A former Liberal Democrat press officer has revealed that he once booked a photo opportunity for party leader Nick Clegg to announce a major party policy at a popular dogging site.
Ben Rathe, who used to handle media relations for the coalition government party, told how he arranged a press event to reveal the 5 pence charge on plastic carrier bags at a popular Glasgow dogging location.
Rathe said “It was the Liberal Democrat Conference 2013, and my role back then was planning all of the visits that Nick Clegg was doing over the course of the five days in Glasgow. This included finding somewhere suitable to announce a new 5p charge on plastic bags. I picked out a lovely nature reserve just south of Glasgow called Cathkin Marsh, which allowed us to tell the story of how discarded carrier bags murder cute, furry animals, damage the environment and ruin picturesque landscapes.”
As Clegg was deputy prime minister at the time, the police has to check the area ahead of the speech. However, during the trip to do this, Rathe learnt a worrying fact about his choice of location, as he explains….. ”Interesting place for a visit” said one Police Officer after the recce, which had mainly involved walking around a marshland on a wooden boardwalk. I, thinking he meant they usually take politicians to schools, factories or nursing homes, launched into an explanation about why we’d chosen this location, the environmental impact discarded bags can have etc etc when I was swiftly cut off by the Police Officer who said “No, I mean because of what the locals use it for.”
Rathe elaborated “Now, ‘what the locals use it for’ is never a good sentence to hear, because usually ‘the locals’ are never using ‘it’ for anything good. I didn’t want to ask what he meant, mainly because I knew what he was going to say if I did, but felt that I had to. So I did. And then came the reply I had both expected and dreaded. ‘Oh, it’s a dogging site!'”
“And as planned, the next day Nick Clegg did indeed unwittingly make his 5p plastic bag charge announcement. At a dogging spot! I’d arranged for the Deputy Prime Minister to visit a dogging site!”
If you want to visit the same dogging spot as Nick Clegg, you should check out this comprehensive Guide to Dogging in the UK.