Samson Dada

Exclusive: Samson Dada talks to Nick Clegg

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2009 at 11:23 am

What does Nick Clegg plan to read this summer?

I’ve got a few books in my suitcase. I’ve got Gilead by Margaret Robinson that lots of family and friends have recommended. A bit of political reading too – The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. And I’m hoping to get the chance to re-read The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa, one of my favourite books of all time.

Do you think England can regain the Ashes?

The less said about Headingley the better, but I still believe that the team that played so well earlier this summer can regain the Ashes at the Oval. Having Freddie Flintoff back in the team will certainly help!

Apart from Vince Cable, who likes to dance in your cabinet?

I’ve seen a few of them shaking their stuff on the dance floor at party conference!

Will you be committing the party to any new policies at the Liberal Democrat conference?

It’s a democratic forum, and I can’t be certain what will or won’t be voted through – but I hope we’ll be passing a lot of important new policies. We’ll be looking at ways to protect consumers from greedy banks and businesses, at generating electricity from tidal energy and at protecting our civil liberties. There will also be policies on stopping MPs abusing their expenses, improving our rail network and better supporting our armed forces.

In no more than 140 characters, what are your thoughts on MPs who ‘tweet’ during sessions in the House of Commons?

Prefer to concentrate on the debate. Twitter better when you’re out and about. Parliament’s on TV if people want to know what’s happening.

Was there a period and any issues during the year when you thought “Yes, my party was at its highest point”?

Actually, I feel more than ever that we’re continuing on the way up. There have been highlights in the last few months – winning citizenship rights for the Gurkhas, standing up against the abuse of expenses, speaking out for our troops in Afghanistan. At every step, more and more people are seeing something in the Liberal Democrats they believe in, and supporting us. And I see that trend continuing all through the year until the General Election.

What is your response to Gordon Brown’s continued mantra in PMQs that the Liberal Democrats have no policy for jobs, no policy for growth and no policy for housing.” Is this the case and is the Prime Minister telling the truth when he says this?

The Liberal Democrats are the only party with a clear plan to get British people back to work, rebuild the economy and build the homes people need – because we’re the only ones ready to do things differently, moving away from the mistakes that got us into this mess. We want an economy that’s not just centred in London and financial services, but strong throughout the country. And we want to build growth and jobs out of going green, so we can stop dangerous climate change.

Out of Labour and the Conservatives, which party is closer to the ideals and values of the Liberal Democrats?

I think they’re closer to each other! Both are fundamentally parties of the establishment who won’t change anything fundamental about the way our country works and that’s why nothing ever really changes when they’re in government. Liberal Democrats are different – we want a fresh start, a better way of doing things and an end to the same old mistakes.

Why are the Liberal Democrats opposed to renewing Trident when this will send people to work? Fewer people will be on unemployment benefits are less likely to suffer from mental health illnesses such as depression that your party have highlighted as being one of the effects of the recession on the unemployed.

We do not need the comprehensive Trident nuclear weapons system to protect Britain – and at a cost of up to £100bn, it is far too expensive for our needs. The government should make strategic defence decisions on the basis of protecting the country, not to make jobs for people. A far better way to create jobs for unemployed people is to invest in building new homes and renewable energy, so that we can build a new, green economy. That’s a better and more sustainable solution.

Do you believe we will still be in Afghanistan in 10, 15 or 20 years?

We could be if we don’t sort out the political strategy for building up the Afghan government, police and army. That’s why I’ve been so outspoken in arguing for better coordination between international forces, governments and aid agencies, so that the work our troops do leads to long-lasting peace. If we are to stop Afghanistan from being a haven for terrorism and drug traffickers, all nations need to work together.

Do you get a lot of young people visiting your surgeries?

I get a whole mix of people with all sorts of questions and problems. It’s a great way to really keep in touch with what matters to people, and often help get their issues sorted out, too. Sheffield has two big universities, so I often meet a lot of students locally, in particular.

Many teenagers, including me will be voting for the first time, in a general election that carries huge importance for the future of this country? How can Nick Clegg ‘get down with the kids’?

I’m in my early 40s, and I don’t think it’s any use pretending otherwise. And I think it’s pretty patronising to teenagers when politicians or whoever try to be ‘cool’, as if teenagers don’t have the intellect or capacity to engage with them on adult terms. I spend a lot of time out and about in the country, and my favourite thing to do is hold an open forum meeting where people can ask me any question they like. Some of the best discussions have been when we’ve done these public meetings at schools or colleges and got young people along. It’s corny to say, but young people are the country’s future and I think engaging with them is one of the most important things I can do – and that means taking people seriously, not trying to be “down with the kids!”

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