Sunday, November 30, 2008

Some advice for Mr Clegg

Young Mr Clegg need not take any advice from me on his current troubles; managing a cabinet or a cabinet in opposition is a hard thing for a political leader and I do not claim ever to have excelled in the task.

Mr Nick Clegg, it seems, has been overheard by a scribe from the popular press, discussing his appointments and, it is claimed, uttering calumnies about his ablest ministers. I am sure there is much invention and embroidery in the report. Modern newspapers appear to trade in gossip rather than facts, to consider names more than principles.

Nevertheless I can perhaps offer one word of advice. Mr Clegg, it appears, is concerned that policies on the "environment" should receive greater consideration and greater import in the popular mind. There is some sense in this; the resolution of fuel sources and fuel prices is of the utmost importance to the political economy and the public now desire cheap fuel as they once desired cheap grain. Mr Clegg and his party can indeed promise cheap fuel by reducing dependence on tar and even coal.

I would therefore advise that the best person to take the portfolio is not Mr Webb nor Mr Huhne even Mr Clegg's ally Mr Laws. It is Mr Clegg himself. For the wisest approach to a cabinet is to allow able colleagues to do well that which they do; and to do oneself that which is considered to be most important to the achievement of one's objectives. I do not pretend Her Majesty ever concurred with me on this; I recall that once she suggested I depart my post as chief minister to devote myself again fully to the job of Chancellor. I am unclear who was in her mind as a replacement - for establishing a succession is also a difficult task for a leader.


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