3 reasons to be pleased with Nick Clegg’s Paxman interview

I’ve just finished watching Jeremy Paxman grill Nick Clegg live on BBC1 (presumably on iPlayer later). There are three reasons Lib Dems can be pleased with Nick’s performance:

1. Most importantly, Nick acquitted himself very well. In spite of some tough questions, combined with Paxman’s trademark habit of never allowing an interviewee to finish a sentence, Nick handled the detail well, but never forgot to paint the bigger picture. The impression left was a of a politician well in command of policy, and firm in his principles.

2. Then there’s the fact that Nick actually dared to take the Paxman challenge – according to to today’s Guardian (as Lynne Featherstone notes) both David Cameron and Gordon Brown have failed to respond to the invitation to be interviewed. Lynne suggests – and who am I to disagree? – “two of the three men who would be Prime Minister are obviously cowardy cowardy custards! Guess that leaves only one option then!”

3. The first (and therefore biggest) televised leader’s debate takes place this Thursday. Not only was tonight’s interview good advance practise – and it’s unlikely Nick will face any tougher questioning this campaign – but it showed Nick in relaxed form. That’s a good confidence booster ahead of the biggest night of his political life.

PS: Jonathan Calder has blogged his congratulations here.

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This entry was posted in General Election.


  • Bill Kristol-Balls 12th Apr '10 - 9:34pm

    He nailed it imo and with it being on straight after Eastenders, there’s a fair chance of a decent audience.

  • Sunder Katwala 12th Apr '10 - 10:03pm

    Also watched it delayed and I thought he did pretty well too, as I’ve just blogged at Next Left. He will have come across well to a general audience.

    Right at the end, though, his claim that neither he nor Vince (who did simply make a verbal slip) had ever called child benefit into question suggests he is now blanking out his Guardian interview on the weekend of party conference, where he did just that calling paying child benefit to the highest earners “patently silly and patently unfair” before Steve Webb rode to the rescue and reasserted LibDem party policy at the CentreForum and Fabian fringe the following day.

  • Did ok despite a rough start but was infuriating the way he dodged the mandate question and was obviously pretending to misunderstand it. He was asked whether a party would have a mandate to govern if it had the most seats or most votes. He responded by saying the party with the most seats and votes would have a mandate. That clearly wasn’t the question.

  • Sunder Katwala 12th Apr '10 - 10:28pm

    Unlike richard, I felt the skilful part of how he ducked the mandate question (and, having said a fair amount generally on the subject, he really can’t be expected to answer that with more clarity ahead of May 6th) was that the general BBC1 non-anorak viewer won’t particularly have seen him do that, as even asked it twice, he managed to move the issue on while appearing to have answered the question!

  • If Paxman vs Nick was a football match I’d say it was ‘a good defensive performance’, a bit like getting a 1-1 draw in a tough away match. A few policy points came across, but it looked like we were wobbly on Council Tax abolition (one of our most popular policies in recent years).
    I ant to see more that makes us look different from the Labservatives, and surely ts about time we went in hard and loud on environmental issues?
    At the moment Nick is doing OK, but we’re fighting the election on territory the others have chosen, and we need to move the debate on. (And another 3 weeks on Tax and National Insurance will drive us all to sleep!)

  • The twitter crowd certainly seemed pleased by Nick’s performance!

  • My only gripes are that he seems a little irritable sometimes, and that he uses complexly-worded answers to questions which really only need yes or no answers. Otherwise, Cleggy did great, despite Paxxo’s constant coughing at the end, and I’m looking forwards to an outstanding performance in the leaders’ debates.

  • Sunder Katwala 12th Apr '10 - 11:50pm


    Its rather an anorak point since the policy remains as it was, but I did rather think repeating “I never said it” was simply saying that while Vince had a slip of the tongue while he had never “called into question” child benefit. Paxman was clear it wasn’t their policy, so was asking why they seemed to be mooting it. (In fact, perhaps he should then have been better briefed on the specific point if raising it)

    “Patently silly and patently unfair” was excessively strong language for a party leader to simply request a bit of consideration, but it speaks well to the LibDem’s party culture that the frontbench spokesman was able to very quickly prevail with his defence of the universal policy.

  • I thought that it was a very solid performance- defensively sound when he needed to be, but put across some animating values (Sheffield inequality, honesty about cuts etc) well. If Clegg was a footballer, he’d be Xabi Alonso.

  • Nick did well, it was an excellent rehearsal for the TV debates. Mind you, what was the set all about, looked like a clened up multi-story carpark!!

    Bet Brown and Cameron accept the invite pretty soon, if not already!!

  • Cllr Patrick Smith 13th Apr '10 - 2:08pm

    This was a tour de force performance by our Leader and a good warm up for the Leaders`s Debate this Thursday night.

    Jeremy Paxman is the best political interviewer in the business.

    It also bodes well for our Leader that the others to date,have shied away from Paxos rapier and forensic questioning on Election policy substance.

  • Stanley Theed 13th Apr '10 - 3:49pm

    Maybe I saw something that was not there, but at the end of the interview there appeared to be a look of respect in Paxo’s eyes. You will not see that often. Well done Nick!

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