as the Lib Dem’s Brexit spokesman – and thank goodness he is too.
Whether you voted Leave or Remain on June 23, you should be pleased Clegg has taken on this role. His knowledge of the intricacies of Brussels is second-to-none. Before becoming an MEP in 1999, Clegg worked as European Commission trade negotiator. Thanks to his five years at the heart of Government, he knows how Whitehall operates. He knows how things are done abroad and at home.
At a briefing with journalists today, he released the first of a series of briefing notes on the various dilemmas facing the Brexiteers.
Today’s was focused on the UK’s access to the Single Market.
Does the Government distinguish between ‘access’ to the Single Market and ‘membership’?
If we are outside the Single Market, will the UK mimic the harmonised rules to make it easier to export to the EU?
Would the Government be prepared to pay in some money to the EU budget to get access to the Single Market, as Norway, Iceland and Switzerland do?
These were just some of the questions he flagged up.
In addition to returning to the Lib Dem front bench team, Nick Clegg has continued with a monthly column in the high circulation Evening Standard and his outside earnings have been used to make him one of the largest individual donors to the Liberal Democrats.
Of course, his name is one very much associated with the party’s most unpopular period which makes, for all his huge popularity with new party members, his continued high profile association with the party not the straightforward blessing which that combination of contributions would normally make it. But with only 8 MPs, the party has little choice but to make the best of it – and the only sensible way to do that is full on, taking every opportunity available.