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Nick Clegg is not your God

"Nick Clegg almost as popular as Winston Churchill", read the front page

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Generally, Sunday mornings are amongst my favourite times of the week. The stumble downstairs to be greeted by an already thoroughly dog-eared copy of the Sunday Times, combined with the idea of a steaming cup of earl grey tea, fills me with the anticipation of a languid morning poring over my favourite paper. This Sunday morning I lost out on this ritualistic luxury, instead I began my day with a shot of incredulity and disgust. "Nick Clegg almost as popular as Winston Churchill", read the front page.

Clegg, evidently the new superman of politics, according to seemingly every media outlet in the country, has been blessed with a spell of good publicity as of late. The historic political debate of Thursday last week gave the previously lesser known man a chance to give a before largely unavailable proportion of the public a glimpse of what the Liberal Democrat party really had to offer; namely, Nick Clegg.

Clegg did well, that can not be contested. An ITV poll of 4,000 Britons, released immediately post-debate, found Clegg to have won the debate with a startling majority of 46 per cent. Since then, the Clegg-storm has grown as poll after poll has announced Clegg's rise and rise; indeed a recent ComRes poll puts the Lib Dems on 29 per cent, Labour at 27 per cent and the Tories at 31 per cent. Most worryingly, the Sunday Times went on to tell me that a wonderful 53 per cent would like a hung parliament. Clegg, I'm sure, got a marvellous night's sleep on Thursday night.

The clearly talented orator had much to gain and little to lose. His slightly poor fitting suit, along with his seemingly honest manner and confidant demeanour, helped to single him out from the politicians that we know and hate. Clegg had a pretty much clean slate as far as the British public were concerned, he didn't have 13 years of poor decisions to account for, he didn't have the public school stigma to contest (despite having attended Westminster College); he had an opportunity and he made the most of it. But herein lies the problem.

Clegg, apparently father to the people of Great Britain, as hard as it may be for many to comprehend, is actually a politician after all. Of course he is. The reason Nick Clegg has done so well is simply because he is so unknown and because he was able to speak without the weight of hypocrisy on his shoulders. The past is what really casts a shadow over the lecterns of Cameron and Brown and Clegg's is simply a lesser and less examined one. Equally, because of this, the nation was able to listen to Clegg's ideas instead of his excuses.

What really gets me is that he didn't actually say very much at all. Thursday night reminded me of one of Seth MacFarlane's infamous Family Guy episodes where Brian says to Lois, during her own mayoral election debate: "Lois, undecided voters are the biggest idiots on the planet, try giving short, simple answers." Eventually Lois wins and ends up a corrupt and immoral mayor, just like the previous one before her.

The Lib Dem leader was able to stand up in front of an audience and personally thank them for their questions whilst Brown periodically puckered up for the opportunity to kiss Clegg's backside and Cameron reached into his pocket for the cyanide pill every time the figure £6 billion came up. However, truthfully, the well prepared thanks to "Alan on care, Jacqueline on, on on crime, Helen on politics, Joel on, on schooling, Robert on, on the deficit", had the mark of a politician written all over it.

I don't hate Nick Clegg, I don't even hate the Lib Dems, I have no qualms with real Lib Dem voters whatsoever but I just wish the undecided could see, as they are starting to do, that Clegg is not a fabled and prophesied 'man of the people,' he's just like Cameron and Brown; and if not yet, he will be, simply out of circumstance.

The Liberal Democrats' manifesto isn't awful, but it's not great. People who want change have started to think that the Lib Dems will bring it: they won't. Firstly because they won't get into power - a hung parliament just means more Brown, complimented with a side portion of infighting, inefficiency and so even more economic strain - and secondly because they're not voting for the Lib Dems, they are voting for a man that people largely don't know much about. At least with Brown or Cameron we have a rough idea of what we are getting.

