Nick Clegg and satire – a disclaimer

What is a blogger?

I write about all kinds of things on here. The main focus tends to be finance and domestic (UK) politics, but there have been plenty of other subjects, too: TV, sport, protests, even science.

When I write a (prose) paragraph or nine about something in the world of politics or finance, I’m trying to be honest. Often enough, I decide to write a piece because I have a particular opinion, and the process of writing causes that opinion to change. I tease out my own thoughts as I type, spot a worm’s tail amidst a mass of anger, follow it and find that it leads somewhere else entirely. As a far cleverer man once said, “I write to find out what I didn’t know I knew”. I try to be honest with myself and with anyone who has the patience to read, I look for ways to represent the nuance or uncertainty I feel about most issues and the depth and clarity I feel on a scant few.

In contrast, when I write political poems and sketches, they’re satirical. I’m not being serious, and I’m unlikely to be trying to make a serious point (although there may be exceptions). I’m identifying a common theme, linking a well-known poem or song or scenario with a political figure or circumstance, and I’m milking it for all it’s worth. All that’s needed is the germ of an idea, and I don’t really need to believe in it.

So, for instance, for all I rail against him, I don’t think Michael Gove is the villain he seems to insist on being seen as. I think he’s wrong most of the time, I think he has a miss-rate that makes my 1996 crack at laser-clay-pigeon-shooting look positively sniperish, but I think he does it all intending to improve education for as many children as he can. I don’t think the decision to stick with austerity is as clear-cut a mistake as I might have indicated here. If I’d written the Miliband poem in the weeks after he took leadership of the party, it might have been a fair reflection of my thoughts; lately, though, he’s actually putting up alternatives as well as challenges and I’m not sure real policy is any more lacking in his statements as it would be in any those of any opposition leader.

Most significantly, as Sarah has pointed out to me with a frown and a shake of her head, I don’t really think of Nick Clegg as feeble or power-hungry or fickle at all – despite what I wrote here. When he chose to enter government with the Conservatives, I thought he was making a brave decision for the good of the country, and three years on, I still do. He isn’t an idiot, he knew that going into partnership with an ideological foe, in the midst of a financial crisis, was going to hurt his party, but he also believed – rightly, I think – that stability would be needed as the country emerged from that crisis, and that stability couldn’t be provided by minority government.
Since then, things have probably been even harder than he expected they’d be. He’s had to retreat and u-turn, appease and beg, far more than could possibly come naturally to the kind of person who rises to lead their party. But he has also provided that stability. He has, unquestionably, softened some of the harsher edges of austerity and he and his colleagues have offered an alternative voice in cabinet. He put country above party and condemned himself to hatred and humiliation at the hands of those that had once voted for him. There were voices on the left that summer – a minority, true, but they were there nonetheless – who were rubbing their hands in glee at the way things had turned out, delighted at the prospect of the country falling into ruin under five years of coalition government and turning in their millions to Labour when 2015 came round. Clegg could have chosen that route, too, five years of sniping at an embattled minority government and better election numbers at the end of it. But he didn’t.

His reward, of course, is to be sneered at. And I’m one of the ones doing the sneering. I’ve jumped on a bandwagon that’s been rolling for three years and pretended I’ve been on it the whole time.

Hence this disclaimer. It’s just satire. I might believe it, I might not. If opinion polls and newspaper columns are to be trusted, a hell of a lot of people do. I write whatever my editor tells me to write, but my editor happens to be me. I feel quite bad about it, now. Hopefully this’ll make me feel a little better.

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If you liked this, take a look at some extracts from my soon-to-be-published novel Without Due Care here.

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