Mail readers attack paper’s ‘Hypocrisy’ slurs on Nick Clegg

Ah, the Daily Mail and its stable-mate the Mail on Sunday: bastions of enlightened reason and liberal decency. Or something. Today, the paper takes it upon itself to scream ‘Hypocrisy’ at Nick Clegg.

Not on grounds of policy, but because of the options Miriam and he are considering for their eldest child’s school, including a voluntary-aided Catholic school in London, the Oratory: as the Mail so subtly fulminates, ‘Nick Clegg is an atheist whose party doesn’t believe in school selection. So where does he want to send his sons… the same exclusive Catholic school as the Blairs’.

You can gauge the extent of the Mail’s self-righteous fury from the comparison of Nick Clegg to Tony Blair. The only thing missing from the usual Mail checklist-of-outrage is the accusation that Nick Clegg causes cancer. Next week, perhaps.

What do the Mail’s online readers make of the paper’s tirade? Here are the top three ‘best rated’ comments so far submitted:

Why is atheist Nick Clegg considering sending his son to an exclusive Catholic school?
erm – his wife is Catholic.
– Paul, Richmond, 9/10/2010 23:39

Why is Nick Clegg considering sending his son to a Catholic school? Could it be something to do with the fact that his wife is a Catholic?
– Jane Cook, Ashford, Middlesex, 9/10/2010 23:39

As an atheist myself married to a catholic, one of the requirements of the catholic faith is that our kids are raised Catholics, and going to a Catholic school would form part of that. i was aware of this and agreed to it before we married. It doesn’t change anything for me or my beliefs. However I am very impressed by faith schools. They generally do better for the kids concerned, and they teach discipline and values. We should be encouraging all schools to to that level rather than trying to get rid of them because we don’t believe. Each to their own.
– realist, uk, 10/10/2010 2:08

Mail readers are a little less prepared to be outraged, it seems, than their paper gives them credit for.

The accusation of ‘hypocrisy’ is, of course, nonsense. It has never been Lib Dem policy to have faith schools removed from state funding. Rather, the party has a long-standing commitment that all faith schools must comply with the national requirements that are placed on all non-faith schools: the teaching of the national curriculum, and a fair admissions policy.

As for Nick Clegg’s own views on faith schools, they are hardly a secret. Within a month of his election as party leader in 2007, he set them out plainly:

If we are to create a society in which everyone has a fair chance in life, we need to focus on education, above all. Faith schools have an important role to play in that, and I am keen that they become engines of integration, not of segregation. I would like to see faith schools working together, so you get a network of different schools and faiths. That way children will grow up in an environment where they are aware of the plurality of faiths and views around them.

Equally, Nick has also made clear his own firmly held view that, while there is an important role for faith schools within the national education system, he will expect them to hold to common standards of tolerance — for example, that faith schools should have a requirement to have an anti-homophobic bullying policy at their school.

The Mail has its headline, and doubtless there will be many among its readership who take their name-calling at face value. That’s life, and I’m sure Nick Clegg accepts it with a shrug.

Look at it this way: the next time the Mail decides to go over-the-top in its denunciation of the Lib Dem leader, more people are likely to look sceptically at the justification for the paper’s claims. If you shout too loudly, and too often, people learn to just shut their ears.

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  • Just yet more evidence of the sheer folly of Nick trying to force the entire Party to the right alongside Cameron.
    The right wing press will never accept Nick, like him or trust him and they will always heap their ignorant bile upon Liberal Democrats MPs and supporters.

    This is but a small taste of things to come at next years and future elections.
    The Alternative Vote system, for example, will be denounced by the right wing press as evil incarnate or some kind of European /Communist plot to destabalise Britain.

  • Grammar Police 10th Oct '10 - 11:57am

    @ LDV Bob – you’re quite right – the right-wing press will do the same for suggestion of electoral reform. I’m sure they’ll also do it with the changes to the House of Lords and with party funding reform. It’s part of what makes it so important that we succeed (imo).

  • The Sunday Times also carries the story, pointing out that the Cleggs looked round the London Oratory School last week, “although there is another Catholic school less than a mile away from their home in Putney, southwest London.”

    Ten paragraphs on we are told that “the (Oratory) school is twice as far from the Cleggs’ home as the local Catholic school, John Paul II in Wimbledon.”

    So the Cleggs are considering a secondary school (London Oratory School) which is less than 2 miles from where they live.

    Absolutely disgraceful!

    No wonder it made the front page of the MAil on Sunday.

  • you were not keen to pillory the right wing press when they were targeting the poor or is that ok

  • I can not add anything LDV Bob’s post, he just about says it all

  • Pat, yes we are. But naturally, this story is of interest as well.

  • nige
    I can not add anything LDV Bob’s post, he just about says it all

    Couldn’t disagree with you (and LDV Bob) more.

    Two reasons:
    1. LDV Bob’s comment carries the implication that what Lib Dems do or say should be influenced by what we think the right-wing press will think of it. Lib Dems are in the Coalition Government because we believe it is the right thing to do, not because we think the right-wing press will or will not like it. Anyway, being attacked by the Daily Mail or Mail on Sunday should be regarded as a badge of honour.

    2. He also refers to “Nick trying to force the entire Party to the right alongside Cameron.” We have a Coalition Government that is slightly to the left of Labour (taking account of all aspects of policy). Any coalition has to involve compromise, and what we have now is a lot better than all the other (realistic) alternatives.

  • @Pat
    They wouldn’t be the right wing press if they didn’t attack the poor. It’s in their DNA. Not that pondscum has much in the way of complex DNA, but I’m sure you understand my meaning.
    And I can assure you that you are quite wrong if you think the bigotry and snarling fury heaped on the poor and vulnerable by the right wing press gets a free pass around here.

  • @Simon Shaw
    1/ If it is implied it is so subtle as to escape the author of the post itself since my meaning was the exact opposite.
    It doesn’t matter how many hoops the Liberal Democrats jump through, the right wing press will never acccept us or like us. Some sections of the right commentariat are being patronisingly chummy at the moment as we are a necessary evil in their eyes, but I defy anyone to tell me that come election time the gloves will not come off as usual as they tear to pieces anyone and anything that stands in the way of a Conservative victory.
    My view is that trying to woo the right wing press is not only futile but a waste of valuable time.

    2/ The right wing press have a funny way of showing how left wing the coalition is by screaming Red Ed at every opportunity. Cameron may court the image of a centrist pragmatist, but it it is image only and standing behind him is a Party that is distinctly right wing with the likes of Osborne and others paying lip service to ‘new politics’ only while it suits their ends.

    And unlike the Liberal Democrats it’s Cameron is the one deeply in thrall to the right wing press.
    One only has to look at Coulson to see the truth of this. He and Hilton and the inner circle have Rupert Murdoch, Paul Dacre and Richard Desmond’s henchmen on speed-dial. Cameron was in constant touch with the right wing press during the Child Benefit announcement and by all accounts he wobbled so fearful is he of their views.

  • paul barker 10th Oct '10 - 1:24pm

    How do I know that LDV Bob is a Libdem as his name implies ? Perhaps he would like to tell us his surname & local party ( mine is Camberwell & Peckham), otherwise we can assume he is just another sad Labour Troll.

  • LDV Bob
    The right wing press have a funny way of showing how left wing the coalition is by screaming Red Ed at every opportunity.

    I think your logic is a bit out there.

    The right wing press show how left wing (in their terms) the Coalition is by attacking those policies where the Coalition stands to the left of Labour, eg Criminal Justice, possible delay/downgrading of Trident replacement, cutting benefit payments to well paid, right-wing journalists etc

    Referring to “Red Ed” has nothing to do with it. I assume it is journalistic shorthand for “someone who was not the choice of MPs or Labour Party members, but only got in because Trade Unions managed to swing it for him” – it’s certainly a lot shorter.

  • David Langshaw 10th Oct '10 - 2:04pm

    No, no, silly! The next stage will be when the Mail accuses Nick Clegg (and all other Lib Dems) of lowering house prices.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 10th Oct '10 - 3:19pm

    “I’ll tell you where this came from. I was asked once to do an interview and I was told I could only give Yes-No answers. So I was asked, Do you believe in God? So I thought, I actually don’t know whether He exists, so the only honest answer is to say No.”

    Unfortunately, this is yet another example of how little anything Clegg says can be believed. This interview is still available on the BBC website:

    It begins:

    “Q: Has there been too much immigration into this country in the last ten years?
    A: Not too much but what there has has been grotesquely mishandled. the government has mixed sort of tough talk, lots of headline-grabbing gimmicks with total and utter incompetence in the way in which the system is run. It’s not the numbers, it’s the fact that the whole system doesn’t work, the government hasn’t planned for it, they haven’t promoted integration as well as immigration, and that I think has created this very profound sense of anxiety about immigration.

    Q: Do you believe in God?
    A: N-No.

    Q: Have you ever taken illegal drugs?
    A: I’m going to cast a veil over that, and it’s the one thing that I agree with David Cameron on that I think politicians are entitled to a private life before they go into politics.”

  • @Anthony. What is your point? The beginning of the interview confirms exactly what was said. Namely that he said ‘No’ in answer to the question.

  • The Daily Express has a Diana fixation so it would seem that The Daily Mail has a Clegg fixation but one that come from the opposite direction. Nothing that he does can possibly be right. On this the more trollish element within the Labour party are happy to agrees with the Tory press.

    Peter Mandelson says that he believes that coalitions while unusual in the past may well prove to be more common in the future. Neither the extreme left within Labour nor the extreme right in the Tory party can tolerate the idea of co-operation between parties and that is why they have effectively made common cause.

    That the Liberal Democrats have any measure of influence clearly drives some people to utter fury as the party has broken in on this ‘closed shop’ and brought some much needed sense to this cosy little duopoly that was the two party system as it stood. It is not a three party system, but maybe two and a half, there is some Liberal Democrat influence on government where there was none.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 10th Oct '10 - 6:22pm


    You’re pulling my leg, I think.

  • Stuart Mitchell 10th Oct '10 - 6:48pm

    Seems I have a fair bit in common with Clegg – atheistic, not keen on selection in the school system, but with kids brought up catholic and going to catholic schools (due to catholic wife). I even turned up for my kids’ first communions – how shockingly hypocritical of me.

    The Mail article is of course a load of [insert word which certainly won’t pass automatic moderation]. But I do wonder if they might just have a little bit of a point on one thing.

    Like Clegg, the nearest catholic secondary school to me is a “satisfactory” school, but there is an “outstanding” school a mile or two further away. Unlike Clegg, we sent our child to the nearby, “satisfactory” school. The main reason being that I didn’t want to contribute to a system in which those children who have parents with a keen interest in them doing well get to go to the “outstanding” schools, while the other children are just left to make do with the “satisfactory” schools. The way I see it, one good way of helping bring about more equal standards would be for more parents like myself (and the Cleggs) to be prepared to send their children to a school which may not necessarilly have the best Ofsted report in the area.

    Now I stress that I am not actually criticising Clegg here; I do not know enough about his circumstances and his reasons for choosing this school to comment on them. But if he *has* chosen this school purely because it is deemed to be an “eilte” school, then I would find that just a little bit disappointing.

  • Rob Sheffield 10th Oct '10 - 7:17pm

    You live by the sword; you die by the sword.

    The right wing media giveth and the right wing media taketh away.

    etc etc etc

  • Rob & Red Flag, did I miss when the Telegraph and Daily Wail backed the Lib Dems?

  • Red Rag
    Complaining about The Daily Mail. Are they not one of the coalitions biggest backers media wise.

    No! The Daily Mail hate the Coalition.

    Just one of the reasons we should be proud of it (the Coalition, that is, not the Daily Mail).

  • TheContinentalOp 10th Oct '10 - 8:25pm

    @ Rob & Red Flag

    I think that when it comes to the three mainstream parties the only one which hasn’t went out of its way to cosy up to the right-wing press is the Lib Dems.

    I may not agree with their current direction but merely being part of the coalition doesn’t justify the type of jaundiced nonsense we’ve seen from the Mail today. To defend it does you little credit.

  • The right wing press will never be satisfied with anything less than a full Conservative government.
    That they attack the coaltion on occasion is hardly a surprise. The point is that the Conservatives are anything but left wing and it is sadly the public who are beginning to tar the Liberal Democrats with that right wing brush because of Nick’s unwillingness to distance himself from the rights baser instincts.

    As for the amusingly self-righteous Labour supporters, as TheContintalOp says they would do well to remember just how deep and how happily they wallowed in the cesspool that is the Mail.

    “Dacre’s close relationship with Gordon Brown is a curious one, given that the Prime Minister epitomises many of the values the Daily Mail most detests, but it is well-established and, according to Brown’s political allies, based on a genuine friendship. All their conversations are conducted privately, without aides or spin doctors present, and only Brown’s wife Sarah and their two boys, of whom Dacre is ‘incredibly fond’, are party to their discussions. Dacre has been close to Brown since he was Chancellor, and shares his sense of moral purpose.”

    “If you hang around with sewer rats, don’t complain about the smell.”


  • The right wing press hate the coalition, the Lib Dems, Clegg and Cameron/One-Nation Tories.

    Dacre and Murdoch etc.. want a Thatcherite government with tax breaks for the wealthy, inheritance tax cuts, no immigration or multiculturalism, no action on the environment and ‘Christian Values’ (no protection for gay people from bullying, all businesses closed on sunday etc…).

    The coalition is far too liberal for them, and the very fact that the Tories of all people are starting to think about chances for the poor leave them angry and confused.

    Telegraph aren’t much better – they kicked out David Laws because capital gains tax was hiked up and they felt their readers would be angry about extra taxes on the sale of their holiday chalets, yachts and apartments in sloane square,

  • Personally, I detest Nick Clegg for the ease with which he has been prepared to dump some good Liberal Democrat policies from the election manifesto and allow right-wing lunatics such as Osborne, Gove and Pickles to have free rein. However, I would defend him against all this nonsense from ‘The Daily Mail’. Whether Clegg is an atheist or agnostic is irrelevant, he has said all along that his children would be brought up as Catholics, presumably because his wife is Spanish. Therefore if the Cleggs decide to send their children to a Catholic school, isn’t it only to be expected?

  • Actually, I think most people here are missing the key element in this story – and that’s the fact that the Mail’s own readers are telling the paper they’ve got this one wrong. It’s not the first time either – it happened during the election and I think it also happened over the summer.

    The reason this is significant is that Paul Dacre, for all that I despise everything he believes in, is primarily an editor-in-chief who wants to ensure that his newspaper reflects the views of its readers – if it doesn’t, they’ll stop buying the paper (it’s a bit of a fallacy that papers lead beliefs, more that they reflect them.) I’d expect that the tone of these attacks on Clegg will soften in future – although Dacre will always be hostile, the attacks are likely to become less personal and more policy based..

  • It speaks volumes for the unstated, acute discomfort of Liberal Democrats that 90% of the contributions here completely ignore the story and instead frantically attempt to cover it up by shooting the messenger. And yes, that, disappoingly, includes Stephen Tall. Let’s get back to the facts of the story:

    Fact: Nick Clegg sells himself as atheist or an agnostic
    Fact: Faith schools are anathema to atheists and agnostics

    Stephen Tall states that Nick Clegg’s own views on faith schools are no secret and that ‘within a month of his election as party leader in 2007, he set them out plainly’: “If we are to create a society in which everyone has a fair chance in life, we need to focus on education, above all. Faith schools have an important role to play in that, and I am keen that they become engines of integration, not of segregation.”

    Well, he would say that wouldn’t he? When making that statement he already knew that his children would be heading for some top catholic school and is, presumably, too clever to shoot himself in the foot. Children from homes with faith can perfectly happily be brought up in that faith by their family and their faith institution, without also going to a faith school.

    A quick trawl of the history and context of the London Oratory makes it abundantly clear that the it is highly selective, it’s own website states the improtance of ‘interviews with parents and ‘suitable’ boys’…..Their Head was a member of a Tory Education Think Tank and openly goaded and challenged the Labout government by asking parents to cough up to ‘cover the shortfall in funding’.

    Come on guys – we’re all good card carrying Liberal Democrats, I’m sure, but let’s just bite the bullet and admit that this is a shamelessly elitist choice by Clegg.

    Like it or hate it, but don’t deny it.

