The Futility Monster

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

Posts Tagged ‘electability’

Paxman v Clegg

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


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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