Useful Notes: Nick Clegg
Current leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom as part of a coalition deal with the Conservative Party. He was propelled into the limelight of British politics leading up to the 2010 General Election thanks to a strong performance in the three prime ministerial debates, becoming something of an Ensemble Darkhorse thanks to his previous relative obscurity. Although the Liberal Democrats failed to break through as many predicted - they actually lost 6 seats in the election despite a 1% increase in their share of the popular vote overall - the resulting hung parliament made Nick Clegg something of a kingmaker. In a coalition with the Tories, the two parties made up a majority of seats - however neither Labour nor the Lib Dems secured enough seats for a Lib/Lab coalition that held a majority without involving the nationalist and Northern Irish parties. Understandably, he has lost a lot of credibility among British leftists following the formation of the Conservatives-Liberal coalition, especially considering one of his campaign's "marketing tools" was encouraging people to vote Liberal to keep the Tories out. This was mainly because, although British politics has moved on to the point whereby on some issues (notably civil liberties) Labour were more to the right than the Tories and so they are not necessarily closer in principle to the Lib Dems, a lot of Lib Dem seats have Tories as the principal opposition, especially in the The West Country, where Labour's support is practically non-existent. And with Gordon Brown deemed impossible to support as Prime Minister, the Labour party had no clear leader or strategy for negotiations, as the negotiating team later admitted. Clegg had also stressed beforehand that the Lib Dems would be obligated to 'talk first' with whichever party had won the most seats as they had the most right to form a government; many grassroots Lib Dems were angry this led to the talks being followed through with a deal. The general perception, fair or not, that the Lib Dems are acting largely as lapdogs for the Conservatives while in government has not particularly helped this impression, and the Conservatives appear to have successfully transferred the fallout for some of their less-popular policies onto Clegg and the Lib Dems since taking office; correspondingly, Clegg's popularity and that of his party has sunk to new lows since then. The popularity of Clegg following the first debate is often referred to by the media as 'Cleggmania'. Clegg is also MP for Sheffield Hallam, and is not to be confused with the other Mr. N. Clegg from Yorkshire (yes, jokes have been made).
Nick Clegg contains examples of
- Ascended Meme - Clegg used 'squillion' in one of the Prime Ministerial debates, which was a term for large number invented by Timmy Mallett in The Eighties, popular then but since forgotten.
- Bishōnen - No doubt being very pretty played a role in his huge surge in popularity after the televised debates. Most probable explanation for his popularity with Yaoi Fangirl Periphery Demographic, according to this article which analyzes the surge of Clameron Real Person Slash erupting from fans and the mainstream media alike. WARNING: Some of the links from the article lead to very NSFW material.
- Being fairly attractive, especially in terms of politicians, can lead to some hilarious moments too. Supposedly, during the Chancellor's hour-long speech outlining the Coalition's deficit reduction plan, Danny Alexander (Lib Dem and Chief Secretary to the Treasury), who was sitting next to the Chancellor, was handed a note from a spin doctor asking him to shuffle along so that, though still seated next to Osbourne, he was obscured and Clegg flanked the Chancellor in the shot instead. The truth of the exact reason for this is likely hard to confirm, but he was definitely handed a note part way through the speech, whereupon he did move across for his more Bish leader.
- Boarding School - Had Louis Theroux as his fag at school.
- But Not Too Foreign - One-fourth Russian on his father's side, half-Dutch on his mother's side, married a Spanish woman, children's names are Spanish, has a German adviser, and can speak fluently in five languages. Inevitably used as the basis for a xenophobic attack article by the Daily Mail following his sudden rise to prominence.
- The Casanova/Handsome Lech - Apparently was one in his younger days when he revealed that he's slept with 'no more than 30 women' in this somewhat embarrassing interview with Piers Morgan. Which resulted in a hilarious That Came Out Wrong moment where Clegg became the laughingstock of the House of Commons during Prime Minister's Question Time.