  • @tom papworth

    “if we make it easier to build houses for some of the 200,000 homeless in london…”etc

    meanwhile the people who you- sorry your tory bosses and you -are going to make homeless by cutting housing benefit- where are you going to accommodate them-tent city?

    From an extremely remorseful, once only bitten, libdem voter.(professional person , happily married-not one of Andrew Marr’s basement mummy’s boy raging nutters.

  • @Helen
    If you are talking about the HB cut from median to 30th percentile, that’s not going to make people homeless, is it?

    Or do you support keeping that at the present level?

  • Paul Pettinger 12th Oct '10 - 1:45am

    Nick Clegg has mishandled how he has communicated his own beliefs and his position on sectarian schools. It can therefore not come as that great a surprise that he has been attacked in this way. The Mail article is also surprisingly well researched, and represents the party’s policy quite well, even better than this LDV article.

  • Someone is mistaking contempt and amused scorn with ‘acute discomfort’.

    It’s a complete non-story because his wife is a Catholic.
    Even Mail readers managed to spot that rather obvious Fact.

    Or perhaps we were all blaming the messenger when the Mail revealed that Nick was secretly Der Fuhrer! and planning to march us all into Poland ? 😀

  • Chris Greaves 12th Oct '10 - 4:56pm

    Kirsten – You base your comments on a false premise, and therefore come to a false conclusion. You say: “Faith schools are anathema to atheists and agnostics”, but where did that come from? It is just not true! I know a number of atheist and agnostic families that bend over backwards to try to get their kids into the local Catholic school. And know of a number who have succeeded. The admission process includes a letter from the local priest. The truth? People start going to the church a suitable time beforehand, get their letter from the priest to the school, saying the parents are regular members of the church congregation, and then stop going to church, reverting to their true agnostic lifestyle.

    Yes, it is cheating the system, but it goes on because many faith schools have a better than average academic record, and people do actually recognise that. And what parent does not want the best for their child?

    Yes, I’m a good card carrying LibDem, but no, I will not agree that this is a “shamelessly elitist choice by Clegg”. Far from it. This is nothing more than parents sending their child to a local school in accordance with the faith beliefs of the mother, which is surely something that we as LibDems should applaud. Ask yourself, is it fair that parents shouldn’t be allowed to send their child to a local school in accordance with the faith of at least one of the parents, bearing in mind that this is something that Catholics are actually supposed to do? So why should Mr & Mrs Clegg be any different?

  • @Chris Greaves
    “You base your comments on a false premise, and therefore come to a false conclusion. You say: “Faith schools are anathema to atheists and agnostics”, but where did that come from? It is just not true!”

    Faith schools are anathema to atheists by default Chris – try Richard Dawkins…
    What you are advocating is rampant hypocracy, which is not befitting of a leader of political party who prides itself on its genuineness.

  • sorry … hypocrisy … it’s late

  • Chris Gilbert 13th Oct '10 - 10:06am

    Well, it would be more accurate to say ‘anathema to Richard Dawkins’ wouldn’t it? I don’t get why religious people presuming to know what ALL atheists and agnostics think is any different from atheists or agnostics presuming what all Christians think.

    Of course some people like Richard Dawkins (and myself) think faith schools shouldn’t be state funded, or should admit all pupils, but that’s not the same as what Nick Clegg thinks. We are not all the same person, with the same beliefs. Putting all atheists together is actually less sensical than putting all Christians together, since Christians actually have a holy book, whereas the vast majority of atheists don’t give two hoots about Richard Dawkin’s opinion.

    So essentially Nick Clegg’s views != Richard Dawkin’s views – they are two separate people, therefore have different views. I think everyone can understand that..

  • Chris Greaves 14th Oct '10 - 9:56am

    Kirsten – You say “Faith schools are anathema to atheists by default Chris”. But that is not what you said in your original post, which included agnostics in your assertion, so you have now altered your original claim. Chris Graham, above, then makes the point about atheists perfectly.

    I absolutely do not and will not advocate or endorse hypocrisy in any way, let alone rampant hypocrisy. There is far too much of that in our political system, which is why people have so little regard for politicians. Fortunately, the question of hypocrisy does not even arise in the topic under discussion!

  • Loads of conner voters supporting our leader. If you look else where (everywhere else) loads of our supporters holding him to task – sort of says it all really.

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