Clegg is still on the up. The Labour Party and the Tories are worried. Brown and Cameron are on the attack for once not and just fighting each other. Clegg now has a lot of expectation to deal with, just as Cameron did on Thursday. The next debate will be a big one for Clegg and I'm hoping that at last undecided voters begin to look at his policies and the reality of a Lib Dem vote, encouraging the possibility of a hung parliament.

Clegg, as a personality, has done a good job so far; but much is yet to be seen. So don't believe the hype until more evidence is available, don't think that he's different to any other politician, don't throw away your vote and, for goodness sake, please don't compare him to one of Britain's greatest leaders just yet.

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13 Comments

Simon Hughes Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

Your argument is nicely put together and a lot less anti-Lib Dem than I feared it might be when I saw the headline.

I'm a Lib Dem voter and I do think the way in which this support for the party has come about is slightly farcical; "We've watched him speak and he doesn't like the other two so I'm going to vote for him". It's bizarre that the party has been doing so much for so long to try and increase its popularity and yet one programme has launched us into a lead (according to some polls)!

However it really is about time that people begin to sit up and take notice of the Lib Dems. Clegg is not pretending to be this "man of the people" that you speak about. I would have thought description fitted "Call me Dave" Cameron more than anyone.

The party is offering something different, and people will hopefully be able to see that now. Cable is the one man that has constantly made sense during the past two years and I know that many would prefer him to Osborne or Darling. Clegg doesn't try to hide behind spin, unlike his rivals, and to suggest that a vote for the Lib Dems would be "to throw away your vote" is ludicrous!

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bill bailey Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

i agree with nick

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~J Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

As I pointed out on my own comment piece (tinyurl.com/jryork1), there's not that much of a change in the Lib Dems in either policy or leader. It's actually quite interesting that he shot up in the polls in such a short space of time despite nothing significant changing inside the party.

People can now name two Lib Dem MPs that they like - Vince Cable and Nick Clegg - but I doubt they could name any others that they have been watching. I agree with the article; Nick Clegg isn't different to the Lib Dem of the past and he wouldn't be significantly different to Cameron or Brown. That said, there are differences including (as a few articles today pointed out) that he doesn't owe anything significant to any big businesses or media giants, which would be quite a nice change! But, as with 1997 Labour, can we trust that they'd follow up on their policies? Difficult to say!

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Ieuan Ferrer Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

What I'd like to point out, is the ComRes poll that had the Lib Dems on 27%, where the fieldwork was carried out on the Wednesday and the Thursday. That is, almost all of it was done before the leaders' debate. It may be that around half of the increase in Lib Dem support was down to their manifesto launch, and the increased publicity surrounding that. Whether that changes much, I don't know - but it's interesting none-the-less (although the ComRes poll could have been an outlier).

To ~J, I'd like to point out that under Nick Clegg the Lib Dems are a subtly different party. Clegg's instincts are much more on the classically liberal side of the party, rather than social democratic. Ming and Kennedy went further in pandering to the social democratic wing. The party isn't so different as to change everybody's minds, admittedly - although the PS700 in your back pocket policy has probably gone some way to convincing voters.

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Eazy E Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

Does baby need a tissue? I really don't know what your problem with him is and your article certainly told me nothing. Was it his "ill-fitting suit", or the way he read people's names out at the end? Maybe your just upset that a politician is actually popular for once? Seriously, this is one of the most vacuous articles I've ever read on Nouse (and that's saying a lot)

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Oliver Hutchings Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

Eazy E went to hospital under the impression that he had asthma, he was diagnosed with AIDS and died about 10 days later.

Quite simply I think the point is that Clegg going to parliament would be like Eazy E going to hospital, something far removed from expectations.

Clearly Nick Clegg did well in a live TV debate and we can quite rightly like him as a result, but we mustn't overstate the significance of said debate. I think this article does a good job of reminding us to consider the realities of politics, consider his policies and his abilities and vote on a wide range of information, it's an obvious response to the ridiculous swing in the Lib Dem's popularity.

