Nick Clegg’s written an editorial for The Sun.
What a pathetic piece of electioneering
this is. There’s a by-election in Oldham East and Saddleworth tomorrow.
It was caused by the previous result being annulled because the narrow
winner, Phil Woolas (Labour), was found to have made false statements
about his Lib Dem opponent by an election court. At that annulled
election Labour got 31.9% against the Lib Dem’s 31.6%. Despite all that,
it’s looking as though Labour are going to romp home. Hence Clegg’s
First we have this ludicrous coinage
‘Heroes of Alarm Clock Britain’. It’s intended to immediately connect
with people. I have an alarm clock, ergo I must be a hero. But it
doesn’t feel heroic to wake up to an alarm clock. It feels annoying. I
feel resentment towards it. Frankly, for Clegg to describe us as alarm
clock heroes sounds dangerously close to a rich man taking the piss.
Second, there is an ugly attempt to
divide us. We who are addressed are heroes because we are ‘people, like
Sun readers, who have to get up every morning and work hard to get on in
life’; ‘we are those who ‘want their kids to get ahead’. These terms of
address and these virtues are extreme opaque (get on, get ahead); they
might just as well refer to pushy, arrogant, selfish people as to
saintly toilers for the good of all.
No more meat is put on the bones
elsewhere. Who are these people? They are ‘hard-working’; they are ‘the
backbone of Britain’. They are ‘prepared to roll up their sleeves and
get Britain back on its feet’. They are ‘busy making this country tick’.
What does any of this mean?
Oh I see what it means. It means we’re
not THEM. THEY ‘want to rely on state handouts’; THEY ‘need politicians
to tell them what to think or how to live their lives’. Ah, I see, THEY
are feckless scroungers, criminals, asylum seekers, that lot. Bastards.
I’m glad I’m not THEM.
Wait a second, we have a legal system. I
have disputes with parts of it, but broadly I think it’s appropriate
that the government institutes a series of legal principles, enforceable
by the prison system, that tells us how we may live our lives. I don’t
consider the laws against rape and murder an unwarranted intrusion on my
Ah, but you don’t need a politician to tell you what to think,
do you, Dan? No, I certainly don’t. But who does? Who is Nick Clegg
talking about? Who does he think he’s talking about? Who actually looks
to politicians to provide the contents of their minds? No one, surely.
It’s just a general way of othering people; it implies that out there,
somewhere, are people unlike you; they are so lazy they don’t have an
alarm clock, but instead loll in their fetid languorous beds well into
the afternoons, waiting for politicians to fill their heads with ideas,
and cascade banknotes into their grasping hands.
And here’s another thing. I rely on
state handouts. I work in the university sector, which is still mainly
state-funded. My salary is largely provided by the taxpayer. And I write
plays that are mainly put on in publicly-subsidised places: I write for
the BBC, for the subsidised theatre sector. I don’t believe a
privatised university sector or a privatised theatre would provide much
of an income, so yes I do rely on the state. Of course these are not
handouts. What are? Disability benefits? Are they handouts? The lazy,
feckless, chair-loving crutch-fetishists, do they get handouts. What
about child benefits? The irresponsible, libidinous, condom-avoiding
halfwits, expecting the state to hand cash to their ghastly spawn.
Oh no, hold on, he means the unemployed
and probably asylum seekers. What are you going to do, Nick? Not give
people who have fled torture, genocide, persecution any means to live?
Are you going to allow the long-term unemployed to die of starvation? Or
are you just othering them to pander to our prejudices? Whip us up into
self-righteousness and resentment? Happily, I’m not someone who needs a
politician to tell me what to think (and, even if I were, I wouldn’t
start with you).
And why all this? Oh it’s because we’re
in the ‘hole Labour left us in’. We’re still struggling with the
‘problems Labour left us with’. These are ‘Labour’s debts’. This has
been repeated like a mantra since May.
It’s a classic rhetorical strategy.
Bombard people with lies while still insisting on the listener’s
independence. ‘Of course, I wouldn’t dream of telling you what to think
about those lying, scrounging immigrants’. But let’s put a bit of
pressure on this strategy. The cuts proposed by the Coalition are only
estimated to bring the public finances back to where they were before
the banking bail-out. They are intended to restore the status quo ante
but no more. There’s a larger question about the ability of a country to
live quite comfortably with debt but let’s just look at our recent
history. I certainly remember that the Tories floundered when the
banking crisis began; they had no idea what to do. They criticised the
government; then they supported it; never, then or now, did they propose
a coherent alternative policy to taking the failing banks temporarily
into public ownership. On the other hand, it was Gordon Brown’s finest
hour (yes, he did have one). He was recognised internationally as one of
the few leaders with a grip on the crisis. What about the Lib Dems?
Would Nick not have bailed out the banks? And does he believe that if he
hadn’t bailed out the banks, we would be in a better position than we
So how is this Labour’s debt? It’s a
debt necessitated by the ignorance, greed and stupidity of the banking
sector. Nick and David are agreed on the wisdom of the market. They
didn’t call for greater banking regulation. They are part of a political
system that accepted - and, as is perfectly clear, continue to accept -
that governments should not interfere with the financial services
industry’s divine right to make money. Nick, it’s your debt as much as
And then, though it’s almost too cruel
to mention it, Clegg tries to rally support by talking about his tax
plans about which ‘the Liberal Democrats made a promise to voters on the
front of our manifesto’. Ah yes, the manifesto. That binding Liberal
Democrat document. I’m not a politician, but if I were you, Nick, I
wouldn’t want to remind people about the commitments you made in your
Well anyway, glad to have got that off my chest. And all before sunrise too.