Nick Clegg's problem


clegg2.jpgLiberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has a real problem. Last week one of his MPs tabled a bill in Parliament to force pubs and bars to sell wine in small measures only, while one of his party's MEPs called for a ban on patio heaters.

Greg Mulholland, Lib-Dem health spokesman, wants to make it illegal for bars and pubs to sell wine in anything other than the little 125ml size popular over a decade ago. These were the tiny little glass bowls that didn't allow the wine's aromas to develop in the glass. His excuse is that "people don't realize how much they're drinking."

Meanwhile Fiona Hall, Liberal Democrat MEP for the North East, called for the EU Parliament to urge the Commission to ban patio heaters on the grounds that they contribute to global warming. Of course they have a negligible impact; it's just one of those gesture politics tricks to create whipping boys. The surge in the sale of them is probably down to the government's ill-conceived smoking ban anyway.

The result is that poor Nick Clegg has seen his party made to look stupid yet again. He needs to take a lesson from Peter Mandelson, who introduced tight controls over what initiatives individual Labour politicians might launch or pontificate about. It made him unpopular, but it made his party able to control its image. Nick Clegg will have to do something similar or risk seeing idiots and charlatans make his party a laughing stock week after week.