The Blog

Having Nick Clegg for Breakfast

This Thursday, LBC launches 'Call Clegg' - a weekly phone-in with the deputy prime minister on Nick Ferrari's breakfast show. (Personally, I think they should have called it 'Nick, Nick' or 'Let's Have Clegg for Breakfast!').

Tony Blair's team called it the 'masochism strategy' - going out to talk to people you know will give you an absolute monstering.

The argument is that even through the public dislikes you, they might start listening if you take it as much as you give.

So this Thursday, LBC launches 'Call Clegg' - a weekly phone-in with the deputy prime minister on Nick Ferrari's breakfast show. (Personally, I think they should have called it 'Nick, Nick' or 'Let's Have Clegg for Breakfast!')

Two years ago I suggested in an article for Campaign that Clegg should get out of the Westminster village, use local media more and position the Lib Dems as a brake on unpopular Tory policies.

Half way through the Coalition's term, differentiation and being your own man are absolutely key if he wants to avoid electoral Armageddon.

Mind you, I also warned him not to campaign actively in the AV referendum, so he obviously didn't read it or chose to ignore me!

But with Call Clegg, he's got nothing to lose and everything to gain. His personal approval rating as DPM is minus 33, Cameron grabs the credit for any Coalition success and his party is regularly slipping to fourth behind Ukip in the polls.

And LBC is a really good call. Under its new station manager James Rea (Chris Rea's nephew, pop fans!) LBC is positioning itself as a national talk radio station.

And the liberating platforms of DAB, Sky, Freeview and the internet, means its not tied to the geographical limits of analogue radio. Up to 25% of its listeners are outside London, with a very high internet, iPad and iPhone listenership. This will continue to grow and grow.

And if he say's something interesting, it will get 'clipped' and distributed to the other radio stations in LBC's Global Radio Group. That means Heart, Capital, LBC, Classic FM, Gold and Xfm - a total of 19million listeners, a third of the UK population.

So Nick, if you want to really make this work and not turn it into another broken New Year Resolution, follow these five rules to get the best out of the phone-in.

1. Always do the phone-ins face-to-face in the studio. You actually announced you were joining the breakfast team in a crackly landline phone call with Ferrari. By being in the studio, you'll be able to better read the presenters cues, your voice will be 'in quality' and you'll have more control.

2. Don't vet the questions. Leave it to the editorial control of LBC. Whilst the producers won't give you an easy ride (and hey, this is a masochism strategy), they will ensure that plain nasty, spiteful and libelous questions don't get to air.

3. Take the questions LIVE. LBC are already trailing for listeners to send in questions. But it will have far more impact if the questioners get to put them to you live on air. That means they might get to ask supplementaries or expand on their argument. But that's fine. Just make sure they get the chance to put them. And DO NOT talk over the callers.Take your beating and then rebut.

4. Forget about what the media thinks. Do not think you'll get ANY favourable media coverage from these phone-ins. The papers that already hate you, will STILL hate you and pick out the worst and most embarrassing on-air confrontations.

5. LISTEN. This isn't about you. It's about giving the public an opportunity to sound off. By listening you will learn. And slowly but surely, you might start to win people over again.

And don't just stop at LBC. You should extend the phone-in to regional BBC radio stations once a month. These stations in England have a total audience of 7.2million! It'll also dovetail well into your diary of local meetings across the country.

Finally, you have a Twitter account. So use it properly.

Do a weekly Q&A on Twitter. Yes, you will get abuse, but then so does Boris who has successfully done the same thing for the last few years. (As he has with his LBC phone-ins.)

And stop tweeting press releases and statements. RESPOND to tweets. Give a bit of yourself. Tell us something interesting.

You don't know how much the previous deputy prime minister would have LOVED to have had Twitter when he was in office. So make the most of it.

Yes, you'll make mistakes. Yes, you'll get a kicking from the trolls and phone-in cranks.

But you'll be like everyone else - human.

And for a politician, that's not a bad thing to be.