I picked up this intersting story by email, enjoy!
Exclusive: Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg slags off his own party colleagues on packed plane
By Adam Lee-Potter (who just happened to be in seat 7A in front of Mr Clegg)
GAFFE-PRONE Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has sensationally slated key members of his own cabinet as “useless” and “not equipped” for top jobs… while on a packed commuter jet. Mr Clegg also blurted out closely-guarded plans for a reshuffle during a 90-minute flight, oblivious that fellow passengers – including me – could hear his every word.
He revealed his dislike for Steve Webb, his Environment spokesman, and decided to demote Chris Huhne, his former leadership rival and currently Home Affairs spokesman, before adding he wasn’t “emotionally intelligent” enough for the environment job. And he dismissed Communities and Local Government spokeswoman Julia Goldsworthy for a particular post, saying she “gets patronised” in her current role.
He even revealed he would consider a coalition but, while he didn’t say which party he’d side with, he added he would only consider it if Tory David Cameron loses the next election. “I would think about it,” he admitted. “But only if the Tories lose. And I can’t imagine that.”
He finally decided on David Laws for Environment, but only because “he’s not enjoying Education”, Goldsworthy for Education and Webb for Justice – currently Chris Huhne’s job. Clegg, 41, drew up his plans as he flew to Inverness for a meeting this week.
He told of his loathing for Steve Webb, recently made spokesman for Climate Change and Energy and tipped by some as a future Lib Dem leader. “Webb must go,” he said. “He’s a problem. I can’t stand the man. We need a new spokesman. We have to move him. We need someone with good ideas. At the moment, they just don’t add up.” After deciding to give his job to David Laws, currently Education spokesman, he added: “Give David a day and he’ll come up with more good ideas than Webb has come up with in a year. As his key policy adviser Danny Alexander nodded, he added: “But we need to keep him in the cabinet. As a backbencher, he’d be a pain in the a***, a voice for the left. And we can’t move him before the spring.”
Clegg, in seat 8A on the 9.30am Flybe flight BE7321 from Gatwick to Inverness last Thursday, took notes as Alexander said: “You have to be firm.” But indecisive Clegg dithered over various options and, at one point, he talked of simply swapping Webb and Chris Huhne. “It’s the path of least resistance,” he said. His adviser then suggested: “How about Webb for Foreign?” Clegg snorted: “He’d be useless. And he wouldn’t do it.” He then slated rising star Julia Goldsworthy. “We have to move her too. She gets patronised. And we can’t give her Foreign. She’s just not equipped to do it.” Huhne also came in for a battering. Clegg dismissed him for the key Environment job by saying the shadow cabinet needed someone “more emotionally intelligent”. He then talked of demoting Huhne. His adviser told him: “If you tell him that, before an election, you need a big hitter, he might just wear it.”
Even close pal David Laws, Children, Schools and Families spokesman, came under scrutiny. Sheffield MP Clegg said: “Laws is not enjoying Education. The Tories have left him no space. But he’s got a forensic intelligence – he’s probably the best brain we have.” His adviser chipped in: “We want to get our best players in the most important jobs, that’s the truth of it.” Again, Clegg nodded.
The Lib Dem leader was so wrapped up in his reshuffle he had to be reminded about what he was due to do in Scotland. Just before landing, Inverness MP Alexander reminded him: “Right, you’re giving a talk to the Inverness Chamber of Commerce.” Clegg had no idea I was in the seat in front, intending to cover another Sunday Mirror story in Scotland. I couldn’t believe my ears – or that Clegg let himself be so easily bossed about.
After revealing I had been made privy to Clegg’s comments, his private spokeswoman said: “We don’t comment on reports of fragments of private conversations. Nick has said before and genuinely believes that he leads the strongest front bench in Westminster.”
The Mirror, 29th November 2008