Call Clegg 7th August
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats
Watch as Nick takes your questions for this week's Call Clegg.
This is LBC Call Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg takes your calls with Nick Ferrari at Breakfast. Call 0345 6060973 tweet at lbc973 text 84850. This is Call Clegg on LBC.
NC: And this is Nick Clegg on LBC wit Nick Ferrari, here to take your calls for the next half an hour. And so that number again is 0 0345 6060973 or email at email@example.com and of course you can watch on the website, lbc.co.uk. So let's go straight to the first caller Alistair in Grimsby, hello Alistair. Hi.
A: Yes hi. Good morning Nick.
A: On Monday, David Cameron yourself and Ed Miliband carried out a duty that you are expected to do numerous times of the year. You laid a poppy wreath. Now David Cameron had his own hand written notes, all very nice. Whereas a note from yourself or intended to be from yourself and the leader of the opposition was just scribbled in black felt tip. Now what happened there because now a man of your stature in your position should be ready for an event like that? You should have your own hand written note. You knew that you was going to that wreath laying ceremony as did Ed Miliband. What happened and why didn't your secretary get you prepared?
NC: So Alistair let me explain these events which are very sort of solemn events so you'll have...
A: Yes they are, yes.
NC: ...you probably follow the Remembrance Sunday events where everybody lays wreaths.
NC: In London as well. They're done in, quite rightly, in a very sort of strict way and you basically do what you're told. And that's as it should be because there's a lot of involved, the organisers have to organise everything in the right way. So the convention is you do what you're told. I was invited as was Ed Miliband, as was Alex Salmond, as was Peter Robinson from Northern Ireland, as was Carwyn Jones from Wales and so on to be part of the large numbers of people who laid wreaths. We were given the wreaths to lay just very shortly before doing so. And everybody not just Ed Miliband and myself by the way but Alex Salmond, Peter Robinson, Carwyn Jones, all these other people I mentioned just had the identification who they were on the wreath rather than the handwritten notes that obviously Prince Charles and the Prime Minister did. Of course if I'd been give the wreath before the note, before, I would have been more than honoured to write a note. But you know I don't, can I put this way, I think the, I guess significance of the event and it was a very moving event. And actually a very moving morning the... I'm not sure if you caught on the television, the commemoration ceremony in Glasgow Cathedral but that was particularly moving and poignant. And it was a great privilege to be there and like everybody else I was actually very struck that even though of course the World War I generation has now passed on I was actually quite struck how strong the emotions of the occasion nonetheless were. But genuinely, I've just given you an explanation about how these...
NC: ...these very important public ceremonies happen and how they work and their run to very sort of, if you like to very strict guidelines and protocols. It's quite right that you don't sort of end up, you do in a sense what you're asked to do which is precisely what myself and as I say these other political leaders who were there did as well.
A: But Nick, okay. You go to these ceremonies numerous times of the year why had you not personally right, on your way to the event whether you'd be on the train, on a helicopter or whatever in the back of the chauffer driven car, why did you not personally hand write a note ready to slip in there...
NC: Alistair I think your image of my travelling preference is slightly different to the reality. I promise you I wasn't travelling anywhere by helicopter or anything as glamorous as that. Alistair as I explained you say these events happen a lot. They don't quite they're actually quite rate. This was obviously quite exceptionally rare. Remembrance Sunday happens once a year. And as I say I think it is, you know the convention is that you follow what you're asked to do by the people who are organising it and they organise it with military precision. It's quite a sort of, quite a military feel to the whole event and I say the wreaths that myself, the leader of the opposition...
NC: ...the first minister in Scotland, the first minister in Northern Ireland and Wales and so on were asked to lay which we did. And it's the act of laying the wreath of course...
NF: Of course.
NC: ...was which we were asked if we wanted to do.
NF: Deputy Prime Minister, this is what I don't understand. It takes months of planning, meticulous planning to get you the Prime Minister, the leader of Her Majesty's opposition to take part in some like this. This isn't something that's just arranged the previous Thursday with a quick call round. Your staff must have known what was taking place. Why didn't one of your staff, if they managed to do it for Prince Charles and they managed to do it for David Cameron, why did your staff fail you?
