Clegg on the Last Leg – first thoughts

Nick Clegg on the Last Leg2Well, I’d never seen The Last Leg before. I’ll be watching it again, though. It was very, very funny. And it’s not only trending on Twitter in the UK, it’s number 3 in the World.

There are two contradictory truths about Nick Clegg’s appearance on the show. His natural manner and willingness to engage in the banter while holding on (just) to his dignity has won him a lot of friends but I predict acres of snooty, disapproving newsprint tomorrow from people using words like “unbecoming for a Deputy Prime Minister.” Quentin Letts will probably have worked himself up into  a frenzy. I think the Cleggster has done himself a few favours though. A quick look down the #cleggleg thread on Twitter showed that he had impressed:

And from a Liberal Democrat:

Clegg’s objective in going on the show was to persuade Alex Brooker to vote. He was successful in that regard. He had 30 seconds to do it and when he started, it sounded like he was making it up as he went along. There was no slickness at all, no sign of him having scripted it. Then he came out with the line that showed he’d done his homework. Brooker, it seems, is partial to Nandos:

It’s like going into Nandos, asking someone else to put in your order and then you get something you don’t want. If you don’t vote, you’ll  get a kind of government  you don’t want so get stuck in there and vote.

I have this thing about “foot in the door” moments which bring people to the point where they might think about voting Liberal Democrat. I think tonight might have been one of them for Nick.

I can only recommend that you watch the whole thing when it goes up on 4OD. I don’t want to give away too many secrets, but I am certain you will end up agreeing with me that the Bulls**t Button is probably the greatest invention of our time, something which should play an active part in our daily lives. A good start would be in SW1 on a Wednesday at 12 noon. I dare Nick to bring one along with him next week.

You can see The Last Leg with Nick Clegg on Channel 4’s On Demand service here

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

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15 Comments

  • I was worried but he pulled it off. People have used acres of digital space on here saying young voters will never listen to him again, but tonight looking through the twitter reaction – the vast majority was positive.

    Does it solve the problem? Nope – but it is a start.

  • He nailed it. Prooved our politicians are real people!

    I’m no Nick fan, but he did us proud tonight and was genuinely entertaining.

    My only real comment was he could have been slicker on the tuition fees question.

    Well done tho Nick

  • Alex Sabine 31st Jan '15 - 2:38am

    Props to him for going on. He does have some gumption, you have to say, and the Nandos answer was smart. I’ll have to check out the whole thing.

  • Tsar Nicolas 31st Jan '15 - 5:33am

    This reminds me of all that bs about George W Bush being the kind of guy you’d want to have a beer with.

    If your benefits had been sanctioned, and you were going hungry, would you be impressed?

  • Fantastic news. A sample of the Twitterati have expressed their opinions.
    with comments like this —
    “. @TheLastLeg – fantastic show. I don’t agree with his policies but nick clegg had some balls to take part. #cleggleg respect! — victoria jackson (@topsytheterror) ”

    The leaders of the Greens , the SNP and Plaid Cymru cannot match Clegg in this department.
    So never mind the policies just count the tesicles.

  • I was watching recording of Scandal at the time but wonder if Cleggie is grounding out a possible media career for himself like Michael Porrtillo?
    My suspicion is that he will hold Hallam, the small party left will go into opposition, he will start his new career and do well at it, then resign as MP , by election in Hallam, we will win with a thumping majhority, the start of the fight back, maybe late 2016 early 2017.

  • I’m not surprised that Clegg came across well; this is, after all, the man who shone in the Debates last election. However I thought he did badly on everything of substance: his response to tuition fees was weak and the fact he totally fluffed the UK debt question is pretty shocking. Not only did he give the wrong figure (deficit not debt), he couldn’t give a real terms value or even what his percentage was off. That’s pretty poor from a deputy PM.

    Still, overall, I think this will have done good for both the LDs and Nick’s personal brand.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 31st Jan '15 - 10:14am

    I watch The Last Leg every week so I kind of knew how his interview would go. I think he did okay, he came over as a real person, able to laugh at himself and he got a few pushes of the BS button in himself (I agree with Caron, this is something that should be introduced into every debate :-))) ).

    Can you imagine how Cameron or Milliband would come across?

  • Nick Collins 31st Jan '15 - 11:32am

    I seem to recall a piece of pantomime during the awful Rose Garden news conference in 2010 based on the fact that Cameron had previously called Clegg “a political joke”. A joke he was, and a joke he remains. Is he preparing for a career as a comedian cum quiz show host after this year’s election?

  • Nick Collins

    I think you are right. If he goes on like this he will end up as big as Lemsip Opik.

  • Alex Sabine 31st Jan '15 - 6:20pm

    @ Tsar Nicolas
    “This reminds me of all that bs about George W Bush being the kind of guy you’d want to have a beer with.”

