Nick Clegg is kinder to Labour than the Conservatives

An interesting contrast in Nick Clegg’s views on Labour and the Conservatives in his weekend interview with Nick Thornsby (my emphasis):

I’ve always thought that there are three basic strands of philosophy, if that’s not a too pompous way of putting it.

One is a Labour one, which actually had a very admirable pedigree when we were as a country going through a phase of emancipating millions of working men and women who weren’t economically, politically or socially emancipated, and they used the state — the Labour party did in the 20th century — as a sort of battering ram to emancipate those millions of men and women, and that’s nothing to be ashamed about because that was a very proud thing to do. I just don’t think that over-reliance on the state — and you can see it in illiberal attitudes to terrorism legislation, their centralising attitude towards local authorities and a range of areas — I just don’t think that works in a society that has become more liberal, where people enjoy freedom, enjoy choice, enjoy access to information.

The other side of course is a Conservative one which as its name implies basically thinks the way things are should be the way things remain, and that who’s doing well and who’s doing badly, well there’s not much we can do about it. It’s quite a pessimistic view of life, actually, and quite a regressive one.

Then there’s a liberal view, which is a balanced one, that starts first and foremost I think with people, with individuals, with the view that we shouldn’t write anybody off, that every person has the potential to do great things and that one of the principal purposes of politics is to release people’s potential to the fullest possible degree. The state plays a role in that but the state can’t reach into the living rooms, into every nook and cranny of our private lives to release that potential: it’s a mixture of responsibility and opportunity.

I just so happen to think that that’s where the vast majority of the British people are – of different shades of opinion – and I don’t think we should be in any way embarrassed by staking a claim to being representative of that fine British liberal tradition. I know that some people sometimes think that we should define liberalism as pure, insurgent, almost sect-like but I never understood that. I’m perfectly happy to engage with people who want to take a more purist approach, where you’re almost deliberately saying that you’re not appealing to the majority of the people, but I’m a politician — I’m not an academic — who believes that the purpose of politics is to be clear about your values and then make sure that they speak to millions of people in the country so that you can deliver the changes you want. It’s as simple as that. You can’t do that if you wilfully say, “oh we’re not by the way appealing to the reasoned, liberal mainstream of Britain”.

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