NC: I don't. I honestly think there's not much point you know to sort of lurching around trying to point the finger of blame. Would I have liked the opportunity to write my own tribute...
NF: What would you have said? Why don't you put it right now? What would you have written?
[unclear cross talk 00:05:27]
NF: When you've got minutes to go I'm going to pass you a card.
NC: I would have wanted to express my everlasting gratitude and that of our generation for the extraordinary sacrifices that lost their lives in World War I, their sacrifice has allowed us to enjoy our freedom. And that's something which I feel very grateful and I think everybody does and that came through in all of the very moving ceremonies both in Glasgow Cathedral obviously in Belgium at the cemeteries there, at the Westminster Abbey event later in the evening. But look all I can say to you is if you want I can lurch around and say, oh why wasn't I given this piece of paper and why not...
NC: Well okay well maybe and...
NF: Can you lurch around?
NC: ...I'm sure Alex Salmond and...
NF: Have you lurched around to use your expression?
NC: ...David Robinson and Carwyn Jones and Ed Miliband and myself, all would have preferred to.
NF: Of course.
NC: It didn't happen and if you're... I think it somewhat diminishes the dignity of the event...
NF: Oh I hope not. I'm not seeking to do that.
NC: To now spend a lot of time starting to point of fingers at other people.
NF: Have you lurched around within your office?
NC: Clearly everybody understands that I would...
NF: Feel a bit like Paxman here.
NC: ...much prefer to have been given the opportunity which I wasn't given.
NC: And as I say many other people were not either. The organisers understand that...
NF: Yes of course.
NC: ...loud and clear. But as I say...
NF: And I do not want to diminish from the impact on solemnity.
NC: As I'm trying to both you and Alistair, I actually think that the solemnity and dignity...
NF: Of course.
NC: ...was very important for those people...
NF: And I wouldn't seek to detract...
NC: ...who do care about the memories of what happened in World War I...
NF: Of course.
NC: ...I actually think that will be more important to them in their memory than the reasons why on this occasion.
NC: The opportunity was not given to a number people to write...
NF: I hear you but...
NC: ...personal messages.
NF: ...the fourth and final time, well have you lurched within your... to use your expression which I mean, imagine means shouting at them?
NC: I have made it absolutely clear that I would have liked to have had the opportunity which I wasn't given, to write a personal message. But as I say I hope that doesn't...
NF: So your staff are... you've had a lurch?
NC: ...I've applied whatever...
NF: Someone's been on the receiving end?
NC: ...verb or noun...
NF: Had a good lurching?
NC: ...you want to this. It's really obvious of course I would have liked to have expressed that but I don't... at the end of the day I don't want to diminish...
NF: No of course.
NC: ...the significance of the event because that didn't happen and of course I you know I would have preferred...
NF: Your staff are well aware?
NC: ...to have had the opportunity. They are very well aware.
NF: Yes. So finally.
NF: To sum up in a word your emotion when you realised what had taken place, where you frustrated, were you upset, were you embarrassed, were you annoyed? What word would you put for your emotion when you realised that the Prime Minister had, Prince Charles and the Deputy Prime Minister of...
NC: It was just a feeling of regret that I had not been given that opportunity.
NF: Shall we move on?
NC: Yes, Vlad in Chelsea. Vlad, hello Vlad sorry I've never had a caller called Vlad before. Hello Vlad.
NF: Oh you must get it all the time Vlad?
NC: Is Vlad a short, Vlad is short for something isn't it?
V: Yeah Vladimir, yeah.
NC: Yeah, yeah right okay.
NF: Vladimir. I love it.
NC: We like it here. The two Nicks like the Vlad name so.
V: I'm happy to hear that. I just wanted to ask you. Do you think politicians like Boris Johnson who are extremely popular, do you that's the solution to the political apathy we have in the UK at the moment?
NF: Ooh good question.
