Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Openness, but only up to a point

Yesterday I ran a rather light-hearted post on the "Nick Clegg Superstud" revelations and other true stories that should have been April Fools. Judging by the lack of comments this attempt at sardonic humour obviously completely bombed, so it's back to serious today.

As the sage of Shropshire Jonathan Calder has already pointed out, releasing Clegg's GQ interview yesterday was a fiendishly clever piece of news management by the Lib Dems. The fact that it came out on April 1 would have led many people who read the story to assume it was a spoof, thereby lessening its impact.

But spoof it isn't and those Lib Dems of a sensitive disposition now have to get used to the fact that they now have a reformed serial shagger and teenage arsonist for a leader.

In what looks like something of a damage-limitation exercise, some of Clegg's colleagues have today praised his openness in being prepared to talk about such things, but they are missing one very vital point.

For me, the really interesting thing about Clegg is that while he is happy for us to know he was rather promiscuous in his younger days, happy for us to know he was an arsonist, happy for us to know he was a binge-drinker, even happy for us to know that he doesn't believe in God, he is still not prepared to say whether or not he has ever taken illegal drugs.

Once again, it begs the question just what is it about the drugs question that puts the willies up our political leaders, that causes the likes of Clegg to switch instantly from heart-on-the-sleeve mode to we're-entitled-to-a-private-life mode?

David Cameron famously refused to answer the same question after he became his party's leader, but even he owned up in the end, although the revelation that he had enjoyed a few spliffs at uni was a bit of a let-down to those who assumed his initial reticence must have meant the entire family fortune had disappeared up his nose.

If Clegg really does believe in "openness," he should bury this last taboo.

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Jonathan Calder said...


I am flattered, but if I am a sage of anywhere it is Market Harborough.

Anonymous said...

Errr, I don't quite see why people thinking an interview is a spoof makes it a good move - if their intention was to make people think it wasn't real, why do the interview at all?

Anonymous said...

Good news management following catastrophic idea to let him be interviewed in GQ.
Morgan destroyed Rusbridger in one of my all-time favourite interviews and the magazine elicited the 14 pints confession from Hague. I don't really think that acting like a lad is going to win him the votes of GQ readers.

I'm just looking forward to the question time review Paul.