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Nick Clegg is transforming into an arrogant Tony Blair


9:37 am - December 1st 2010

by Paul Sagar    


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Nick Clegg appears to be descending into a world of fantasy and illusion.

Last week he delivered a seriously confused lecture on how raising university fees and slashing higher education budgets – as well as abolishing the Education Maintenance Allowance – will boost social mobility.

He also had the audacity to suggest that opponents to the Browne review haven’t understood it, because if they did they’d know supporting Browne’s proposals is unquestionably right.

Call me elitist, but I can’t help thinking Cambridge professor Stefan Collini possess the analytic acumen to analyse the Browne proposals and come to a valid – hostile – conclusion. Ditto the numerous distinguished academics recently condemning the report in a letter to The Telegraph.

Yet, Clegg was already back up on his patronising high horse, insinuating that student protestors themselves are a threat to more equal university access.

Recall too his earlier response to the Institute For Fiscal studies condemnation of the Comprehensive Spending Review as deeply regressive. Namely, to accuse the independent and highly respected IFS of using the wrong (i.e. non-Cleggist) understanding of regressivity in the tax and benefit system.

A pattern, it seems, is emerging. One that has precedent.

By the end of Tony Blair’s time in power – particularly after the full nightmare of Iraq was under way – he had clearly descended into a world of fantasy.

One in which the Mesopotamian Adventure had been a triumphant success. Where Britain was safer – despite the heightened risk of domestic terrorism. Where the Middle East was stabilised – despite increased Iranian bellicosity and justified regional paranoia. Removing Saddam was A Good Thing; those who didn’t agree were moral hypocrites merely using Iraq as a beating stick.

For Blair, this was clearly a psychological coping mechanism. Living in his world of fantasy, he remained the champion of Goodness and Light. Outside that world he was the man responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Nick Clegg appears to be treading a strikingly similar path. The problem, he insists, is students and an unreasonable public. He correspondingly shut-outs the fact he has systematically betrayed his party grassroots and (former) principles.

These are men who, as Max Weber put it so well, lack the true calling for politics; a calling which depends upon taking self-reflective responsibility for one’s actions. They parse the maxims:

The world is stupid and base, not I. The responsibility for the consequences does not fall upon me but upon the others whom I serve and whose stupidity and baseness I shall eradicate.

They are “windbags who do not fully realize what they take upon themselves but who intoxicate themselves with romantic sensation”.

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About the author
Paul Sagar is a post-graduate student at the University of London and blogs at Bad Conscience.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Libdems ,Realpolitik ,Westminster

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Reader comments


They say Power corrupts. In Clegg’s case it has done so at frighteneing speed.

Hate to quibble, but… isn’t “an arrogant Tony Blair” just “Tony Blair”?

3. Chaise Guevara

@ 2

Beat me to it. It’s one of those repetitive and redundant tautologies.

4. polittiscribe

What a wicked and terrible man Mr Blair was. Oh and you forgot to mention he also duped the entire British people into electing him as Prime Minister. Three times. Consecutively.

“For Blair, this was clearly a psychological coping mechanism. Living in his world of fantasy, he remained the champion of Goodness and Light. Outside that world he was the man responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths.”

I think this is absolutely correct. I thoroughly recommend Igal Halfin’s book ‘From Darkness to Light’, which deals with the psychology of revolutionary politics in the Soviet Union. (I wrote a thesis on it!)

Blair, Clegg and, say, Stalin are very similar in this respect. Doublethink doesn’t even begin to cover it!

6. Chaise Guevara

@ polittiscribe

Blair was a prime minister? This is exciting and insightful stuff, if true. Do you have a source to confirm that? Or, you know, a point?

It’s fascinating stuff, psychologically speaking. It’s easy enough to see how people can hold obviously false beliefs when those beliefs are constantly reinforced by their peers and people whose views they respect; but how does someone ‘go it alone’ when the people they’d normally trust to reinforce their beliefs keep telling them they’re wrong?

The charitable answer would be: they have the strength of character needed to stick to their sincerely-held, rationally-formed convictions even when the herd disapproves. More plausibly, as you suggest, this is some sort of coping mechanism.