NC: A good question Vlad, great name, good question. Do you know I think the thing about Boris Johnson is you know despite all the kind of clumsiness and bumblingness he's actually a really, really ambitious politician. And you know you don't need to sort begrudging him that. He treats his political ambition a bit like he treats his hair. He wants everyone to think that he doesn't really care but he actually really, really does care. And so look he'll now have to, I think now he'll come a bit, you know have to come clean a bit more about the fact that he is in many ways a much more conventional politician than he likes to appear.
NF: Vlad a quick response from you?
V: Yeah and I completely agree with everything you said...
NC: The hair - political ambition analogy Vlad are you with me on that one?
V: Yeah I completely, yeah I'm with you on that one. I was just wondering your final thoughts on... do you think politicians like him will drag the UK out of the political apathy its in at the moment, you know raise turn outs and so on.
NF: Can I put it to you? Are you likely to vote for Boris then Vlad, I sense that you're glad Vlad that he's coming out of London and into a bigger arena. Is that true?
V: Well to be honest I'm not a Conservative voter but I do believe that...
NF: And why, why do engage with Boris? I'll bring the Deputy Prime Minister back in a second. Why is it you feel able to engage with Boris Johnson?
V: I think because he's really stirring emotion and stirring up interest in politics and I think that's critical for the UK at the moment. And whatever happens, whatever way he's doing it, he's doing it. I just [unclear 00:09:51]
NC: No, no look...
NF: Mr Clegg.
NC: ...that as I say, his tousled hair, his bumbliness, his humour all that is great. All I'm saying is that you know don't, behind all of that is someone who is you know absolutely fixated with his own political ambitions. In that sense he's actually a very conventional politician. Look actually I think, do you know what, we can't really tell how people are going to react until Boris actually needs... because in a sense being a Mayor is great a wonderful position to have. But you can kind of have your cake and eat it because you know he can sort of lob grenades into the political debate without really having to take responsibility for stuff. At some point he's actually going to have to say, I'm going to be responsible for stuff, I have to take difficult decisions. Boy have I got the t-shirt on this, I know this. You sometimes just have to take a choice between a lot of invidious difficult decisions all of which you know are not going to be wildly popular and you're going to have to stick with them. And he's going to have to do that at some point if he really does want to see through his political ambitions and then we will see. I kind of think look Vlad, my own view is that it's always good if people engage, you know those who are not particularly normally in politics in politics. Of course that's good. We all have to do it in our own different ways. I wouldn't be on this radio show every morning if I didn't' think you know I had to make efforts as I have done to...
NF: [unclear cross talk 00:10:57] we'd love to have you every morning.
NC: [unclear cross talk 00:10:59] every morning.
NF: Yes and well...
NC: Well there you go.
NF: I'm happy to talk.
NC: The announcement has been made to the surprise.
NF: That's me done. Well it's been great doing breakfast and I wish Mr Clegg the best of fortunes.
NC: And afternoon. Every breakfast, lunch and dinner.
NF: Vlad thank you we move on. Deputy Prime Minister.
NC: Shirley in Beckenham. Hello Shirley.
S: Oh good morning. Thank you for taking call.
NC: Not at all.
S: I've always known that you've been a big supporter of the EU and that your very much against us coming out of it and I know your wife is Spanish so that obviously perhaps influences you slightly.
NC: [laughing] Well Nigel Farage's wife is German so I don't think that rule...
S: Oh that is funny.
NC: ...prevails in all...
S: Anyway sorry, I knew she was from somewhere in Europe. Now since the great rise in popularity of UKIP.
S: And anybody, a lot, most I would say a lot of the population in this country are worried about immigration and everything.
S: I think that UKIP is becoming very powerful and you have lost a lot of votes as a result in various constituencies.
NC: This is such a nice...
NC: ...way of framing the question Shirley.
S: ...I understand that in recent days you have said that you are now in support of trying to curb immigration and I wondered if this was because you felt that you needed to change your stance...
NC: I see.
S: ...to try and void losing even more seats and things at the General Election next year.
S: Because you might feel that you [unclear cross talk 00:12:24]...
NC: I think I've got the message Shirley.
S: ...amongst the polls weren't you recently. And it's quite likely that...
