The Secret MP #8: Clegg v Farage

by The Secret MP on March 28, 2014

The Secret MPYou can call me Keith.

But that’s not my real name.

And I am a Lib-Dem MP.

The Allthatsleft boys asked me to write a review of the Clegg Farage debate – funny, until they asked me, I wasn’t even sure that I was going to watch it. I knew I was supposed to watch it, I knew that it was in my interests to watch it so that I could loyally reach a reasoned and objective conclusion as to why Clegg had wiped the floor with Farage – but, until I’d promised Ray that I would pen something for him, I knew the chances are I would have found a good excuse not to watch it.

Why?

Because to me, and I get no pleasure for saying this, the whole thing was utterly contrived – a con, wrapped up in the duplicitous claim that it was about getting the voters to focus on the real issues of Europe, when, the glaringly obvious reason behind the debate was the desire of two egocentric politicians to get their faces on telly, because both remain completely convinced about their abilities to wow a crowd.

Nick Clegg is desperte for another ‘I agree with Nick’ moment.

And, I suppose, who can blame him – he is, after all, a politician.

My relationship with Nick has been an interesting one. We knew eachother before we were elected, though not well. We entered Parliament at the same time and went through that exciting ‘new MP’ phase together – but, Nick is not a particularly clubbable type of guy. In the first few weeks we shared a lengthy train journey on our way up to Scotland, where we were forced to talk for a number of hours. Don’t get me wrong the conversation was a perfectly enjoyable one, but Clegg, like all ambitious politicians has a precise way of conversing that manages to be warm and personal yet cold and calculating at the same time. I could tell that he didn’t know if I might be a potential rival and as such every sentence was nuanced accordingly. The only time in which I gained the upper hand was when we talked briefly about music – I let slip that I was a keen guitarist and we discussed the music of Heitor Villa-Lobos, about whom I know a great deal and Nick had a passing interest. Nick quickly realised that on this topic I was the alpha male and quickly changed the subject to one in which he could reassert the hierarchy between us.

And, he was damn good at it.

It was then that I realised that Nick was going to climb up the ole greasy ladder a hell of lot more adroitly than I was.

Since then, of course, we have spoken many times in Parliament, but the conversation never goes beyond the superficial – I am not one of his chosen allies. Like all politicians even in superficiality, he has a way of trying to make you feel special whilst at the same time subtly exercising his superiority -and with me, he does it by harking back to the conversation we had on that train journey – everytime we meet he says something like ‘still playing your Stratocaster Keith?’ occasionally accompanied by an excruciating guitarist stance and brief twiddling of fingers. And I, of course smile. But actually, I want to kill him.

Anyway, getting back to the Euro debate where amazingly, my revulsion for Nigel Farage, who I see as a dangerous liar, made me feel a certain degree of warmth towards Nick Clegg.

Unlike many of my Lib-Dem colleagues, I am pretty agnostic about Europe, though broadly, I think it’s a good thing and that dismantling the EU would be a bad thing.

I also, when you peel back my cynicism about the desires of individual politicians, see the benefit of televised debates about subjects such as this. But, when I considered the prospect of a debate between Clegg and Farage, I knew that it could only end badly for Nick. Farage has all the best lines and the by far the most vociferous supporters – people who are regressive and negative love it when their reactionary views are trumpeted, they whoop and cheer. Farage knows this, he is brilliant at mining this rich seam of reaction – he has been doing it for years and it was obvious to anyone and everyone that he would have a much easier time than Clegg.

And so it came to pass.

For an hour I watched as Farage bombarded the audience with his vitriol and misinformation – he is a bare faced liar, he tailors his facts to suit his polemic. And that is why he is dangerous.
And poor Nick (yes, poor Nick), grew tired under the weight of the Farage bombardment. By the end even Nick’s slick presentation and good use of facts appeared jaded under the onslaught of Farage’s bullshit (sorry, best adjective I could find in these circumstances).

By the end, I felt genuinely sorry for him. Has he helped the debate concerning Europe – no, not really, I doubt that many people will have been won over one way or another.

And, has he helped himself? No, this wasn’t an occasion where people were wowed by a young politician on the up, this was an occasion where people would have been struck by the sight of a rather tired government minister struggling to overcome a much more enthusiastic and charismatic foe.

What will the outcome be?

I’m afraid the outcome will be exactly the same as it would have been before the debate – UKIP will do well in the European Elections and everyone else will do badly.

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