The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Paxman v Clegg

Posted by The Futility Monster on April 13, 2010 @ 18:54

Unfortunate

Last night’s Paxman interview with Nick Clegg was one of the more interesting parts of the election so far. I say that not because I’m a Liberal Democrat, but simply because it was the first prime-time, national prominence (no one else has yet had 30 mins at 8:30pm in BBC1) any of the party leaders have got since the starting gun was fired last Monday.

The interview itself was typical Paxman, though he was not quite at the top of his game. He was cocky, assertive, and the trademark sneer was very much in evidence. But he was very much kept in check with what was a commanding performance by Nick Clegg.

Lib Dem member in party leader worship shocker. I know, I know.

Paxman lead quite an interesting sweep through several issues. Discussing hung parliament strategies, immigration reform, the economy, the NHS and education, Clegg had answers for everything. But not only did he have the answers, he was thoroughly in control of the interview. He didn’t let Paxman interrupt too frequently. He stood his ground. He stood up for the policies, and at one point (on the £10,000 personal allowance) defended them so strongly that he gave Paxman a good dressing down.

The best way to survive these interviews is to stay calm and confident. Five years ago, Charles Kennedy did well, but Paxman was at his manoeuvring best, trying to catch Charles out in a typical Lib Dem dilemma of two contradictory policies. Charles looked a little lightweight as a result, and not a serious contender for the leadership of this country.

This time, however, Clegg handled it very differently. I’m not lying when I say he looked like he could be a Prime Minister. He was detailed, authoritative and assertive. His knowledge of the Lib Dem gamut of policies was complete. He kept his calm, and continued to restate his case when Paxman tried to catch him out.

The policies themselves… they can wait till another day. I agreed with almost everything Clegg said, which is a first for me. But elections these days are all about personality. How did Clegg fare here?

Nick Clegg’s personality has always been a bit of an enigma. He looks and sounds a bit like Cameron. That is a big worry. He uses words like “golly” – which to a Northerner like me is very posh, and very dated. He can get a bit petulant at PMQs, and on TV can come across a little arrogant and aloof.

These are the negatives of Clegg. He is no street-fighter. He is very much a public schoolboy in his demeanour. The country is clearly happy with that regarding Cameron. He is a Tory after all, and very much fitting in the natural stereotype.

But we Lib Dems need something different. A radiant personality that will stick out in the miasma of mediocrity that passes for parliamentarians these days. Charles Kennedy was that, but his grasp of policy was poor. Clegg is no Kennedy. He’s not a man you’d stop in the street to strike up a conversation with.

Clegg did his level best to overcome that shortcoming last night. He came across as intelligent, articulate, thoughtful and enthusiastic. And he did indeed look confident and competent.

Is that combination sufficient enough, and in sufficient quantity, for him to have the magical “electability”?

Just about, I’d say. He’s doing the party no harm at all right now…

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3 Responses to “Paxman v Clegg”

  1. Peter Reynolds said

    As you know, I’m a Tory but I thought Nick Clegg was just great. Alongside David as PM, Vince as Chancellor, I’d be delighted to see Nick as, shall we say, Deputy PM and Home Secretary? This is a dream team!

    George Osborne will do fine as First Secretary and Vince’s right hand man (boy)and William as Foreign Secretary.

    I’m with you all the way.

  2. What horrifies me about your comment is that more than 50% of me agrees with it!

    What you describe is, sort of, what I would like to see. Not necessarily because I think I’ll enjoy the policies it produces – far from it – but simply because of the potential for a revolution in the way British politics is conducted. Lasting change is only going to come from an uneasy coalition of reformers. And I think both Tory and Lib Dem front benches are genuine in their desire for it. The wider Tory party probably isn’t, but they’ll go along for the ride if it delivers power.

  3. […] election is so close, courtesy of the momentum gained by the Liberal Democrats. After all, Clegg did his interview nearly two weeks ago, at the end of which Paxman only expressed a “hope” that there […]

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