NF: Damning the faint prays.
S: ...a lot of your seats would be wiped out completely.
S: And you would lose your position etc, etc.
NC: Right. Yes.
S: So I just wondered what your position was on this subject?
NC: Right Shirley...
NF: [unclear 00:12:43]
NC: ...well thanks for casting the fortunes of [unclear cross talk 00:12:46]
NF: You want to hear her when she's pessimistic. That's Shirley being happy mate. You want to be around when she's gloomy.
NC: Inside [unclear 00:12:51] and positive light. No Shirley but joking aside you do raise a very, very important issue which is this widespread public concern which is profound and it has become more intense over time and that you're right it did come if you like very much into sharp relief during the recent European elections which is the public concern about immigration into this country. And I will really make two points to you. Firstly, there's nothing new actually about some of the things I've recently said about immigration. If you can bear it Shirley have a look back at the leader's debates that took place on television before the last general election and you will see David Cameron and I cross swords because I said that I thought it was wrong that the Conservative Party made an incredible promise, one that they couldn't deliver and they indeed haven't been able to deliver which is pursuing a net migration target. Because it doesn't make much sense it means that a million can leave, a million people can come. You've got a net migration target of zero job done. In fact the job hasn't been done at all. And instead I said to him let's do the thing that actually the British people want which is to bear down on the abuse in the system, the loopholes in the system, the levels of illegal immigration, the number of people over staying their visas and visa entitlements in this country and I said at the time, so this is before the last General Election, not in response to recent opinion polls, that one of the ways of doing that, absolute key measure, is to reinstate proper border controls so we count people out, as well as we count people in. And it was on my personal insistence, Shirley, that that was something that we put into the coalition agreement, and it's been my personal insistence that the Home Office now raises it's game, having, frankly, dragged its feet for far too long in the early part of this Parliament, so that we really are finally starting to reinstall what are called exit checks, border controls, so we know who's coming in and out of this country. Because that's the only way, by the way, in which we can then go after the people who shouldn't be here at all. Then there's a second issue, which is this issue, which you're quite right, where I did make some important proposals today. Which is that when new member states, new countries, join the European Union in the future, what should our attitude be. Because you know that public confidence, and no doubt your confidence, Shirley, in the immigration system, was deeply, grievously damaged by Labour saying, when Poland and the other Eastern European countries came into the European Union, they said, oh no only a small number of people would come here, and actually, huge numbers of people came here. And ever since then, public confidence in all the reassurances that politicians of all parties make, has been very, very damaged. Now, what I have said in response to that is two things. Firstly, what I discovered, having sort of researched this carefully over the last several months, is that when for instance the last government said, oh well when Romania and Bulgaria come in, there'll be transitional controls, so people will not be able to come from Romania and Bulgaria, until the beginning of this year. Actually what it turns out is that 60,000 Romanian and Bulgarians came, under a loophole, by categorising themselves as self employed. Now that loophole existed to attract, sort of entrepreneurs to come here, create jobs and so on. In fact, it was used for people to come here and take up low paid jobs in, you know...
NF: So you can just say I was a window cleaner, or whatever...right.
NC: Exactly. And I'm saying, lets close that loophole, so the transitional controls in future do what it says on the tin. If people can't come here until the end of the transitional period, they can't come, no self employed loophole. And secondly I've said, that there is a period of time during which, in the past, the European Union has said that those controls on who can and who can't come can continue to exist before they're lifted, I think there is a case that has been well made by people, which says, we should continue lengthening that transitional period for future excisions. So Shirley, sorry for the slightly lengthy and serious reply, but you raise a very serious issue, and I hope I've persuaded you that what I'm advocating is (a) in keeping with what I've said for a long period of time, (b) responding to public concern, but (c) yes, also addressing this issue about how we handle new countries coming into the European Union.
NF: So there's some common ground between you and Mayor Johnson here. Because yesterday he talked about a reformed Europe being best for London, and indeed the country.
NC: Oh yeah, oh listen, I want a reformed...I mean, dare I say it, I've written books on how to reform the European Union, I've campaigned when I was...
NF: Do they sell well?
NC: Well amongst a very small and highly selective readership!
NF: You've got a few thousand in the attic, have you!
NC: Well that would be lucky! I'm sure you will now find this, the now out of date publications! No, no, of course you need a European Union which is less bureaucratic, more open, you know, I've been a leading advocate, for instance...the nonsense of spending £150 million a year on having MEPs migrate between Brussels and...of course you need a reform. But where Boris and I completely disagree is, he says you reform something by basically stamping your foot petulantly on the sidelines...
NF: And shouldn't be afraid of coming out, remember.
NC: Well he's not actually, it's not a courageous thing to say at all. He's basically, very petulantly, you stamp your foot and say, if we don't get what we want, we're gonna flounce out. You know, everybody knows, in negotiations, you don't get what you want by just sort of saying , if we don't get what we want we're gonna go off in a huff. You lead, and you argue forcibly, and you win the argument.
NC: Right, next caller...James in Regent's Park, hello James.
J: Hello Nick.
NC: Hello James.
J: I wanted to ask you, are you actually a supporter of Hamas?
NC: Of course not.
J: Of course not...then why are you asking for an arms embargo to Israel when you're not asking for an arms embargo to Qatar, which is supplying the arms to Hamas and the Muslim brotherhood?
NC: I think, James, the implication of your question is...and I strongly reject, if you look at all the pronouncements I've made, I have been very forceful in my condemnation, of the reprehensible, truly reprehensible...first, the ideology of Hamas, not recognising the right of Israel to exist, but secondly, the really shameful diversion of money that has been provided to the people of Gaza to help build clinics, and schools, and hospitals. And diverting that money instead to this very sophisticated network of air conditioned tunnels, which have been constructed for one purpose only, which is to terrorise innocent Israeli citizens through these wholly unacceptable rocket attacks. And I have never shirked from saying that, and I strongly believe that. All I have also said at the same time, is if you look over the last several years, we've had these cycles of violence, rocket attacks, ground incursions, massive loss of civilian life. And what have we discovered, is that violence begets violence, extremism begets extremism... and here's the thing, from Israel's point of view, as someone who is a staunch defender of Israel's right, of course to exist, but much more importantly, to defend itself, and to secure the safety of its own citizens. I simply do not believe...the evidence shows this is the case, you know, you've got to learn from history, look at recent history...it's the third major ground incursion into Gaza, it does not make the people of Israel safe. I just don't think it is in Israel's interest to have this strategy of sporadic military intervention, and not sustained negotiation to create...at the end of the day, the braver, bigger, bolder thing to do would be to do what has happened in Bosnia, and Northern Ireland, and other bloody conflicts, is people who loathe each other, you know, detest each other, nonetheless pluck up the courage to talk to each other in order to secure peace. That in the long run, in my view, is the only way in which the legitimate, desperate need for safety and security in Israel can be...
J: You haven't answered my question, why you think there should be an arms embargo to Israel, as a punishment, and not to Qatar, who is supplying the weapons and finance to the Muslim brotherhood, to the extreme Muslim Islamist fundamentalists, that have sworn to destroy Israel.
NF: Do you believe there should be this embargo?
NC: Let me explain. I think, firstly, I think we must respect the criteria, and the very strict criteria that are laid down in law, which govern the issuing of export licences for arms and for military hardware and so on, that from us to all countries in the world, including to Israel. And we must look at what's happened over the last several weeks in Gaza, to see whether those criteria were breached or not. They're very clear, they say for instance, you shouldn't be issuing these export licences if that leads to...and you know that's gonna lead to humanitarian suffering on a significant scale. And if it's shown that those criteria have been breached, I mean never mind suspending these licences, you'd have to revoke them permanently. Secondly...
NF: And you would seek that?
NC: Of course we'd look at doing that work, we'd have to do that work, we're duty bound to do that work.
NF: So anybody found selling arms into Israel, that's been involved in this latest violence...
