Stephen Sutton died this morning, and I can do no better than recommend this fine tribute by Damian Thompson, and quote his bereaved mother, who with good reason stated “My heart is bursting with pride…”.
On the same website (the wonderful Telegraph blogs), you can find an equally accurate – and heartfelt – piece by Iain Martin, but on a much, much less edifying topic, the privileged fool that is Nick Clegg.
Two highly intelligent middle class British men in the news, but what a gulf between their accomplishments. Every time I groan/puke at Clegg’s latest hypocrisy and incompetence, at least there is the consolation of knowing that some of our fellow countrymen can still be admirable and high-minded people to look up to.
Take it away Iain:
I have laid off the Nick Clegg criticism in the last year or so. There are only so many times that one can explain that a party leader who argues in opposition against a policy such as a commitment not to raise tuition fees, who is outvoted on said policy by his colleagues and who then parades around promoting the policy he knows is a fraud to hoover up student votes in a general election, before getting into government and then reverting to his original position when fees go up while all the while wearing a pious expression, that that leader is at best a third-rater and possibly an out and out rotter.
In the early days of coalition, I felt compelled to keep pointing this and other Cleggish inconsistencies out. I even said that the Deputy Prime Minister had officially joined the Muppets when Clegg responded with ill grace to being outplayed by his opponents over his idiotic scheme to reform the House of Lords, which would have created 15 year terms for senators and unbalanced the constitution by making the two chambers direct democratic rivals.
But it soon got boring. Even friends at Westminster who are not fans of the Lib Dem leader started to say that the poor chap was only doing his best. It wasn’t Clegg’s fault that he was so inept, and the pious look on his face could be explained by him having endured so much extra-parliamentary horrible abuse for, as he saw it, merely serving his country after it had been ruined by Gordon Brown and the bankers….
This article, by Andrew Lilico, is so good it should be a mandatory read for any school pupil studying economics, philosophy, history, politics, sociology, psychology, the lot. It cuts to the very heart of nearly all political debate and manoeuvring in the UK (and elsewhere).
It’s not a long piece, and I’ve just pinched the first couple of paragraphs for an accurate taste of Lilico’s clear-sighted argument:
It appears to be all the rage to have opinions about how wealth is distributed, debating for example whether billionaires should ‘get to keep’ their money. I consider that impertinent, offensive and sinister.
Your wealth (and note carefully that I am discussing wealth, not income here – the issues with income are slightly different) is your property. Property is private. Your house, your car, your TV, your share portfolio – they are yours, just as much as your hair or your intelligence or your skill at tennis are yours. Suppose someone said: “I believe the distribution of hair is unfair, so we are going to take some of your hair away.’ You would think that a monstrous violation of your personal liberty, of your privacy. But would it really be any different if someone said: ‘The distribution of toys is unfair, so we are taking some of your children’s toys away’ or ‘The distribution of televisions is unfair, so we are confiscating yours’?
This is not really party political, as they all get this fundamental issue wrong at times, but clearly Ed Miliband’s entire economic policy, if you can call it that, is based on taking other people’s wealth, and the Lib Dem’s ludicrous ‘mansion tax’ is another fine example.
You can’t have too much of a good thing. The Knifes’s previous two posts on this topic, here and here, have been pretty popular.
I’m no Clarksonoid petrolhead, though I’ve nothing against that kind of stuff, I just love this because it’s so beautiful. It’s also a fantastic car to drive, from the very best Stuttgart era.
On a day when Nick Clegg, not in any shape or form a “man’s man”, decides to blow half a billion pounds of our money on pathetic and pointless electric cars**, The Knife is particularly proud of owning an aesthetically magnificent 5 litre V8 cruiser. As does Clint Eastwood.
**the hospital where The Knife works decided to cut down on travel expenses, although there can be a lot of driving. You could still have the option of an eco-friendly electric hire car (on the taxpayer), if you booked it in advance. It would certainly get to another hospital 35 miles away, but there was no guarantee that you would make it back. Always pack a toothbrush.
The Knife regularly quotes Iain Martin, who is both funny and remarkably switched on. He also seems to loathe Nick Clegg, which is never a bad sign. Here he is, in his end of year summary (worth reading it all):
The most annoying thing about Nick Clegg:
It has been another outstanding year in this category. From beginning to end the Deputy Prime Minister has stayed relentlessly focused on being incredibly annoying. How does he maintain such consistent standards? He makes it look so easy, with his endlessly pious tone and sad voice, punctuated by little sighs when someone asks a question he doesn’t like. Then there are the terrible speeches delivered as though they have been assembled on an app which strings together assorted liberal platitudes. And don’t forget his determination to turn Britain into a cut-price version of Belgium in which the Liberal Democrats are always in power. Expect more in a similar vein from Mr Clegg in 2014.
