Alex Massie

Reasons to Like Nick Clegg

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As a person rather than as a politician, I mean. David has already mentioned Clegg's taste for Germanic* classical music and now there's another reason to approve of him. He's a Beckett fan. If he comes out for cricket and Wodehouse, his party can have my vote...

Here he is on Sam:

Every time I go back to Beckett he seems more subversive, not less; his works make me feel more uncomfortable than they did before. The unsettling idea, most explicit in Godot, that life is habit – that it is all just a series of motions devoid of meaning – never gets any easier.

It's that willingness to question the things the rest of us take for granted that I admire most about Beckett; the courage to ask questions that are dangerous because, if the traditions and meanings we hold so dear turn out to be false, what do we do then?

But amid the bleakness, there is also humour, and it's no surprise that there are so many comedians among Beckett's fans. His appeal lies in his directness – the sparse, unembellished prose that can make his meticulous stage directions unexpected. He leaves you with a sense that you knew what he meant, even if explaining it back would leave you lost for words. Direct and disturbing – it is impossible to grow tired of Beckett.

One could quibble with this or note that what Clegg praises is even more true of the prose than the drama but, broadly speaking, Clegg is doing fine here. And good for him for answering the Guardian's question with, one can only presume, a degree of honesty.

How he squares this with being a politician would, mind you, be a good question. Though not, of course, the kind of question that would ever be asked in the leaders' debates. And perhaps rightly not. Still...

Sure, this is trivial but if we must have a presidential-style election jammed into a parliamentary system then I'm quite happy that the Liberal Democrat leader knows something about good stuff and doesn't pretend that he thinks Simon Cowell the biggest and best thing since, I dunno, John Grisham or something.

Relatedly, may I commend Susan Hill's most recent post on schools, Shakespeare, the arts and teaching to the test. Why yes I can and do. She's right.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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