NC: No, what you have to do, as I say, you've got these criteria set down in law. You've got to make sure you respect those criteria, and that work, of course, now needs to be done. Secondly, we didn't issue, quite rightly, we didn't issue any new licences during the course of this latest military conflagration. I don't think anybody, James, from whatever side of this very, very heated dispute one might be, I don't think anyone can contest the view that there was a huge and unacceptable and intolerable loss of civilian life in Gaza. So we didn't issue any licences. Thirdly, we now have a truce, we now have a ceasefire, right. This is why we're discussing this at length within government right now. I think it is crystal clear that there is, that it would be unacceptable to the British people, and wholly wrong, for us to do anything than immediately suspend any existing licences, if that ceasefire were to come to end, and violence were to break out again. So that's my approach, it's a sensible approach, it's a measured approach, and of course it has to be based on evidence.
NF: But what of the firms who have picked up £42 million worth of contracts since 2010, to sell military equipment into Israel?
NC: Well as I say, we haven't issued any new licences.
NF: No, but if they are found to...it is their kit.
NC: If their kit has been shown to...leads to action which breaches the criteria by which we are duty and legally bound, then of course you revoke those licences. And as I say, we don't issue any new licences, and my own view is...and this is something we're discussing in government right now, I hope we can make an announcement shortly, which is why I believe we will be able to issue a tougher approach to all of this, which can give the British public confidence that we stick to the rules by which these licences are issued. If this ceasefire, this truce ends, and violence breaks out again, then clearly we should be suspending those licences.
NF: And the Tories should have gone further in condemning some of the Israeli action? That's what you're reported to have told the Independent this morning.
NC: It's been an open secret, and James is actually criticising me for it. That I have always taken a more forthright view, for the reasons I just explained to James. Because I think it is better for us to take a more forthright view, both as a government, and by the way, as a European Union as a whole, 'cause the European Union has significant clout we could bring to bear on this, which the European Union has...
NF: So what should Mr Cameron be saying?
NC: Well I think you...I just don't think one can, in the face of the massive loss of civilian life, whilst of course condemning, unconditionally, the indiscriminate use of rockets by Hamas to terrorise Israeli citizens...I just don't think we can be anything other than very clear, and very tough, with the Israeli authorities, that what we think they're doing clearly appears to be disproportionate, and not in their long term interest.
NF: And you're happy with the word disproportionate?
NC: I said it first on this show, I think three weeks ago, and I was criticised for it at the time. I don't think very many people now...I was criticised for it at the time, I remember roundly criticised. I don't think anyone now disputes that what we've seen on our television screens over the last couple of weeks appears to be a disproportionate use of military force. I mean, how else are you supposed to describe the outrage...and it is an outrage of three, three...not one...three UN protected schools, being demolished in that way, with huge loss of civilian life, and many women and children being lost. You know, I don't what other word one is supposed to use in the English language, to describe that kind of outrage.
NF: Lastly, what happened to one of your fellow Lib Dem MPs, David Ward, when he put out those unacceptable tweets concerning Palestines...Palestinians, I'm sorry.
NC: Well he apologised, clearly and unconditionally.
NF: So that's it, he's not been disciplined in any other way?
NC: Okay, if he hadn't apologised, clearly, and explained why on earth he made those tweets, then of course he'd be disciplined. But he apologised, and apologised categorically and clearly, and I insisted on that and he did that immediately.
NF: Lets move on to other matters.
NC: Chris, in South Croydon. Hello Chris.
C: Morning Deputy Premier.
C: Yes, the Lady Mayoress of Calais has been making dark murmurs about supplying the refugees there with ferry tickets so that they can come to England. Are you going to stop her?
NF: This is the 350 Eritreans and Somalians who have been having pitched battles in Calais. And a suggestion by the Mayor and Deputy Mayor that they will pay the one way ferry tickets to come to Dover.
NC: I think it's...I'd say to Chris, and this is my failing...I wasn't aware that the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Calais had said that.
NF: They said it's part of..yesterday...part of the entente cordial, Britain should be prepared to take them on board 'cause that is where they're trying to get to.