    The thing is, the average American (not just Texan good ol’ boys) did feel like that. I was working in various parts of the US at the time and Bush’s personality (such a rich source of ridicule – some genuinely funny, some rather lame – in metropolitan liberal circles and abroad) was an asset against his altogether more geeky, stuffy Democratic rivals Al Gore and John Kerry. I dare say it garnered him a fair few votes that his policies would not otherwise have secured.

    Voters liked the fact that he ‘talked human’, and his malapropisms and phrase-mangling did him little harm outside the environs of Harvard and Yale. Maybe people related to the fact that he stumbled over words that they didn’t know how to use correctly either. It certainly meant he was ‘misunderestimated’ by his political opponents!

    (I’m reminded of Dubya’s answer when he was asked whether he was admitted to Yale as a ‘legacy entrant’ – not unheard of in Ivy League schools: “I thought you were referring to my legacy. In my case, I had to knock on a lot of doors to follow the old man.”)

    Having a sense of humour is an incalculable political asset, as is occasional self-deprecation – perhaps especially in Britain where the electorate has a healthy disregard for sermonising and pomposity. As in life generally, it shows a person doesn’t take him/herself too seriously and is a sign of self-confidence, not weakness.

    The most likely explanation for Bush’s lack of fluency and verbal mishaps is not that he was stupid, ignorant or a sociopath, but that he suffered from mild anomia (a speech/language processing difficulty). A characteristic of this is a tendency to butcher the language when trying to express oneself on matters of some complexity. I am myself reduced to false starts, monosyllables and speaking with my hands when trying to communicate with electricians or carpenters, for instance…

  • Alex Sabine 31st Jan '15 - 6:20pm

    Tony Blair was another notably successful politician who deployed humour and self-deprecation to his advantage, often to defuse some row or embarrassment. Just before his final party conference speech in 2006 – when the Labour party felt the most successful leader in their history was rather outstaying his welcome – there was a big hoo-hah about Cherie Blair allegedly having said “well that’s a lie” after Brown had said in his keynote speech (doing his best to keep a straight face) that it had been a privilege to work with Blair. Blair dealt with this right at the start of his speech when he quipped, “At least I don’t have to worry about her running off with the bloke next door.” With that he artfully defused the media storm and even his enemies in the hall couldn’t hold back the laughter. Brown’s inability to laugh at himself or be half as swift on his feet as Blair (or Cameron) would be one of his numerous personal handicaps as PM.

    Ken Clarke’s popularity is as much a product of his languid good humour, obvious decency and distaste for petty partisanship or party messaging as his moderate ‘one nation’ Tory politics. The fact that this jazz-loving ‘big beast’ has a hinterland outside politics is also appealing. Voters may disagree with him about (say) the EU or NHS reforms, but they feel that he is a human being with a sense of proportion and an understanding of real life. The fact that he comes across as a ‘good bloke’ counts for something.

    Likewise, Charles Kennedy’s genial personality and even his nickname ‘chat show Charlie’ did him no harm with voters, quite the reverse. (His alcohol problems obviously were a problem, particularly for his parliamentary colleagues, but they weren’t in the public domain until later and his likability was a key asset for the Lib Dems.) It’s interesting that sobriquets intended as insults often backfire in politics, a supreme example being when the Soviets dubbed Thatcher the ‘iron lady’.

    Of course there is, or should be, room for different character types in politics, as in life; and there are times when great oratory (in the Churchill or Obama mould) or sober intellectuals or strong leaders as well as ‘normal blokes’ connect with the public or catch the mood. Anyhow, people can’t easily change their personalities to suit what focus groups suggest voters respond to without it jarring badly – as we saw with the cringe-making attempts to rebrand Gordon Brown. Authenticity, surely, is the key. (Cynics might retort that if you can fake authenticity you’ve got it made… but then I’m a sceptic not a cynic!)

    So coming back to Nick Clegg, his personal ‘brand’ (much though the term grates, it is a useful shorthand) is tarnished – some would say toxic – thanks to his inability to fulfil the unrealistic expectations some people had of him following the election debates, the compromises of coalition, and breaking the tuition fees pledge. As a result he finds it hard to get a hearing for his centrist ‘pitch’ and a Lib Dem policy platform which may or may not be popular in itself.

    Yet he is fundamentally a decent guy and quite a talented communicator who comes through his weekly skirmishes with Joe Public on his LBC phone-in show more or less unscarred, and sometimes with credit. Why not exploit his strengths and see if he can get people to reconsider their perception of him as a person? If they do they are more likely to give him – and the Lib Dems – a fair hearing between now and the election. Got to be worth a try, surely?!

  • “the Bulls**t Button is probably the greatest invention of our time, something which should play an active part in our daily lives”
    Oh yes, please let’s have them on the leader debates!

    Absolutely fantastic from Nick Clegg last night. He came across as normal, passionate and engaging. And he entertained without looking like he was trying to be an entertainer.

  • Oh, and Alex Sabine – yes, pretty much agree.

  • peter tyzack 1st Feb '15 - 5:00pm

    I am waiting to see if Cameron takes up Nick’s challenge… I won’t hold my breath though..

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