Clegg needs to stop being so reasonable with the Tories

I wrote sometime ago that Nick Clegg needed to stop being so reasonable with the Tories and considering what has happened I think I need to revisit this idea.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man. George Bernard Shaw

Nick Clegg is a reasonable man. In the TV debates he was seen as ‘Mr Reasonable’  and many liked this. When a Coalition was announced Cameron said that reasonable, civilised, grown-up behaviour was what they would have in government.  And now in Government Nick Clegg has gone on to try and be as reasonable as possible even using the word to explain difficult decisions such as when he said it was ‘reasonable’ to cap the amount of housing benefit claimants can receive and what we asked for at the EU summit was ‘reasonable’.

While this may be an admirable trait, particularly in opposition against a back drop of fighting within and between the two main parties, this is starting to cause a lot of problems in power. The Guardian have seized on his reasonableness in an attempt to ridicule him

Immediately following each unpleasant new announcement, Cleggsy Bear shuffles on stage to defend it, working his sad eyes and boyish face as he morosely explains why the decision was inevitable – and not just inevitable, but fair; in fact possibly the fairest, most reasonable decision to have been taken in our lifetimes, no matter how loudly people scream to the contrary.

While everyone understands there needs to be compromise in Coalitions it seems to many that he is being very reasonable with the Tories and then trying to win people over with persuasion. It is this reasonableness with the Tories that has left us worse off, damaged, and many Lib Dem members feeling the Coalition was a mistake and voters wondering why they should vote Lib Dems. It is time Nick Clegg stopped being so reasonable with the Tories and started being more unreasonable.

Lib Dems should distance themselves from the ‘happiness’ agenda and start making liberalism more relevant

Come 2015 the government will have gone some way to establish a happiness index in an attempt to shift the focus of quality of life from a purely economic one. Many people are getting involved in this with the launch of the Action for Happiness which brings LSE economists and government advisors together in an attempt to increase national happiness. But when 2015 comes will this be considered useful by the public. Will people vote for it? Will the concept have progressed liberalism?

While I have seen this as a way to help the Lib Dems, I have serious problems with this concept. What do we do to make ourselves happy? Are such activities sustainable and would they continue to make us happy if we continually did them? You may feel happy on holiday, but would you feel happy if you were always on holiday? Happiness is not something you can ‘get to’ by doing certain things. What makes you happy one minute does not necessarily make you happy the next. Happiness is not an end in itself and so is poor guide for policy development.

Happiness is more of a by-product of focusing on other things. Spending time with friends and family, doing a hobby, doing a job you like/love, or helping out in the community are not done because they make people ‘happy’. We have all felt unhappy at times doing any of these activities but we may continue to do them anyway. If the reason we did them was to feel happy, we would probably have given up on most of them (particularly knocking on doors campaigning). We do what we do for fundamentally different reasons and everyone has their own reasons. However, when looked into who are the happiest people they have generally been people who feel fulfilled in their lives.

Fulfilment would be a much more useful concept for politics and certainly more useful for liberals. Liberalism is about the values of liberty, equality and community. It seeks to give people the freedom to choose for themselves what is important to them and to involve themselves in their community as they see fit and develop their talents to the full. This fits very well into the concept of fulfilment that Covey has: To Live, Love, Learn, & Leave a Legacy.

This gives a much more useful concept to make liberalism relevant to people today. That we would look to help people live life how they want to, support their relationships, help families who need it, support people’s education at any age and to help them get involved in their community. The politics of fulfilment is a much more meaningful concept than that of happiness which will not help anyone and will only attract ridicule.

The Lib Dems should distance themselves from this happiness agenda and start talking about liberalism and personal fulfilment.

This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations

- George Bernard Shaw

Clegg needs to stop being so reasonable with the Tories

Nick Clegg

Image via Wikipedia

National narratives take time to embed themselves but once they do it is difficult to escape from them. The current narrative about the Lib Dems is that they have betrayed students on tuition fees  and are therefore just like the rest of ‘them’ (see comments on this post). But maybe it is Nick Clegg’s reasonableness which is the problem and he can do something about this.

Nick Clegg is a reasonable man. In the TV debates earlier this year he was seen as ‘Mr Reasonable’  and many liked this. When a Coalition was announced Cameron said that reasonable, civilised, grown-up behaviour was what they would have in government.  And now in Government Nick Clegg has gone on to try and be as reasonable as possible even using the word to explain difficult decisions such as when he said it was “reasonable” to cap the amount of housing benefit claimants can receive.

While this may be an admirable trait, particularly in opposition against a back drop of fighting within and between the two main parties, this is starting to cause a lot of problems in power. The Guardian have seized on his reasonableness in an attempt to ridicule him

Immediately following each unpleasant new announcement, Cleggsy Bear shuffles on stage to defend it, working his sad eyes and boyish face as he morosely explains why the decision was inevitable – and not just inevitable, but fair; in fact possibly the fairest, most reasonable decision to have been taken in our lifetimes, no matter how loudly people scream to the contrary.

While everyone understands there needs to be compromise in Coalitions it seems to many that he is being very reasonable with the Tories and then trying to win people over with persuasion. It is this reasonableness with the Tories that has left students feeling betrayed, Lib Dem members feeling the Coalition is a mistake and voters wondering why they should vote Lib Dems. It is time Nick Clegg stopped being so reasonable with the Tories and started being more unreasonable:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man. George Bernard Shaw

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