It feels like 5 minutes since Nick Clegg and I were relative political youngsters in the East Midlands so it seems very strange indeed that all of a sudden he is celebrating his 50th birthday today.
When I was growing up, 50 seemed totally ancient. A hundred years ago, 50 was getting to the top range of life expectancy. But now it seems like it’s only barely into middle age. People start new careers in their 50s. Sadly, Barack Obama is going to be doing just that in a fortnight at the age of 55.
In the time I’ve known him, Nick has gone from being enthusiastic candidate seeking selection to MEP to party leader to Deputy Prime Minister. It has been quite the roller-coaster ride.
Now, of course, he’s one of the most authoritative and credible voices this country has on the European Union and our relationship with it. He knows exactly how it works and is uniquely well placed to comment. He has negotiated trade deals on behalf of the EU. He has worked with it as Deputy Prime Minister where he held the Tories back from doing all the stupid things they did the second they won a parliamentary majority.
It’s worth taking some time this weekend to read through Nick’s Brexit Challenge papers if you haven’t already. In them he tackles issues of trade, security and the single market and it is well worth getting up to speed on the issues so you can feel more confident about fielding questions.
But that’s enough serious politicking. Today is the day to wish Nick a Happy Golden Jubilee and good luck for the next half century. Given his fortune-telling Mystic Clegg powers, he probably has more idea than we do about what that holds, of course.
One of my favourite Nick moments is when he came along to the LDV Awards Ceremony at the Glasgow Conference in 2013. He was down to present the award for Councillor of the Year to Hull’s Abi Bell. Given that the room was full of people who, shall we say, were not all his biggest fans, I fully expected him to breeze in, do his thing and breeze out again. In fact, he turned up early, chatted away to everybody and acted as Paddy Ashdown’s glamorous assistant showing off the hilarious photos of the year, which included this one of David Laws and a shetland pony, on my iPad. It was all very relaxed and funny.
In his remarks, he described LDV as “intriguing, infuriating and inspiring.”
Sadly, LDV’s invitation to his birthday party seems to have got lost in the post, but we’re not bitter. We all hope he has a lovely day.
I’m also going to completely abuse my position as editor and wish my cousin David, who’s 40 today, a very happy birthday, too.
UPDATE 8th January: In what he describes as a bit of “gerontological pedantry”, Gordon Lishman emailed in to offer some insight into life expectancy. He argues that that 50 wasn’t, as I said above in the top range of life expectancy 100 years ago because:
You’re looking at life expectancy at birth. It became significantly greater at the age of 1 and greater again at age 20. If you then take out deaths around childbirth, a lot of people survived to a much greater age. So, life expectancy at 58 was over 10 years! Increased longevity didn’t arise because everybody lived until that “average” age which then got longer. It arose because society managed to stop the things which killed them earlier: clean water, sewerage, peri-natal anti-sepsis, etc. There have always been a lot of old people around.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings