Nick Clegg: The Biography published today – is it worth reading?

The pre-publication newspaper serialisation of Chris Bower’s biography of Nick Clegg used extracts which covered the Deputy Prime Minister’s early life. When you read the full book the reason for this is amply clear. It has much interesting to say about Nick Clegg’s multi-national family and their close brushes with the tragedies of the early twentieth century. As it gets on to Clegg’s political career, however, it increasingly has little to say that will not already be familiar to close followers of political news from other accounts.

In a few cases it even has less to say than has already come out elsewhere, such as in the speculation about whether the Conservative Party was responsible for some of the personal anti-Clegg smears during the 2010 general election campaign – a responsibility that the Cowley / Kavanagh book has in fact already documented.

It would be wrong to conclude therefore that the book is of more interest to those into family history than politics, for the story of Nick Clegg’s family background does much to illuminate both his strong liberal roots and the form his liberalism takes. The Dutch egalitarianism of his mother and her bemusement at the idiosyncrasies of the British class system has “rubbed off on me too” Clegg says, explaining that she was particularly influential.

With a family that spans Russia, Holland and Spain alongside its British elements, and a mother who was a special needs teacher, his subsequently political concerns for internationalism and early years education naturally flow from his formative years. His grandfather’s time as a path-breaking editor of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) who was well known for his willingness to attack those in the NHS that he saw as not up to scratch may also help explain why Clegg himself so often shows an open-minded scepticism about the quality of parts of the public sector.

An impressively wide range of people were interviewed for the book so despite the relatively straight-forward narrative of recent years, a few details do stand out – such as the confirmation that Clegg was actively planning a leadership campaign several months before Ming Campbell stood down.

To Bower’s credit too, he reports the fallout between Huhne and Laws over the Laws chapter in the Orange Book, an event that seems to have completely passed by a multitude of political journalists who have written of that chapter without mentioning the arguments it caused between the different Orange Book authors.

Most striking are two comments. One is from Vince Cable putting on record his disagreement with Clegg’s initial approach in the summer of 2010 of playing down any differences of view between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in coalition. However as the party and Clegg have both since moved on that quote is more of historic interest than practical current political relevance.

That other is from Ian Blair, then Met Police Commissioner, who is reported as telling Clegg that the powers granted to the police had become so widespread that, if the police chose to use them all, the country would be a police state. It is moments such as that in the book that explain why Clegg is a liberal but also a liberal who has grave doubts over how good an ally the Labour Party is for liberalism.

You can buy Nick Clegg: The Biography by Chris Bowers from Amazon here.

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in Books.


Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to           show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Mark ValladaresMark Valladares
    @ Tristan, Firstly, take out critical employee insurance. But, if your hypothetical employee broke his leg on company business or, perhaps, through corpor...
  • Phillip Bennion
    Federal International Relations Committee has a Europe subcommittee which is holding an emergency meeting this evening to discuss Russia and Ukraine. Putin clea...
  • Chris Moore
    Excellent follow up remarks, David. Game set and match to you. I've been dismayed at some of the innuendo and intolerance displayed by a few on this board. ...
  • Tristan Ward
    To take Caron's argument to it's extreme, it seems to say that if an employee is ill, the employer must always contribute full pay until that employee gets bett...
  • Andrew Tampion
    "Thanks Nick. I agree that Tim cocked up his answer." A good example of how to deal with this sort of question is Jacob Rees Mogg. Who seems to have suffered ...