Friday, April 23, 2010

Nick Clegg: My part in his downfall

A few years ago I used to exchange occasional emails with the East Midlands' bright new Liberal Democrat MEP Nick Clegg.

In one of them he mentioned that he had been offered a regular column by the Guardian website and asked if I thought he should accept. (These were the days when I wrote regularly for the paper's website myself.)

Unfortunately, I cannot find my reply, but I recall sucking on my pipe and typing something like this:

Hi Nick

I know writing regularly for the Guardian website seems a good idea, but I would advise against it.

You see, with your impeccably Liberal outlook and admirable candour, I can see you writing something that would look great when it was first published. The trouble is, when it is reprinted on the front page of the Daily Mail in eight years time during a general election campaign, in some eight years time, when you are in sight of leading the party to its best result since at least 1923, would look bad.

Best wishes


PS You did get my memo about the peerage, didn't you?

Of course, it wasn't like that - and not just because I have never smoked a pipe.

I advised Nick to write for the Guardian, merely commenting that he should be wary of giving the impression that the Liberal Democrats are obsessed with Europe. (The paper had offered columns to young Labour and Conservative Westminster MPs on the same basis.)

And he did write for the Guardian between 2002 and 2005 - you can still find Nick Clegg's column for the the period on the paper's website.

The fact that, after combing through these, the most embarrassing thing the Daily Mail could find was some remarkably sensible remarks about Anglo-German relations, suggest that Nick managed to combine his natural candour with prudence.

In fact, it is quite possible that the hamfisted attempts to smear Nick Clegg by the Daily Mail and the other Tory papers will prove counterproductive.

And doesn't Godwin's law apply to newspapers too?

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