There’s a saying: “love is blind, marriage is an eye-opener”. While I’m sure ‘love’ isn’t the right word to describe the public’s sentiment towards Messrs Cameron and Clegg pre-election (although Cleggmania certainly came close – remember that!?), comparing the coalition with a marriage has been adopted ad nauseum by the media, so I think the adage is perfectly pertinent.
As with any new squeeze, there was much that at first seemed attractive about the “New Politics”. And, again as usual, the affair quickly lost its sparkle after the shotgun wedding and short-lived honeymoon. What I find most interesting though are the particular quirks, at first coming across as so “cute” and “unique”, which very quickly turn from being the focus of our affection, to the very cause of our irritation. I’m thinking of such once-adorable peculiarities as Michael Gove, ministerial independence, “the end of spin”, the Lib Dems (in general), straight talking, political parties working together in coalition, and Nick Clegg’s personality.
Each of these deserve an explanation as to why I think they belong in this list – with the obvious exception of Michael Gove. The one that is particularly topical this week, however, is Nick Clegg’s personality. Specifically, his dismissive manner when dealing with questions. This was illustrated recently by his reaction to a question from a voter:
Voter: “How long is this marriage going to last? Only you know. But what I would like to ask is, is this marriage going to end amicably, or is it going to be like Cheryl Cole, you will be screaming that ‘I’ve been betrayed, betrayed, betrayed’.”
Clegg: “Much as yourwas elegant and humorous, please do not just glibly pick up whatever a headline says…”
Yes. This was a barbed question, but does encapsulate a serious concern felt by, I’m sure, many Lib Dem supporters.
Before the election, Clegg’s contemptuous way of dealing with questions he didn’t really want to answer had a certain charm. I remember the scornful disregard he had towards Adam Boulton’s shameful heckling during the second leaders debate. At the time, this worked for him. He wasn’t going to play the media’s silly game. Oh no. This was a dude who was totally anti-establishment. Rage against the machine, man.
Of course, the Mighty Clegg now IS the establishment, so when asked a question he really needs to give a straight fucking answer and stop being so arrogant. This isn’t like during the days of the “Old Politics”, when nobody really gave a shit about what he had to say, just so long as it was vaguely radical and idealistic. He’s now propping up a government making dodgy decisions for contested reasons and yet he remains stubbornly reluctant to account for his actions. A good example is his rationale for making a U-turn on economic policy. His explanation for which, it transpires, seems to have been an outright lie. Furthermore, he later claimed to have changed his mind before the election – without bothering to tell the people who voted for him.
Clegg quipped in response to media coverage during the election campaign that he went from being Churchill to a Nazi in less than a week. Without apparently changing at all in the past 100 days, he’s also gone from being cheeky rogue to, let’s be blunt, smug twat.
This may all be just me. Although, with a OnePoll survey of 3,000 Newsnight viewers revealing that Nick Clegg is the politician they most want to see face the interrogatory wrath of The Paxman, it could be that many other people have noticed this. And they all want to see that smug smile wiped off his face.