Deputy PM Nick Clegg defends political “newspaper” the St Albans Mail

Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg reveals his thoughts on council-run newspapers and the local party’s own St Albans Mail in extracts from an exclusive interview with Herts Advertiser editor Matt Adams

LIBERAL Democrat Nick Clegg has defended the local party’s controversial “newspaper” the St Albans Mail.

Speaking exclusively to Herts Advertiser editor Matt Adams last night, Mr Clegg claimed readers should be aware that the publication was produced by St Albans Liberal Democrats.

The free St Albans Mail has been condemned by Herts Ad readers as “gimmicky and self-congratulatory”, and has been criticised for failing to boldly declare its political interests.

Mr Clegg was swift to defend his party’s opposition to council-run publications pretending to be independent newspapers.

He explained: “I came across this first in Opposition, and I am a strong advocate of putting an end to these council “newspapers”. I saw one just before the election in Hammersmith and Fulham which looked just like one of your newspapers. That obviously poses problems for you and the local press in terms of advertising revenues and so on, and I think it’s right for us to say hang on, you can’t publish things which are basically public information and have them masquerade as commercial newspapers.”

But when presented with a copy of the latest edition of the St Albans Mail, he rebukked the suggestion that readers should mistake it for anything other than Liberal Democrat propaganda.

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““Come on, I take one glance at this and I see reference to Lib Dem councillors, Andrew Duff MEP, Lib Dem Chris Oxley, “Help the Lib Dems win!” Frankly the most cursory glance at this makes it plainly obvious… If they [your readers] haven’t a clue to the nature of this newspaper… well I think it’s fair to say that it is wholly, wholly different.”

Liberal Democrat council leader Robert Donald and former parliamentary candidate Sandy Walkington, who were present during the interview, admitted a previous edition of the St Albans Mail may not have made its origins obvious.

* More from the Herts Advertiser’s exclusive interview with the Deputy Prime Minister to follow. And read our special report on Nick Clegg’s visit to St Albans in the Herts Advertiser on March 10.