In Clegg’s case, I suspect the mechanism in question is adaptive preference formation – the process by which Aesop’s fox convinced himself he didn’t want the grapes after all (because he couldn’t reach them), and by which hostages sometimes convince themselves they quite like being held captive (because they’ve got no choice but to put up with it). The latter is a pretty neat metaphor for the junior partner in a coalition government, bound to vote for policies he’s always opposed on behalf of a party he’s always despised. The man’s got Stockholm Syndrome.

he also duped the entire British people into electing him as Prime Minister

They voted for the party, not him. And given the opposition…

9. the a&e charge nurse

How can we take anything Clegg says seriously if he was saying stuff like this just a short while ago
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_AMABsBNgw&feature=related

I mean what other important principles will be so comprehensively abandoned once there is a perceived political advantage?

My hypothesis is that ALL political leaders are psychologically flawed to begin with – and such tendencies tend to get magnified as soon as they are subject to intense and near relentless pressure.
Let’s face it you have to be a certain ‘type’ to participate in such ferocious competition in the first place (attaining high political office).

Thinking about the previous government we had “A Journey”, of course – but aside from Blair, most of his comrades (or henchmen) Brown, Campbell, Mandie, Straw, et al, were pretty unstable characters weren’t they?

And before that we had years of Thatch – a women who put her political aspirations ahead of her (and Dennis’s) responsibilities to their own deranged children?

He also had the audacity to suggest that opponents to the Browne review haven’t understood it, because if they did they’d know supporting Browne’s proposals is unquestionably right.

To be honest, he’s just spouting the same bullshit as when fees were introduced – that it’s a problem of perception or PR and not principle (e.g. it’s not really ‘debt’) – which is also reminiscent of Blair.

11. Dick the Prick

I’m not sure what lefties want. If you’re rational about it Labour would have had to have cut in much the same way yet their party wouldn’t have had the vigour, capital or inclination to take the tough decisions which would have just lingered and plunged us into an Irish type sell-out to the IMF etc. It’s incredibly petulant to just stamp your feet and complain that ‘it isn’t fair’ etc. If any of you really are soicalists then take at look at what Labour did for the poorest, the most vulnerable etc – you screwed them. And living on the never never is child speak.

@4

He also lost votes by the million* with every election. Labour won three terms depsite Blair (by the end), not because of him. Also, as Sunny said, you must’ve seen the opposition (that’s William Hague, IDS and Michael Howard, in case anyone had forgotten).

*4 million voters IIRC between 1997 and 2007.

~

Though I agree that this arcticle contains a tautology in the title.

Blair – the most reviled Labour Prime Minister since Ramsay Macdonald – and deservedly so. Success at the polls three times in succession is no recommendation of his political fitness – just his skill at spinnery – plus of course look at what the opposition had on offer in each election. Blair’s legacy played a large part in blighting Gordon Brown’s Premiership, in constructing a political template for Cameron to slide in to power by – right wing agenda and all, and ironically – although DM will never admit it, for costing David Milliband the Labour Leadership by however small a margin. Nick Clegg seems also to be a graduate from The Tony Blair school of ‘trust me – I’m all-things-to-all-men’. Thank you Tony Blair – Who needs the Tories? Well – you said it Tony!

I agree that the actual task of governing appears to be personally psychologically damaging for some of the LibDems. They just do not seem to have the mettle to handle criticism. One always gets the impression that the Tories are reveling in the LibDems getting slaughtered and the Tories don’t particularly care who hates them. Whereas the LD just want to be loved. As someone who invariably votes for a LD candidate but have no particular affinity to the party it is fascinating seeing them discover the difference between pious opposition and having to make difficult choices. Quite often the choices facing a government are bad and awful with no good choices available. The LibDems can’t really appeal to the public to understand the bad or awful choices they must make in government because they have never recognised that reality for other governments when they were in opposition. They are being strangled with the all things to all men form of opposition.

@8

So what went wrong at the last election?

It was the first of 4 that Blair was not involved in and, guess what, Labour lost.

