Apparently, our future depends on Nick Clegg’s eyebrows…

 

An article on the Huffngton Post looks at Nick Clegg’s communications skills. It’s all about the eyebrows, apparently:

Nick Clegg faces a virtual mission impossible in this general election campaign – but if anything can save him and his party from electoral oblivion, it’s his eyebrows.

That’s right. His eyebrows. They’re the key to understanding why, despite being a figure of derision, the deputy prime minister’s communication skills remain some of the most polished out there.

Clegg uses his eyebrows better than any of the other party leaders when he wants to use emphasis to make a point. Raising the eyebrows is a very primitive gesture indicating interest in a particular fact or statement. And Clegg always has a slightly raised eyebrow look which opens his face up.

Compare him to David Cameron, whose face is so tense he can barely muster a convincing smile. The prime minister always seems quite severe, whereas Clegg is more open facially and appears more likable as a result.

They look at other aspects of his communication skills:

The Liberal Democrat leader is at his best giving party conference speeches, when he uses his communication skills as effectively as Tony Blair ever did. He chats off the cuff, talking like a regular Joe. He makes people laugh. He riffs like a comedian. Clegg’s open-arm gestures are relaxed, his gaze is up.

One glance at his rhythm and energy and you’ll soon see how free and fluent he is. Really charismatic people have a big range of emphasis. They can play with the music in their voice, control their facial expressions and by so doing quickly switch from something serious to light repartee with the audience. Clegg can do all this easily.

I’ve always said he’s at his best when you just leave him be and not try to over-script him. You can tell when he’s scripted and when he’s really engaged. Any time he’s talking about mental health or about giving opportunities to disadvantaged kids, for example, he is on fire. The article would tend to agree:

So he needs to find the energy he showed in 2010. He must get away from being the government man and become the outsider again. Not an easy trick to pull off, granted. But when he talks passionately about the issues, and is really plugged into what he truly believes in, he is really very good.

On a similar theme, Ian Dunt at Politics.co.uk analyses why Clegg did so well on Thursday night in the Leaders’ Question Time:

Unlike David Cameron and Ed Miliband, Clegg didn’t talk down to his audience. He didn’t try Miliband’s excruciating ‘what’s your name’ tactic, and didn’t descend to Cameron’s utterly false impersonation of what a normal person might behave like. He acted very much as one might expect him to behind closed doors. He took on the audience, sometimes really quite roughly. He wasn’t all that much easier on them than he used to be with MPs at deputy prime minister’s questions in the Commons. It was refreshing to see a political leader talk clearly, outline his arguments and actually debate the audience, rather than trot out slogans and evasions.

There is a simple reason why Clegg is so much more adept at handling a hostile audience: he still remembers what they look like. He faces unprecedented levels of hostility when he speaks in the Commons, is attacked constantly on TV and submits himself to the public once a week for a grilling on LBC.

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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9 Comments

  • Perhaps the real Clegg is in there and is now trying to get out and it appears to be happening.
    I would have thought somone would be commenting on the awful antics of the SNP. As an Englishman I get the message they dont want me to visit…is there no Scottish Liberal going berserk over this

  • “…That’s right. His eyebrows. They’re the key to understanding why, despite being a figure of derision, the deputy prime minister’s communication skills remain some of the most polished out there.”

    I remember Dennis Healey. Was he really that brilliant as a political communicator?

  • Jane Ann Liston 2nd May '15 - 2:42pm

    Yes, that’s why we’re doing our best to keep them out in our 11 seats.

  • Clegg’s eye brows may do the trick if you watch without sound.
    But once his hectoring, grumping voice starts up his eyebrows could do a tango and it wouldn’t make much difference.

    Did he sound like that in 2010 ? So much has changed, and not in a good way.

  • paul barker 2nd May '15 - 8:19pm

    I am at it again, off-topic & reccomending an article on a Labour site again. Labour Uncut have a piece claiming that Labour HQ have been correlating vote tallies from the opening of Postal Ballots (slightly illegal but everybody does it, apparently) the conclusion being that Labour are doing better than polls suggest in Scotland but worse in England.

  • Not Who I Say I Am 2nd May '15 - 8:58pm

    paul barker 2nd May ’15 – 8:19pm
    “Labour Uncut have a piece claiming that Labour HQ have been correlating vote tallies from the opening of Postal Ballots (slightly illegal but everybody does it, apparently) the conclusion being that Labour are doing better than polls suggest in Scotland but worse in England.”

    Perhaps the Scottish situation, where the swing is apparently strongly away from Labour, is reflecting the predominantly older postal voters being more wedded to their traditional party than the population at large?

  • I dont find Clegg to be a great communicator. Of course he speaks many languages but that doesnt mean he has anything worth hearing in any of them.

  • Ian Dunt and the Huffington Post should be congratulated on bringing their observations of Nick Clegg, and how he handles himself when communicating to an audience – whether friendly or not!

    PBBrown: “But once his hectoring, grumping voice starts up his eyebrows could do a tango and it wouldn’t make much difference.”

    Where is your evidence for such a comment?
    Have you ever seen him during deputy prime minister’s questions in the Commons? Perhaps you missed his regular, once a week, question and answer session on LBC?

    Alistair: “I dont find Clegg to be a great communicator.”

    Perhaps you’d like to provide us with an example of who you consider a ‘great communicator’? Ed Miliband or David Cameron perhaps?

    “Of course he speaks many languages but that doesnt mean he has anything worth hearing in any of them.”

    I’m sorry, but that seems illogical. What connection are you inferring between being multilingual and Nick Clegg’s likely engagement with an audience when using any of the languages with which he is fluent?

    Unlike Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, it seems to me that you and PBBrown have a limited understanding of the use and practice of retorical skills. Perhaps looking more closely at the available evidence, and being a little more objective, might help you make a more rational comment next time?!

  • SIMON BANKS 3rd May '15 - 10:21pm

    Odd they think he’s at his best giving party conference speeches. In these and similar settings, to me he generally seems bland and uninspiring. His first outing as leader to a group of activists was almost embarrassing for his failure to connect emotionally. He’s better in smaller groups or on TV. He chats well but doesn’t do inspiring.

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