NC: I think it's an absurd, and very irresponsible reaction by the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor of Calais. This isn't a sort of game of pass the parcel, where one European country simply just sort of shuffles off the problem to their neighbour. This is something we have to work on together, and in the past, and actually credit to people like David Blunkett in the previous, and I very rarely give credit to David Blunkett for anything. But I think he, in the previous administration, for instance, started the work of proper cooperation between ourselves and the French, to deal with this issue where large numbers of people accumulate, gather together in Calais, because they want to move on, and that's the way we should work. I had a meeting with the new Prime Minister, or relatively new Prime Minister of France, recently, Prime Minister Valls, who's taken a pretty hard line on the presence of these large numbers of people who are moving across the European continent, in France. And I think he's a highly effective, and impressive politician. We got on, and that's the spirit in which we should be working with the French.
NF: Lets take another call. Have we got...
NF: No, I think we just lost Fred. Apologies...no we have, go ahead Deputy Prime Minister, yes you're right.
NC: Fred, are you back? Fred in Teddington, hello Fred.
F: Hello. Moving beyond the immigration issue, and the European Union, I'd like to ask you your opinion on the fundamental defect in the way that the EU actually operates. And looking at the bigger picture, right, we're currently reflecting on the causes of World Wars in Europe. Do you have specific proposals to change those EU rules, which are the direct cause of much of what is current economic and political chaos within Europe?
NC: Well I don't think I entirely accept the idea that everything from the conflict in Ukraine, to the fact that the Greeks didn't tell the truth about their budgets, is all the responsibility of people in Brussels. I'm caricaturing, slightly unfairly perhaps Fred, but I do think there is a bit of a tendency sometimes, for people who are of a critical turn of mind, to somehow say that everything...and again, I'm being facetious here...everything from bad weather to traffic jams is the fault of people in Brussels. I also happen to believe that, of course the European Union needs to be reformed...and by the way, Fred, so does Westminster and Whitehall. I mean, the curious thing after four and a half years of being Deputy Prime Minister, I've become more anti establishment, and more radical, and more restless for reform in Westminster and Whitehall, than I was when I started out. You know, four and a half years later, still no change to our clapped out electoral system, still no change to the actually undemocratic nature of the House of Lords, still no change to party funding reform, still far too much sort of, you know, secrecy and bureaucracy in Whitehall. And do you know what, it's the same in the European Union, we shouldn't be spending £150 million a year sending MEPs, migrating, in this great herd of politicians, between Brussels and Strasbourg. Of course we need less red tape where red tape is not necessary. But, and here's the big but...you don't throw the baby out with the bath water.
Because I want to reform Westminster, I'm not gonna raise it the ground. Because I want to reform the European Union, I don't think the answer is simply to kind of flounce out of the European Union. Because I think you lose more than you gain. And what we gain by being part of this, world's largest, biggest marketplace, is huge. Millions of people's jobs in our country, in our communities, are linked to our presence within this huge, the world's largest kind of marketplace. And so reform, yes, and you reform by leading. You don't reform, I think, by blaming everything, indiscriminately, on the European Union, or even...which is the sort of Boris Johnson approach...by saying if you don't get exactly what you want, you're going to head for the exit sign immediately.
NF: Alright. Have we got time for just one more, if we fit it in quickly, David. Can you do it...we'd love to do one more, if you can.
NC: Dave in Harrow...hello Dave.
D: Hello, good morning, thank you for taking my call.
NC: Not at all.
D: I would like to know, from you, why you and your government, having supported this anti terrorist operation by the Kiev Government in Eastern Ukraine, which has resulted in 1,100 civilian deaths so far. And the cities of Lugansk and Donetsk have been surrounded by the army, who are now using missiles, ballistic missiles, tanks and fighter planes. And more civilians are bound to be killed as those cities are stormed. And yet, when the Malaysian airline went down and 300 people were going down, there was not a squeak from you guys regarding the 1,100 civilians. But when this civilian airline was shot down, everyone was condemning, quite rightly, jumping up and down. And Putin got demonised, Russia got instantly blamed, there are sanctions on Russia...a new Cold War has started. Don't those 1,100 civilians in Eastern Ukraine count, or is it because they're Russian speakers?