@ 14 “The LibDems can’t really appeal to the public to understand the bad or awful choices they must make in government because they have never recognised that reality for other governments when they were in opposition”

This is complete tosh. Numerous Lib Dems (some of whom are now MPs) have exercised power, either controling Councils or in coalition (yes, with Labour, Conservatives and others) and know perfectly well about implementing panful decisions. Imposing poll tax for example, or pretty well any central government spending settlement of the last 20 years.

The Con Men /Lie Dem coalition is a tory govt. One can only assume therefore that Clegg and his mates are die hard tories.

I fully expect him to come out against voting reform in the next 6 months. When he loses that vote his so called coalition will look like a pile of poo.

@ 16. TW

There is a rather big difference between a local council and leading the News at Six, one is local and the other is real power at the national level. Outside of Torquay no one cares if the folks in Torquay get their bin emptied regularly.

You mistake arrogance for tunnel vision, which is an essential characteristic of politicians who want to get stuff done.

Thatcher took out the unions. Blair took out Iraq. Clegg is taking out the debt.

Whether you agree with these things or not, they were/are only achievable by people with the single mindedness to charge through dissenters towards their goal.

20. James from Durham

I feel that Nick Clegg will be to the Libdems what ramsay Macdonald was to Labour. The first one to get into govt but thoroughly hated. But Labour survived Macdonald and the Libdems will survive Clegg. Hopefully after a bit of soul searching they will come back better and stronger.

Chervil – you omitted Hitler – he was a taker-outer – can you recall what he took out?- Not all in the same taking-out league as Herr H but you are apologising for some very dodgy company.

To be frank I am begining to feel sorry for Nick Clegg, he thought he could have it all. Posh office, posh car, posh job and a creator of a anti-Labour semi-progressive movement!

All that he has ended up with is a split party and the absorbtion of the cleggites into the Tory party. For this to happen a credible person in the Lib Dems just have to say no to tuition fees and the VAT rises and BANG!

Nick Clegg brought into Scamron’s PR tactic. He thought that he could control a flimsy, lightweight PM. Now he has found out that Scamron has an agenda and it aint going to let a silly little thing like the LibDem party get in the way.

The posh boys want to create a New Britain where the hoi polloi know their place and are grateful for it!

@21

I wasn’t talking about the desirability of these ends, just the psychology needed to acheive them.

Living in a fantasy world doesn’t neccesarily make you ineffective.

“The dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.”

polittiscribe

> What a wicked and terrible man Mr Blair was.

Blair still is wicked and terrible. See his fawning defence of Catholicism and recent claim that “Radical Islam is the greatest threat to the world.”

In a sane world, Blair would be receiving the professional care that he so obviously needs.

As for Clegg, what a wrenching disappointment for those of us who believed him and put an ‘X’ against his party.

25. Schoolboy Cleve

@15

Repeating to yourself the phrase “Correlation isn’t cause” may help you with your problem.

In response to someone pointing out that Blair won 3 elections, Sunny wrote:

They voted for the party, not him.

I always understood New Labour as essentially Blair’s creation. They were more or less indivisible, were they not? I suggest it isn’t realistic to pretend voters would support New Labour if they objected to Blair. Do you go to the opera if you hate singing?

Further down thread, someone else says:

[Blair] also lost votes by the million with every election. Labour won three terms depsite Blair (by the end), not because of him

I like it. So if people people voted Labour, this was because of the party (that was in fact moulded in his image). But if they didn’t vote Labour, this was nothing to do with the party and everything to do with Blair.

I rather think this is what is known as having your cake and eating it.

Rabid Blair haters suffer a collective and self-perpetuating delusion. Such is the depth of their detestation that they simply cannot countenance the possibility that there are sentient beings out there who not only don’t share their visceral hatred of Labour most successful leader ever, but who actually think he was rather good.

The arrogance you ascribe to Blair is all yours. Really it is.

27. Why are you clapping?

@26

The irony is that Blair, by transforming himself from their leader into their scapegoat, continues to be Labour’s only useful politician.

Yes comrades all supported him while he did everything from introducing tuition fees to attacking Iraq.

But, you see, that isn’t a reflection on them. Oh no. It’s just a reflection on him. He made them do it, you see, so none of it was their fault.

They vere jost obeyink orders.

