James Forsyth

Clegg fails Cameron’s Paxman test

Clegg fails Cameron's Paxman test
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Peter Hyman, Tony Blair’s former chief speechwriter, described Nick Clegg as a ‘mini-Cameron’ on Newsnight yesterday and there’s little doubt that Cameron and Clegg exude a similar aroma. Some think that this will dilute Cameron’s appeal, see Simon Heffer in the Telegraph this morning, but this ignores the fact that Clegg is not yet as able a politician as Cameron. For evidence of this, just compare how both fared against Jeremy Paxman.

Last night, Clegg attempted to counter Paxman by questioning his entire method as Cameron famously did during the Tory leadership race in 2005. Clegg repeatedly told Paxman you can sneer if you like and tried to dismiss him as an old cynic. The result was, at best, a score draw—you can watch the exchange here. Now, compare that to Cameron’s performance back in 2005—available here—and you’ll see how much better Cameron did than Clegg.

Being the ‘heir to Blair’ has worked for Cameron in presentational terms because Blair has left the stage. The problem for Clegg is that he’s offering a Lib-Dem own brand version of a product that is already established in the political market-place and will be on offer at the next election. It is hard to see this as a recipe for vastly increasing the Lib-Dem’s market share.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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