NC: Dave, I mean, I think that we disagree pretty fervently on this. I really, I mean I'm somewhat sort of stumped by the suggestion that you think it's okay for Vladimir Putin to annexe a great swathe of another European country, which he's done with Crimea. And actively support people who want to destabilise Ukraine. The future of Ukraine should be decided by the Ukrainian people. And those in the east of Ukraine, the Russian speakers, who, for quite rightly, long, historical and cultural reasons, have a strong affinity with Russia. And by the way, I know something about this a little bit, just because the side of my father's family hails from that part of the world. So I don't in any way dismiss the long, historical antecedence to all of this. But that can only be dealt with through a political process, by which more power, more devolution, more decentralisation is given to the people of Eastern Ukraine. Not through, basically, a kind of, not even so covert, but increasingly over support from Vladimir Putin, for a military conflict in a neighbouring European state.
We cannot, in 2014, have in the middle of our European continent, people basically annexing great swathes of neighbouring countries. It is a fundamental principle to the peaceful conduct of international affairs, that that kind of thing does not happen, and that it has consequences when it does happen.
NF: Okay. I finish with one email question, and one question from me. The email question is from Bobby in Narborough. How much will Mr Cameron miss Baroness Warsi?
NC: Well you should ask the Prime Minister.
NF: Of course, he doesn't come in as regularly as you do. So in his absence...
NC: Well a long line of politicians appear to be these days!
NF: They do, it's endless.
NC: I note that all those people who were so sniffy about...
NF: We're gonna start going over there soon!
NC: Exactly! A permanent LBC marquee outside Westminster. Look, I think Baroness Warsi, as the Prime Minister himself has said, you know, did a very good job. She feels very strongly, and I have a considerable amount of sympathy why she feels so strongly about this particular issue. I think for all the reasons we've actually discussed in this programme, I think her reservations are more about her own party's kind of approach to the Middle East rather than anything else.
NF: Does it make the Conservative Party less attractive, do you think, to a certain type of voter, perhaps the Muslim voter?
NC: Look, I'm not a Conservative, I'm the leader of the Liberal Democrats, you're gonna have to talk to them about their own sort of internal woes. I do think, I've always felt this, that the Conservative Party's own fortunes depend on its ability to govern for the whole country, not one part of the country, and for all communities, not just some communities. And I just think, if you look at the electoral map...I mean, I know that my party has got it's challenges. But the Conservative Party, people are nonexistent in vast swathes of Scotland, Wales, Northern England. And in many communities they do, it seems to me, they do need to kind of really work hard to reach out to other communities.
NF: Now I...we won't see each other for a week or so, because I know you have some vacation. Are you going to be improving your tennis...I'll be reading your book on European Reform...
NC: You will.
NF: Oh my goodness, I'll give you full appraisal when you return.
NC: I'll send you a little annexe if you like.
NF: I'd be grateful for any reading notes, indeed. Will you be improving your tennis?
NC: You are somehow suggesting it is in need of great improvement.
NF: Well I'm aware that you lose regularly to the Prime Minister. And I have to share something with you.
NC: Of the many misses that have taken...alright.
NF: That the Prime Minister has installed one of those automatic tennis serving machines.
NC: Has he?
NF: Yes, he's had one of those installed at Chequers. And because it serves at roughly the same pace, and the same velocity, and is fairly predictable, he's nicknamed it the Clegger.
NC: Are you sure this is true?
NF: I'm told this from a very reliable source.
NC: Look, I accept the charge that my...
NF: How do you respond to this machine being...so he stands there, he knows exactly the pace that's coming out, the velocity angle...he says, I'm going in front of the Clegger. How do you respond Nick?
NC: Well I'm not...you must ask him again, what he calls inanimate objects in his own home. But I accept the charge that my serve is fast, consistent...
NC: ...and accurate at all times!
NF: Right, you will return in a couple of weeks. Have a good break. You're listening to...that's the end of Call Clegg, but back in a couple of weeks. You won't notice, before you know it, he'll be back in his position. News is next on LBC.