Isabel Hardman

Exclusive: Nick Clegg complains to Cabinet Secretary about being left out

Exclusive: Nick Clegg complains to Cabinet Secretary about being left out
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Nick Clegg has complained to Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, that he was ignored before a government policy was announced, Coffee House has learned.

The Deputy Prime Minister was annoyed that he did not get the chance to approve a change to the way Birmingham elects its councillors, from elections by thirds to all-out elections every four years. The change is part of reforms to the struggling local authority announced in a review by Sir Bob Kerslake.

But Clegg claims he was never allowed to sign off the policy, which he should have seen because he chairs the government committee that approves most domestic policy - the Home Affairs Cabinet Committee. He complained to Sir Jeremy Heywood, who has told Clegg he is investigating, and to Eric Pickles. I understand that those involved have insisted that they did everything by the book.

A spokesman for the Deputy Prime Minister says:

‘The Deputy Prime Minister has written to the Communities Secretary to seek an explanation from him as to why he did not seek collective agreement, as he was required to do. He has made the Cabinet Secretary aware of this issue and of his letter to the Communities Secretary.’

Though most people haven’t heard of the Home Affairs Cabinet Committee, it’s one of the things closest to Nick Clegg’s heart. He is very, very protective of his chairmanship of this unknown committee, as it’s the one that approves most domestic government policy, and is therefore one of his best opportunities to block Conservative policies that he doesn’t like. The Tories are desperate for him not to chair this committee in a second coalition as the Deputy Prime Minister has used it to frustrate them on so many matters, such as reforms to child care. But Clegg recently insisted that he should continue to run it in the event of a coalition after the election. This incident is quite a neat illustration of just how protective the Deputy Prime Minister is of this position.

Written byIsabel Hardman

Isabel Hardman is assistant editor of The Spectator. She also presents Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is author of Why We Get The Wrong Politicians.