Nick Clegg the talk show host: Deputy PM opens himself up to ridicule with weekly radio slot on LBC Lib Dem leader to appear on LBC 97.3 every ThursdayDeputy PM says he wants to know 'what people are thinking'Party strategists warn he must improve poll ratings before the end of 2013Half-hour radio show means he will spend three times as long on radio than at the Despatch Box answering questions each monthTories condemn 'bizarre' move when he should be supporting the PM
Matt Chorley, Mailonline Political Editor
09:24 GMT, 7 January 2013
12:56 GMT, 7 January 2013
Nick Clegg will appear on LBC 97.3 every Thursday morning, in an attempt to find out what people are thinking
Nick Clegg is to hold a weekly radio phone-in an extraordinary attempt to win over voters as Lib Dem strategists warn they have a year to turn the party’s poll ratings around.
In an unprecedented move for a party leader, the Deputy Prime Minister is to take calls from listeners every Thursday to find out what ‘people are thinking’.
Named 'Call Clegg' the weekly show is a massive gamble and could see the Lib Dem boss berated for every government gaffe and unpopular policy in the news.
Tory MPs branded the show 'bizarre' and claimed he would spend more time answering questions on the radio than from MPs in the Commons.
It comes as Mr Clegg has been put on notice that he only has until the end of 2013 to rescue dozens of his MPs from wipeout.
The bizarre move to swap the Despatch Box for the DJ's studio also risked over-shadowing the coalition's Mid-Term Review, which is supposed to present a united front with the Conservatives.
Mr Clegg, who celebrates his 46th birthday today, is due to stage a joint press conference with David Cameron this afternoon, setting out a raft of new policies to be implemented before the 2015 election.
But the decision to announce today that he will be putting himself at the mercy of radio listeners will be seen as an attempt to distance himself from the coalition.
Mr Clegg, who has seen his party over-taken in the polls by the UK Independence Party, hopes to turn his ratings around by appearing on London's LBC 97.3 radio station every Thursday morning.
Aides say he is 'comfortable with the format' which will see him spend half an hour every week answering calls, texts and emails.
It means he will spend two hours-a-month responding to questions on the radio, three times the 40 minutes he spends dealing with oral questions at the Despatch Box as Deputy Prime Minister.
Call Clegg will be hosted by LBC presenter Nick Ferrari, who hols regular phone-ins with London Mayor Boris Johnson
Tory MP Ian Liddel-Grainger said:
'Having sat and listened to him at Deputy PM's Questions, he has never
answered a question yet so he isn't likely to break the habit of a
lifetime on the radio.
doesn't he just get on with the job He is completely invisible anyway,
so it's a good job it's on the radio not the television because viewers
wouldn't be able to see him.'
Tory MP Peter Bone said the idea of the Call Clegg show was ‘bizarre’.
WINNERS AND LOSERS WHEN POLITICS MEETS SHOWBIZ
Nick Clegg is not the first politician to TV and radio shows to broaden his appeal, but not all have been successful.
Tory MP Nadine Dorries swapped the Westminster bubble for the I’m A Celebrity jungle in November, claiming she was going where the voters are and would highlight important policies like lowering the abortion limit. Instead she was seen eating camel toe and was the first star to be kicked off the show in a public vote.
Ken Clarke, the former Tory chancellor who joined the coalition Cabinet, hosted nine series of his Radio 4 series Jazz Greats. Famed for his laidback approach, the programme was a chance to indulge his passion for music with little opportunity for embarrassment.
Vince Cable, the Lib Dem Business Secretary, scored an impressive 36-40 when he appeared on the Christmas special of Strictly Come Dancing in 2010. Dancing the foxtrot with Erin Boag, he landed a 10/10 from head judge Len Goodman.
Respect MP George Galloway did little to improve the reputation of politicians when he entered the Celebrity Big Brother house in 2006, donning a red cat suit to purr and lick milk from the hand of actress Rula Lenska. He later hosted a show on TalkSport for six years until 2012.
‘The public will get more chance to
question him than MPs. I would have thought he should be spending his
time as Deputy Prime Minister supporting the Prime Minister in his
‘I am quite amazed that he has got enough time to go off and do a radio programme every Thursday.’
Mr Clegg will be co-hosting with LBC
presenter Nick Ferrari, following in the footsteps of London Mayor Boris
Johnson who also takes part in regular phone-ins on the station.
‘I'm doing this because I don't think politicians get to hear enough from people directly,’ Mr Clegg said.
‘You can't do the right thing in government unless you keep in touch with how people are thinking and feeling.
Ferrari is known as the interviewer that all politicians fear. He can
be very tough but he's generally fair, very well informed and I hope
we’ll make a good combination for the show we're doing together.'
But Labour MP John Mann said: 'It
shows how irrelevant he is to the running of the country. My question to
ask Nick is: What's the point of Nick Clegg Is he Kilroy in disguise'
In a Mail on Sunday opinion poll
yesterday the Lib Dems were on 11 per cent, well behind UKIP which has
surged to 16 per cent on the back of rising dissatisfaction with the
government’s stance on Europe.
Lib Dems have repeatedly stressed that the five-year parliament gives them chance to reverse their woeful ratings.
However, senior party figures now admit that without a major change in fortunes in the next 12 months, Mr Clegg could be in trouble.
‘We have kept saying we have got
plenty of time but we’ve really got to see things turning around this
year,’ a senior Lib Dem source told MailOnline.
‘If we get to the end of 2013 and the polls are still bad for Nick, we will be in trouble.’
Lib Dem insiders say they hope the clips of Mr Clegg's show will be used across the Global Radio network, which owns LBC as well as stations like Heart and Classic FM.
Mr Clegg's latest attempt to reach out to voters comes after his YouTube video apology for promising to vote against tuition fees was remixed, ridiculed and released as a single, reaching 143 in the charts.
By putting himself at the mercy of angry voters every week, Mr Clegg's attempt to connect with voters could backfire.
'It won't be faultless every week,' an advisor said. 'That's the risk of doing live radio.'
Richard Park, Global Radio’s director of broadcasting, said: 'Once again, LBC 97.3 delivers a first, as we welcome the Deputy Prime Minister to London’s biggest conversation.
'No other station offers its listeners such unique access to a senior member of Government. This will be must-listen radio.'
The show, for which Mr Clegg is not being paid, starts this Thursday from 9am.
David Laws, Lib Dem education minister and a key ally of Mr Clegg, insisted that despite wofeul poll ratings and local election results, the party's remaining supporters are 'realistic' about the need for difficult decisions.
'Lib Dems, like everybody else, can count. They can count that when we came to power we had a deficit of 160 thousand million pounds,' he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
'Our supporters are realistic about this. They know there are tough times. They do not believe that every decision made by the Government in these circumstances can be an easy and popular one.
'We are still united as a party in believing that we need to be in coalition to deliver for the country, put our policies into practice, and also because the electorate in May 2010 did not give a majority to any one party.'