Jan Moir is the Daily Mail hack who got embroiled in the usual self-righteous Twitterstorm etc when she pointed out a few painful facts around the death of Boyzone star Stephen Gately. It may be that her timing was suspect then, but given its quality, precision and laser-guided invective, The Knife is reprinting an excerpt from her magnificent demolition of Nick Clegg from two days ago. This time she got it all just right.
August is nearly here, which means only one thing in political circles. David Cameron has gone on his annual summer holiday, leaving Nick Clegg running the country.Millions might find that a terrifying prospect — but be calm, people.
For the next two weeks it will be business as usual in the empty offices of Whitehall; meaning that Calamity Clegg will not be allowed to make any big or important decisions.And God forbid, but if any national emergency occurred, Superman Cam would be back from Portugal quicker than a speeding bullet. In any case, Downing Street insists that Mr Cameron ‘remains in charge’ — even on holiday.
For this small mercy, many thanks.
Yet despite his lack of authority and the fact that he has absolutely no legitimacy nor democratic mandate, Clegg will be marching around the corridors of power exuding his usual sulky sense of entitlement.
In the meantime, conspiracy theorists have noted that the Lib Dem leader assumes his annual veneer of top seed ranking in the very week that British coastal waters have been invaded by jellyfish.Coincidence? Or have the jelly flash mob come to acknowledge and worship the greatest spineless creature of all?
Clegg in charge? It is ridiculous.
His contribution to politics, to society, to the betterment of British public life is not even a childish doodle in the margin of history. We have become sadly accustomed to Cleggy slouching in his seat at the House of Commons, alternately looking bored or superior — and baleful at any government triumphs.But the truth is that his political tenure over recent years is characterised by a flatline of failed, self-serving initiatives and grand plans that have turned to dust.Since the Coalition was formed, Clegg has somehow managed to alienate absolutely everyone across the political spectrum.He is mocked by Labour and Conservatives alike, while his own Lib Dem supporters will never forgive him for his series of cowardly U-turns on party policy.
And his self-appointed role as Master of Sanctimony within the Coalition means that he is opposed to all sensible policies.This is despite the fact that there is such a thing as collective Cabinet responsibility — something his Lib Dem colleague Vince Cable seems never to have heard of.
For his part, Cleggy wants to annihilate the Monarchy and reduce this country to a colourless republic — yet he still turns up at most important royal shindigs.In all this he is like a teenager who wants to experience every one of life’s excitements — without being burdened by the adult responsibilities that go with them.
It has become increasingly clear that Clegg, who boasts of the success of the Coalition, cannot agree with his Tory colleagues on the major issues of the day, such as immigration, welfare and the EU.His grand plan for the reformation of the House of Lords was a resounding and embarrassing failure.In one major speech he accused British banks of having racist lending policies, warning of ‘barriers preventing black and ethnic minority groups from accessing loans’.A government report, ordered by Clegg himself, this week found no evidence of racial discrimination among lenders. In the meantime, the Lib Dems have unsurprisingly become more unpopular than ever.
To say that, within his party, his credibility is shot is an understatement.
On all sides of the divide, Clegg is seen as a politician who sold out his once so dearly held Lib Dem policies for the illusion of power; a man whose chronic liberal piety on matters large and small cannot cloak the fact that he is morally bankrupt.For his U-turn on university fees in particular, he will never be forgiven. Indeed, his poll ratings are so low that it seems certain he will lose his Sheffield seat at the next election — he has only himself to blame.
…and as the Lib Dems never tire of telling us, the Lords is not a democratic process. So they have 9% of the MP’S, and even though they did get 23% of the popular vote, even that is significantly below what they’ve awarded themselves in this latest tranche of freeloading has-beens to enter the Lords.
Iain Martin revived a theme The Knife used back in 2010: should we laugh, or be scared when Clegg, incredibly, is in charge for a couple of weeks? The answer is we should be scared, but on the other hand, he and his buddies are so utterly clueless and inept, Dave’ll be back before they’ve worked out how to press the red button.
A couple of days ago, Clegg was being interviewed by Eamonn Holmes on Sky TV, about apprenticeship, or some other politics-by-numbers topic. At the end of the interview, given the previous evening’s events, Holmes asked the sex-crazedcactus hater what he thought about the election of Pope Francis.
In the course of the usual bland answer, Cleggy confirmed that his wife and offspring were Catholics – hence his now famous choice of a ‘local’ state school, and so was his mother, but he wasn’t.
