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Clegg at play – sorry, ‘bay’

Simon Campion-Brown gets so exasperated that he begins to wonder whether he should continue as NR's political correspondent

For my sins, I watched the whole of the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1 yesterday morning, which included a featured a 15 minute-plus interview with Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Lib-Dems.

Ostensibly, his purpose in agreeing to be interviewed – apart from having his vanity button pressed by having the opportunity to be seen on a top current affairs weekend television show – seemed to be to add momentum to the Lib-Dems’ new strategy of ‘creating blue water’ (as I think the political advisers/wonks term it) between themselves and their Tory coalition government partners in the eighteen months or so run-up to the next General Election.

The cynics amongst us might say that the way the Lib-Dems intend to do this is transparent and crass – viz. (1) claiming due credit for their part in anything deemed to have been a governmental success since the 2010 General Election; (2) distancing themselves from any governmental cock-ups or disasters in said period; and now (3) peddling the line that, if the public should ever feel hard done by under the Coalition – e.g. by the chancellor’s austerity measures and/or the Tory hierarchy brazenly lowering tax for their Bullingdon Club and multi-national corporation pals – please will we contemplate how much worse things might have been if they (the Lib-Dems) hadn’t been in government to veto, or at least put the brakes on, some of the ‘Nasty’ Party’s more swivel-eyed schemes?

At this point, I should perhaps declare an interest.

Although I distrust all politicians on principle, Nick Clegg is one of those for British MPs whom I have absolutely no respect for, indeed probably hate. For me, he comes straight from the well-worn mould of smooth-but-vacuous, renta-mouth, snake oil salesman-windbags [please note I didn’t say ‘unintelligent’].

He’s the kind of guy whom you know or suspect you could trust, on any given day, to go out on a round of media interviews and appearances, earnestly maintaining that Galileo was right, and that the Earth orbits the Sun in a solar system … and then, the next day, happily go out again to push the line, with equal apparent sincerity, that Galileo was a complete idiot and in fact the Earth in the centre of the universe … without batting an eyelid, or indeed drawing breath.

Clegg2Yesterday’s joust with Andrew Marr was a case in point. It didn’t matter what question Marr put to him, Clegg only answered it if this suited him and otherwise launched into another lengthy monologue (presumably well-reheased) going all around the subject – or indeed nowhere near it – as he deemed fit.

All the while he was using his hands expressively to emphasise his points and give off the impression, in the ‘man of the people’ manner patented by Tony Blair, that he was entirely in tune with Marr and the audience at home, but at the same time knew better than any of us.

At the conclusion of the interview, Marr and Clegg joined the newspaper-reviewers-of-the-day for the cosy sign-off chat before the programme end credits rolled.

By this time, I was wondering whether Clegg possessed any self-awareness at all, or was capable of recognising the inconsistency in his own statements.

This after he had spent a large part of his earlier interview discussing the vexed issue of a UK referendum on EU membership, saying in effect that there was really no need for one because the benefits of remaining in the EU was so blindingly obvious.

They boiled down, in his view, to the fact that three million British jobs, and indeed Britain’s ability to influence the increasingly global and interconnected world we live in, absolutely depended upon it. He gave the impression that the alternative – i.e. Britain withdrawing from the EU – was so awful in prospect that he wasn’t even going to contemplate, still less allow, it.

Minutes later Marr attacked Clegg’s apparent position on the forthcoming 2015 General Election (amounting to “Vote for the Lib-Dems because, whichever of the two main parties gets in without a clear majority, we’ll be able to prevent their loonier policies going through and keep them on a sensible middle path”), suggesting it was actively seeking a hung parliament in one form or another, rather than setting out a clear and distinct set of Lib-Dem policies.

In response, Clegg was unrepentant.

He effectively asked what right had anyone to dismiss such a scenario, especially if (by their votes) such an electoral outcome was ‘the will of the British people’?

Excuse me …?

On the issue of UK membership of the EU, Clegg had asserted earlier that remaining in the EU was so important that flaffing about, agonising over whether or not to stay in, was a complete waste of time and (in his view) rendered a referendum superfluous, if not positively dangerous to British interests.

Minutes later, he was asserting the absolute supremacy of the electorate’s views in any democratic society.

[As regards principles, the uncharitable might argue that the only one that Clegg espouses is ‘what would work in the best personal interests of Nick Clegg?’].

Make your mind up, you twat!

 

 

 

About Simon Campion-Brown

A former lecturer in politics at Keele University, Simon now lives in Oxfordshire. Married with two children, in 2007 he decided to monitor the Westminster village via newspaper and television and has never looked back. More Posts