David Blackburn

Clegg’s no Dave

Clegg’s no Dave
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Nick Clegg faced a stormy Q&A session this afternoon and he isn’t in David Cameron’s league as a performer. He struggled through tough questions on VAT, DfID, a transaction tax, AV and the appointment of Philip Green. His answers were garbled, though he did stick to the government’s script. There was, however, one particularly damaging exchange. Clegg was heckled by a man who thought the coalition ‘lacked a mandate for its rather brutal social policies’, and added that Clegg should get out of the coalition before it was ‘too late.’ Clegg’s response was limply pugilistic.

‘You’ve obviously got an axe to grind.” He went onto say “it’s not in my gift, and it shouldn’t be of course, any individual’s gift - not even yours, you seem very sure of yourself on these things - how people vote.  Now you whether you like it or not and you clearly don’t like it what happened was that no single party got a majority.

“So we had to take a decision, 7 million people voted for the Liberal Democrats, 24% of people, we had to take a decision as a country. Do you then decide in exceptional circumstances because no one has an outright majority to ask you vote again, perhaps over and over again until someone gets an absolute majority?

“Now we can have a legitimate disagreement on that, you obviously want to go a but further and imply there was something malign in that, my judgement - which I’m very happy to justify to you again - and the judgement of other is that it wasn’t right and it wasn’t good for the country as a whole to constantly pitch the country into all the uncertainties, into a grinding series of election campaigns when we were facing a lot of great difficulties.’

Clegg is under pressure at the moment, but compare his simultaneously sanctimonious and contemptuous approach with David Cameron’s affable candour. Remember his run-in with the bellicose student at Southampton University? Cameron disagreed with her point of view calmly, without referring to axes to grind or making pompous suppositions about self-assurance. The Tories’ fear that Clegg was a thinner, shinier version of Cameron has proved wide of the mark. Then again I can’t recall Clegg referring to Gaza as a prison; everyone has off-days.