Is this correct?
The reason, presumably, that the children were baptised as Catholics, is because of their mother, the fragrant Miriam. Surely it is likely that Clegg’s Dutch mum, Eulalie Hermance van den Wall Bake, would have done the same thing?
The Knife doesn’t know, but it seems likely.
If that was the case, then in order to not be a Catholic now, there would have been two possible options, I thought initially:
1. Get yourself excommunicated, although surprisingly perhaps this doesn’t actually remove your baptism, you’re barred, as the name suggests, from the sacraments. So that’s out.
2. Go for the actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia catholica, which was a formal act of departure, externally provable, and done for legal reasons, such as tax receipts in countries like Germany. However, this was removed from Canon Law in 2009, and did not in itself confirm that someone was no longer part of the church.
So as far as I can tell, cribbing from Wikipedia, the following still applies:
The notification required therefore that the decision to leave the Church had to be manifested personally, consciously and freely, and in writing, to the competent Church authority, who was then to judge whether it was genuinely a case of “true separation from the constitutive elements of the life of the Church … (by) an act of apostasy, heresy or schism.”
If the bishop or parish priest decided that the individual had indeed made a formal act of defection from the Catholic Church – making a decision on this matter would normally require a meeting with the person involved – the fact of this formal act was to be noted in the register of the person’s baptism. This annotation, like other annotations in the baptismal register, such as those of marriage or ordination, was unrelated to the fact of the baptism: it was not a “debaptism” (a term sometimes used journalistically): the fact of having been baptized remained a fact, and the Catholic Church holds that baptism marks a person with a seal or character that “is an ontological and permanent bond which is not lost by reason of any act or fact of defection”.
Of course, lots of people get very irritated by the claim that once baptised, that’s you, whatever you personally want. But if you accept the ‘mystical’ concept of baptism, which is very longstanding, and not exclusively Catholic, then it seems reasonable to me that God calls the shots here.
So, unless a Canon Lawyer can correct me, or in the event that Eulalie Hermance van den Wall Bake can clarify the neonatal Nick’s situation, we may actually have a Catholic Deputy Prime Minister.
Whatever you personally think of “gay marriage”, or indeed, if one recalls the horrors of the Blair years , fox hunting, it is hardly one of the real issues of the day, confronting ordinary citizens, day in, day out. That would be the economy. Or terrorism. Or the dreaded EU.
Why, therefore, is it so big? Who really cares? As Fraser Nelson points out in a recent piece: Britain does not need legislation to make it more liberal. It can already claim to be one of the most tolerant places on earth.
The reason why this sort of non-issue ends up dominating the headlines is twofold, perhaps best expressed by others. In one Simpsons episode, Homer runs for office – and wins – on the slogan “Can’t someone else do it?” Apathy is popular. But if that someone else is Dave, then you have to expect lots of trivial rubbish, amidst the few bright spots. Hence gay marriage, although it’s not looking like a vote winner to me.
The other related point is that this kind of nitpicking issue doesn’t reflect what’s really going on, but the noise made by a few obsessives in government and the media might give you the wrong impression. Over to the great Edmund Burke, writing Reflections on the Revolution in France, 232 years ago:
Because half-a-dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field; that of course they are many in number; or that, after all, they are other than the little shrivelled, meagre, hopping, though loud and troublesome insects of the hour.
Dave, Ed, Nick, Barack: little shrivelled, meagre, hopping, though loud and troublesome insects of the hour.
Two more significant points regarding the election result.
Firstly, the Republicans are in control of the House of Representatives. Obama cannot steamroller them easily. He’ll have to be a bit nicer than he’s used to being, given the inbuilt restrictions of his job, surprisingly. John Boehner , Speaker of the House, may be pragmatic, but he’s no pushover. The Republicans will play it tough, I think.
Secondly, and more amusingly, America’s version of Nick Clegg, the laughable and laughing Joe Biden, has been dropping hints that he’ll aim for the presidency in 2016. This will horrify the Democrats, who would probably rather have Romney as their candidate than Joe. Particularly as the Obama era will be over then, and the Republicans have a slew of promising candidates – Christie, Rubio, Ryan, Jindal etc . Expect Joe to have “health problems” nearer the time.
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’.
I’d like it on record that I did get some things right about him. In that same article, I pointed out the dishonesty of his claim that he was somehow an outsider, a man of the people set apart from the discredited political class (of which he had been a fully paid-up member, in Brussels and Westminster, almost all his adult life).
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.
But ‘clever’? ‘Plausible’? What on Earth was I thinking?
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).