Thursday, 22 April 2010

In which it all kicks off

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

(Warning: this post has not been edited for length.)

The election has now gone into twenty different kinds of crazy. I woke up to Chris Huhne shouting at John Humphrys on The Today Programme. Everybody knows that only Mr Humphrys is allowed to shout.

Actually, he was being at his most calm and moderate this morning. He made the perfectly reasonable point that it was slightly curious for Nick Clegg to present himself as the shining figure of the new politics, almost an anti-politics character, when he has worked as a bureaucrat in Brussels, was picked by Lord Brittan on Lord Carrington's recommendation, and then did a little light lobbying on the side.

'SMEARS,' Mr Huhne yelled.

It was all damn rotten SMEARING, and the BBC had been at it for years, and he would see that lily-livered Mr Humphrys round the back of the bike shed if it was the last thing he did. I paraphrase, obviously.

In vain did John Humphrys point out that there was nothing wrong with Brussels or lobbying; it was just that it did not really seem like novel politics, or the act of an outsider.

Those were 'REAL JOBS' howled Mr Huhne.

This in itself was curious, since the only inference one could draw was that he regarded being a politician as not a real job. In which case, why would he or his leader choose such a non-job in the first place?

'AID PROGRAMMES,' he kept repeating. 'TALKING TO CHINA. CHINA!!!'

I could see the aid programme thing; obviously halos must be burnished to keep them in spit-spot condition. I was less certain about the talking to the Chinese thing. Was it supposed to suggest that Mr Clegg was a tremendous citizen of the world? There was the tiniest, merest whiff of a very old idea indeed: brilliant Mr Clegg could stand up to the wiliest of Orientals. I think that must be just me reading between too many lines; surely no Liberal Democrat would ever think in such outdated stereotypes? I should never let such a common thought or mean cross my mind. It's just that the Lib Dems, being big on human rights, are generally not great supporters of the Chinese, so I can't quite understand why Mr Clegg talking to them would be considered such a marvellous thing.

There was a bit more harrumphing, a little light fisticuffs, Mr Huhne resolutely refused to address the question, and then they all went out for lashings of ginger beer. Or something.

I am still mystified as to why Mr Huhne chose this morning to unleash his dark side.

Talking of dark sides, the Prince of Darkness himself, Lord Mandelson of Foy, marched into The World at One and told Martha Kearney with a straight face that the Tories were manipulating the press to spread SMEARS (there goes that word again) about the poor hapless Liberal Democrat leader. Because everyone knows that Lord Mandelson of Foy never manipulated the press in his life. Not he. To her luminous credit, Martha Kearney also kept a straight face as his lordship told her how 'disgusting' he found the entire affair.

As the clip clop of high horses was heard around the BBC, The Daily Mail had found a tall pony of its very own to gallop about on. Apparently Nick Clegg had made a NAZI SLUR against the great island of Britain. This was tremendous news. The blogosphere duly exploded with delight. On closer examination, it turned out that Mr Clegg had written an article for The Guardian which was less fascist propaganda and more well-meaning moral relativism, but I suppose that does not make such a catchy headline.

Over at The New Improved Indy, shenanigans were taking place at the daily editorial meeting, when James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks burst in and began berating Simon Kelner, apparently because he had implied something disobliging about Mr Murdoch senior. Euphemism of the day goes to an unnamed witness, who described Mrs Brooks as being 'in full gesticulating mode'.

On hearing of this on The Daily Politics, The Guardian's Nick Watt revealed that he had once been in a lift with Rupert Murdoch and that he was 'very grumpy'. I nominate this for runaway scoop of the day. (It was actually terribly funny, and reduced everyone on the set to schoolyard giggles.)

On Twitter, half the nation was having a huge amount of fun with a #nickcleggsfault hashtag. (Currently number one trending topic.) My favourite examples:

I burnt the toast and set off the fire alarm. It's #nickcleggsfault.

I have nothing to wear. It's #nickcleggsfault.

Nick Clegg lived in the same town as a seriously ill man and never visited him, though he knows he has a spare kidney. #nickcleggsfault

And, in my very favourite shock development, Saint Nick's surname has morphed into a new word. Charles Nevin at The Independent this morning wrote of a 'breezy, cleggy optimism'. It's a fabulous neologism. It will of course be open to shifts in meaning. At the moment, it may be used as an adjective to suggest new, insurgent, unexpected, the implausible growing plausible. If the Lib Dem bubble bursts, 'cleggy' may come to mean short-lived, flash in the pan, not quite everything it promised. Should the hung parliament scenario play out so that Gordon Brown stays in Number Ten with a Lib-Lab pact, so that Nick Clegg's promise of a vote for change means a vote for exactly the damn same, 'cleggy' will be the quickest way of indicating the law of unintended consequences at work. Happy linguistic geeks shall be watching this space.

So come on, my darlings, who said politics wasn't interesting?

PS This is too perfect. I thought I might just google 'cleggy' to see if anything came up. Apparently it is already a word. According to The Urban Dictionary it is street slang for either a lifeless hobo who is immature and an idiot; or a blatantly boneheaded move; or, an incredible human being, a perfect specimen, the ultimate, sublime.

Those Lib Dems, I thought, there really is more to them than meets the eye. They have clearly infiltrated The Urban Dictionary and inserted that last entry. But no. I look more closely. The definition was posted in 2005. Although, that was when Nick Clegg first entered parliament, so perhaps some very far-sighted person was looking ahead. Funny business? I am saying nothing.

After all that, you really do deserve a lovely picture of the day, so I give you this animal enchantment:

Leopard from Pixdaus

(Uncredited, via Pixdaus.)

And to my international readers, who perhaps do not indulge in a close reading of British politics: I really do apologise if you have no idea what I am on about. If it's any consolation, I have very little idea of what I am on about either.


  1. I gave you a beautiful blogger award. You so deserve it :)


  2. Oh this post made me smile so much. Love the description oh the Humphries vs Huhne. But then I love Humphries, even if he seems to be a parody of himself sometimes.

  3. Thanks Tania. I wish I had heard that portion of The Today Programme, it sounds wonderful!

  4. Marcie - how utterly kind and generous of you. Thank you. Shall pass it on tomorrow when I have proper time to concentrate on the honour.

    Siobhan - I love JH too. Even if sometimes a little too snappy, still a fine example of public service broadcasting.

    Mona - I put in a link you can click on to listen to the interview again. I think I put it in that first paragraph. (Sorry not looking at post now.) If not, got to the Today Programme webpage and you can find it. It is worth it, the whole thing was so mad.


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