LibLink: Jonathan Freedland – Trust me, I’m Nick Clegg: How the also-ran stole the show

There’s a fascinating on-the-campaign-trail profile of Nick Clegg by Jonathan Freedland in today’s Guardian highlighting quite how extraordinary has been the Lib Dem leader’s breakthrough in the 2010 general election, completely outshining both Gordon Brown and David Cameron:

In little over three short weeks, Clegg has gone from a face barely recognised outside the Westminster village to a phenomenon. Where once his party had to beg for attention, he now has to fend off questions not just from a British press pack at last treating the Lib Dems with respect, but from CNN and a clutch of other foreign reporters, who have made the trek to see the man who threatens to reshape British politics. …

Clegg scores by seeming utterly sincere. Here again, a hierarchy emerges. Brown struggles to communicate in plain, human English; Cameron is better, having mastered the simple, fluent sentence, but leaves doubts as to whether his words are merely those of a slick salesman. Clegg is just as fluent as Cameron, his sentences, if anything, even more colloquial and easy to understand. But he has one great advantage over his Conservative rival: no one so much as raises the question of his sincerity. He is assumed to be completely genuine. …

It’s not just that he put 10 points on the Lib Dem poll rating in a single night. It’s that he stole “change” from the Tories and “fairness” from Labour, offering himself as the agent of both.

And somehow, in the process, he became the first leader of the Lib Dems – a party associated for years with sandals, lentils and beards – to shine with a little stardust.

Lest all this sounds too hagiographical, Jonathan does also highlight perhaps Nick’s only significant (if understandable) slip of the campaign:

On 25 April he allowed Andrew Marr to lure him into a question on process, hinting that he would not work with Brown should Labour come third in the popular vote. Ever since, he has been asked about little else. Interviews that should have focused on Lib Dem plans for fair taxation or the green economy have instead been attempts to coax Clegg to lean towards either Brown or Cameron as putative coalition partners. It’s only a theory, but it’s possible that that diversion from the Lib Dem policy “offer”, and on to prospective horse trading, may account for the plateau the party hit in the polls soon after the first TV debate had pushed them so high.

(Another theory of course is that the relentless Lib Dem-bashing from the rightwing media has nibbled away around the edges of Lib Dem support since the party first started hitting 30% in the polls).

You can read the profile of Nick in full here.

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This entry was posted in General Election and LibLink.
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