With that said I vote liberal in my constituency and I'm not unhappy with the resurgence of a genuine 3rd party.

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Details, details Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

I think you'll find Clegg went to Westminster SCHOOL, not Westminster College. Westminster College is a state run further education college. If he's gone there he wouldn't be receiving so much posh-boy backlash.

I'd expect you to know that having gone to Winchester.

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Chorley Barman Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

Several peope have mentioned how we should look at policies rather than personalities. I watched the debate and as far a i was concerned it was about policies. You could see the different approaches to immigration, crime, the economy etc. and the (subtle) differences between the parties were made a bit clearer.

I didn't notice he had an ill-fitting suit because quite frankly i don't give two hoots. I certainly don't consider him a man of the people because like you say he's cut from the same cloth, oxbridge education etc. I accept your point that people shouldn't get carried away but i think it's very dismissive to assume people like Clegg purely on his personality. The Lib Dems have some sound policies and people are beginning to realise that.

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Anon Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

First of all, I've never really had too much interest in politics, but have taken an interest in the past couple of weeks for obvious reasons.

The main reason Clegg gained a lot of support last Thursday was because his policies sounded good, he appeared relaxed and confident, and the Lib Dems' manifesto appears more impressive than the other two.

Also, I heard Cameron on the radio earlier saying, 'A vote for Lib Dems might let Labour win'. That seems to be the Conservatives' only argument. Vote for us or else. I've not seen anything to suggest how the Tories will change the UK for the better, just more like, 'Look how Labour has messed up. Vote for us'.

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dbthetruth Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

Britain loves an underdog, stop putting a downer on Cleggomania.

http://images.cheezburger.com/completestore/2010/4/17/129160030742286701.jpg

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Robby Internet Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WK9QdL7KiGw

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James Cousins Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

"a hung parliament just means more Brown, complimented with a side portion of infighting, inefficiency and so even more economic strain"

As an Irishman I don't understand why British people are so fearful of a hung parliament. Coalitions can and do work - in Ireland's case, the phrase Celtic Tiger springs to mind: the most significant economic expansion Ireland's history took place under a succession of coalitions and it worked rather well.

The other important point to note - and one which this otherwise nicely written and well-informed article fails to note - is that if Clegg and the Lib Dems do secure enough seats to hold the balance of power, this country might finally change its arcane voting system, which really could ensure long-term change in Britain's political representation. I mean, an unelected second house with lifetime membership - really? And though the Lib Dems are of course just another political party, there is much in their manifesto that should appeal to students: by far and away the best record on civil liberties, repealing the Digital Economy Act and scrapping Trident all spring to mind. So while Clegg may not be an omnipotent deity, there's more to be said for him than you give him credit for.

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Concerned Voter Posted on Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

Loved the family guy reference by the way, sad its so true. the fact is that most people in this election have decided that reading the party manifestos or even papers on some regular-esque basis is too challenging and so opted for 90 minutes of PM X-factor.

To be honest the commentries most people can offer on policies too merely highlights this point that the greatest political commentries of this election in the last two weeks look like an unholy, Match of The Day meets Britain's got talent hybrid.

Polls conducted on Nick Clegg's policies, where individuals didnt know the party in question showed that the Lib Dem policies on Immigration, Trident and Europe are not popular with the majority of the electorate. Additionally most polls afterwards put Clegg as the least Prime Ministerial.....so why is he so popular....

People have looked at Nick Clegg and gone wow he's new and not a politician i'll vote for him to punish the others. Hopefully if people are so easily persuaded by 90 minutes of TV they can be won back round in two weeks too.

the choice at this election really is simple, a Labour Governent with Clegg and Cable in a Cameo role or the Conservatives. Granted Cameron hasnt put his policies across as well as he should have but at leats there is a clear choice at this election, after 13 years of broken promises can you really trust Labour again even with Nick Clegg?

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