Déjà vu: it’s #nickcleggsfault all over again, as right-wing press froths at Lib Dem leader

There are, I know, a few Lib Dems who question whether Nick Clegg has done enough to prove the party’s pro-European credentials in the last few days. (And to be clear: to be a liberal pro-European means also being in favour of significant reform of the EU to make it more open, transparent and democratic.)

But if there’s one thing that should reassure such Lib Dems, it’s this: the rabid response of the most extreme right-wing press (ie, all of it) to Nick Clegg’s interview yesterday in which he declared himself “bitterly disappointed” with the outcome of last week’s European summit.

I think the last time I can recall such foaming fury was in April 2010, when following the leaders’ TV debates the Lib Dems (briefly) took pole poll position. That upsurge provoked the Torygraph to demean its serious news journalism by splashing on an innuendo-laden smear of Nick Clegg’s finances. While the Daily Mail took a short-cut to Godwin’s Law with the furious, spurious headline ‘Nick Clegg’s Nazi slur on Britain’.

The upside of this full-throttle onslaught was the Twitter hastag #nickcleggsfault which poked fun at this hyped-up hyperbole.

Today’s Telegraph and Mail is the #nickcleggsfault re-up, with both papers gleefully choosing to distort Nick’s suggestion that the UK would be much weaker if it left the European Union. The Mail’s leads with ‘Tory fury at Clegg’s ‘pygmy’ insult to Britain’, while the Telegraph is even less third-person: ‘Clegg’s jibe at “pygmy” Britain’.

What remark by Nick was it that prompted such derision? This one:

Well I will fight that tooth and nail because I think a Britain which leaves the EU will be considered to be irrelevant by Washington and will be considered a pygmy in the world when I want us to stand tall and lead in the world.

In Mail-speak, that’s an insult. To the Torygraph, it’s a jibe. To me, that’s reality.

As I’ve already stated here, I’m relieved Nick Clegg is in government right now — the UK needs a grown-up at the top table negotiating in the UK’s fundamental interests, not playing to the gallery. And if I doubted that was the case, a glance at today’s fulminating front pages confirms me in the verdict.

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11 Comments

  • David Edwards 12th Dec '11 - 9:28am

    well yes, the nasty Right will take every opportunity to vilify the Liberal democrats in the hope of producing an unrestrained Tory government at the next election. I shudder to think where we’d be without the restraints provided by the grown-ups in the coalition.

  • Bill le Breton 12th Dec '11 - 10:06am

    Stephen, ‘grown ups’ never ever use the word “pygmy’ in whatever way. It ranks alongside other terms that should never now be uttered. After years of colonialism and TV ‘natural history’ programmes “pygmy” is, sadly, a word that can still pop into the mind, but that should be as far as it is ever allowed to go.

    Besides which, it is the type of invective that can so easily be turned against the user, as in this case.

    So a Liberal would instinctively be wary of its use and a person experienced in public affairs would know to avoid it.

  • With respect, what do you expect from the right wing press?

    as for having a grown up ain the coalition, what is the point when the PM only cares about the 50 0r 60 eurosceptics in his own party?

  • David Pollard 12th Dec '11 - 10:45am

    If you want to know just how powerful Nick Clegg is right now watch Bloomberg News. It will really cheer you up. The markets are already anticipating a break up of the coalition over Europe and they will be in like a pack of wolves if that happens. Aside from Europe, how should Nick play his hand? Without going over the top he should be asking for a few more LibDem sweeteners, not too many or too much mind. My own choice would be for more emphasis on climate change issues. Cameron is now riding on the back of a Eurosceptic tiger and only Nick can help him safely off.
    At some point Nick will have to state clearly that he is staying in the Coalition, but maybe not yet for a little while. As I ahve said before, we should be encouraging the Eurozone to sort its problems, but in a supportive role, not from a perceived ‘position of superiority’.
    There is all to play for and keep watching Bloomberg News!

  • Old Codger Chris 12th Dec '11 - 12:56pm

    I don’t agree with Ian Butler that Cameron only cares about Tory eurosceptics. He also cares about his friends in the City of London and the press. A leader who fails to lead.

  • Philip Young 12th Dec '11 - 2:47pm

    Can someone put up the two-page spread in todays Sun? …Nick Clegg has never had anything quite like this!

  • I do agree with Old Codger Chris. Sorry got carried away.

  • http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/politics/3992494/Nick-Clegg-attacks-David-Cameron-over-EU-treaty-veto.html
    @Philip Young
    Here’s a two-headed Nick in the edition of The Sun your refer to. Judging by some of their readers’ comments they would be better able to read it over two pages, and in a large sized font to help engage their eyes with their brains.

    Tuesday’s follow-up editorial headed “Strop it, Nick”, urges the PM, whom readers are taught to refer to as “Cambo”, to send “nasty Nick” to bed without any tea. An accompanying opinion piece rows back a bit from all the sound and fury of the Simpsons on speed, insisting that the Government is very far from falling apart – albeit bridging the gap involves a “grubby compromise.” Might the problem lie with the fact that the editor, who wrote the opinion piece, Tom Newton Dunn, has a father who has crossed the floor from the Conservatives to become a LibDem MEP – because he grew tired of such views as expressed by The Sun.
    Or maybe the other son was sent to bed without tea. I think we should be told !

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