Of all Nick Clegg’s media critics,the sharpest and funniest is Iain Martin, usually in the Telegraph. Like today:
The effect is a curious one. The interviewer tries to get Clegg to go beyond generalised, platitudinous, pious prattling about his regret at having got rumbled making a promise he knew he couldn’t keep. At the first sign of questioning Clegg starts to get exasperated, and then steadily more bolshie. It is like listening to a stroppy teenager who has been caught doing something wrong (such as, for the sake of argument, setting fire to a collection of rare cacti on an exchange trip to Germany). The teenager must apologise but is annoyed about being forced to:
Why did you burn the cacti?
“Look, I’ve said sorry, right?”
Was it premeditated? Have you got something against cacti, or was it a prank that got out of hand?
“I’ve said sorry. Just leave it!”
On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning Clegg was also quizzed on his latest pronouncements on tax. Yesterday he said that the top 10 per cent should chip in more. As far as one can tell from unscrambling Clegg’s utterances, that means even more targeting of those who pay 40p tax, that’s the 3.8 million Britons who earn upwards of £43,000, hit by the Government dragging more people into higher rate tax. It was 3 million under Gordon Brown, soon it will be 4.4 million. The 10 per cent will be more like the 15 per cent. Or is Clegg in favour of new tax bands to clobber just the old 10 per cent? I’m sure he’s thought all this through.
One of many very fine analyses lurking in the Telegraph blogs, by some distance the finest UK political blog site. However, on the Clegg topic, an honorary mention to the Daily Mail, which for lots of reasons is the most popular and biggest newspaper website in the world, never mind the UK. Here is Tom Utley, on the wretched Clegg, or the arrogant and monumentally dishonest buffoon, to use his new nickname:
First, a profound apology to all my readers. In an article I wrote during the 2010 election campaign, I described Nick Clegg in the following terms: ‘He is clever, polite, plausible and presentable.’ I hang my head in abject shame.
In my defence, I can only say that this was my honest impression at the time. Like most of the country, I had hardly been aware of the man before the previous week’s historic televised Election debate between the three party leaders — the 90 minutes that were to throw politics into turmoil and, more’s the pity, shape the country’s future for at least the next five years.
The broadcast was judged almost universally to have been a triumph for Mr Clegg. His party was soaring in the polls, and when I joined him on the election trail he was basking in the praise of admirers (not me, I promise) who described him as ‘more popular than Winston Churchill’.
As I also reported, I detected in him the distinctive marks of a product of Westminster School — his alma mater and mine — which an acid-tongued American friend summed up as ‘a poisonous mixture of self-deprecation and arrogance’. I stand by that judgment to the letter.
I even venture to claim I was right to call him ‘presentable’ and ‘polite’. After all, he’s nicely turned-out — and when he’s not calling those who disagree with him ‘bigots’, he can surely be relied upon to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, as you pass him the salt.
Perhaps I was unduly impressed by the fact that he speaks five languages — more a mark of a good ear than a good mind, particularly since he has the advantage that most of his relations are foreigners.
Or maybe I credited him with more political skill than he actually displayed during those televised debates. For let’s face it, almost any unknown might have shone against the leaders of the two big parties, mired as they were in the MPs’ expenses scandal.
All I can say is that, two and half years on, I have revised my opinion of Mr Clegg.
Far from thinking him clever, I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s decidedly thick. And now that we all know him so much better, I reckon he’s one of the most implausible politicians in a profession hardly renowned for the believability of its practitioners. Indeed, his dishonesty is so transparent that I can only describe it as childlike.
I know, I know, cheap shots, ad hominem attacks etc etc, but thank God they are.
If only this level of invective had been routine from Year Zero (1997).