As Jack Stanton said, some people are in politics just for the prize.

Others seek high office for more noble reasons.

It was clear from day one why Clegg was joining forces with David “I’m a millionaire and we’re all in this together” Cameron.

The problem with the whole Lib Dem and Clegg bashing, is that I would argue that the Lib Dems were fated for electoral oblivion the moment Clegg was successful in the first debate. I cannot think of an outcome which didn’t end in oblivion. The Lib Dems are a liberal party which hold a number of positions which while coherent in and of themselves have clashed in a horrific way. Specifically their beliefs in coalition politics and free university education

The Lib Dems believe in PR, and specifically they believe as a result in coalition government, on the grounds that doing so moderates out party policies, and prevents parties from delivering their entire manifesto. – As a result, in a hung parliament where the Lib Dems held the balance if they had not entered a coalition they would have been decried in the media as irresponsible, and blamed for any economic consequences. Also, what is the point for voting for a party which turns down government – mass defection to Labour. Particularly if they turn it down because they’re afraid of having to deal with economic austerity – public admission of cowardice.
So they had the option to turn down a coalition – but it would have killed them at the next election.

They could have offered confidence and supply, however, the Browne review would have come out, the Tories would probably have implemented it in full, and the Lib Dems would have voted against it. The Lib Dems would have brought down the government on a point of principle, which would have been great in that it would have secured those who voted for them due to Tuition Fees and secured their reputation as a party of principle. However, it would have also tarred them with the irresponsible brush, and bear in mind that 65% of the electorate voted for ‘pro-tuition fees’ parties at the election. – I believe that the subsequent election would have been bad for the Lib Dems.

If they’d gone for the grand left wing coalition, despite the maths, they would have a) been vilified for propping up a Labour Gov’t b) Admitted that they couldn’t form a coalition with the tories on ideological grounds, so why not just vote Labour. – again electoral annihilation. In addition, the Labour government may have gone for tuition fees anyway, best case scenario would be graduate tax in this situation. But this is a moot point because Balls/Millibands refused to back a Lib Dem coalition.

So essentially what we have is a situation in which all possible outcomes lead to total annihilation. With the exception of betting big, going for AV and hoping it prevents total destruction (which is unlikely, being hated under AV will still screw the Lib Dems).

The Lib Dems are pursuing a political Kamikaze course. The polls are 10% and heading lower, but it was always going to be that way. The only consolation for the party is that it’s been that low before and survived. On the plus side AV will probably enable a campaigning Green party to win some seats against Labour.

28.

Are you suggesting that someone joined the Lib Dems with the expectation of attaining high office? – seriously?

If Clegg was a Tory he could have easily worked his way up the Tory Party ranks, in fact, before the election the most successful Lib Dem in parliament was Lord Adonis, who joined the Labour party to gain office.

I attended the Hugo Young lecture. The lecture he gave wasn’t seriously confused but it was brave to give such an unapologetic lecture to the usual suspects in the bowels of the Guardian building. Creating a logically constructed case that the old left are dinosaurs and are busy striding valiantly to oblivion is just not the thing to do at the Hugo Young lecture.
Yes he fudged the student fees issue but only the politically naive would have expected the ritualised dramatic mea culpa ( pulling his beating heart from his chest as penance) that the Guardian crones wanted to see. And while Browne’s prescription is definitely wrong Collini’s diagnosis is equally flawed and not the panacea Sagar proposes.
By creating a division between the old progressives (old left) and the new progressives (new centrists) Clegg restructured the political landscape in a way that the Guardianistas are going to take some time to get their heads around and whatsmore Clegg had the audacity to point that out! This new political landscape accords with Cleggs attack on the IFS whose views seem determinedly 20th century.
To cut a long story short its not Clegg who’s letting down his party but the party who are letting down Clegg. Clegg has adapted adroitly to the harsh realities of coalition, his party however are proving that they cannot handle the compromises of shared power and if they succeed in splitting themselves apart will simply prove that the Lib Dems cannot be considered a serious option in British politics for many years to come. While the old left who are still smarting from being jilted at the alter may welcome this, it would be a foolish Lib Dem who played into their hands.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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