- Cunning Linguist - Unsurprisingly given his background, he speaks several languages fluently. After this made the news when he stunned a European summit by being a British representative who spoke something other than English, it has been incorporated into parodies.
- Dark Horse Victory - Even though they only ended up with the third largest number of seats, the Liberal Democrats gained quite a lot of power nevertheless as the kingmakers of the election.
- Demonization - Taking his party into coalition with the Tories, even though it was the only viable option and at least gets some Lib Dem policies adopted for the first time ever, has led to a vicious reaction from the left of his party, many of whom regard Tories as being barely short of devil's minions. Clegg and Vince Cable in particular have become the face of the currently unpopular government, particularly since the debacle over tuition fees.
- Demoted to Extra: Most jokes at his expense (especially on Panel Shows) portray him as somewhat useless and with an insignificant job. From Mock the Week:
Dara O'Briain: If this is the answer, what is the question?[On screen: Hair, golf balls and rubbish.]Andy Parsons: Is it "What is Nick Clegg in charge of in the new coalition"?
- Disorganized Outline Speech - Frequently tends towards this.
- Fan Nickname - His dark-horse status and success in the debates led to many branding him as the 'British Barack Obama'. Led to Russell Howard coining another one, 'Mr. Long-Legged Cleggy Weggy', based on a former Obama sketch. And 'Cleggover', from the infamous Piers Morgan interview.
- Fleeting Demographic Rule - Labour's criticism of Clegg for going back on a tuition fees promise leaned heavily on this, given that they had done that twice in two successive governments under Blair.
- Kicked Upstairs - Suspected to be behind his promotion to Deputy Prime Minister, as the position is largely ceremonial and completely optional; in fact most Prime Ministers did not even have one at all. However Clegg has been given numerous powers under the coalition agreement and is said to be the most powerful Deputy Prime Minister since Clement Attlee, who served as the coalition partner of Winston Churchill.
- It's important to note that he's not only Deputy PM but has a few other completely useless but easily-leverageble positions as well, like Lord President of the Council. Incidentally, Attlee held the same position under Churchill. And while the post title is without real power, it is more to signify his importance in the course of government as the junior member of the coalition; the result of the election did not really give them a shot a one of the great offices of state, but whatever Clegg's formal position, as the leader of his party his opinion needs to be sought regardless.
- Kingmaker Scenario - The 2010 election.
- Although against the trope, the only realistic options were a Tory / Lib Dem coalition, or a minority Tory Government; there weren't enough seats for a majority Lib / Lab coalition, and even a several-party "rainbow coalition" would have a majority so slim that any fractious backbencher could have effectively screwed the Government.
- Misblamed - It's hardly his fault that the political system makes it unlikely for the Lib Dems to get many seats. At the same time, it's hardly his fault that a coalition with the Tories was the most advantageous option for his party and the most stable government for the country (Labour-Lib-Green-Nationalist pact would be subject to claims of "stealing the election" and confidence and supply might have lead to market uncertainty - a real concern in the wake of the Greek/Euro crisis). Now that he's a major part of the government, it's entirely inappropriate to take a stand against it, even though it means abandoning highly publicised Lib Dem policies on things like tuition fees, the VAT rise, or Trident just as Tories cannot take too strong a stand against areas they have had to concede to the Lib Dems if they want to keep their jobs - it is worth noting that the right wing of the Conservative Party feels the party has given in far too much to Clegg and co, and vice versa.
- There's serious speculation that if the Tories want to put out bad news, they'll get one of the Lib Dem cabinet ministers in the necessary department (most notably Danny Alexander on general economic issues, Vince Cable on tuition fees) instead of a Tory. The end result is that Clegg takes the blame, Cameron takes the credit.
- Oh, Crap - Nick Clegg's decision to join a coalition with the Tories has alienated about half of his party's supporters according to most polls. The only way to stop the bleeding was through a proposed change in the voting system to the Alternative Vote, scheduled for a referendum on 5 May. Which was all fine, until the Prince William decided to have his his wedding (aka the biggest wedding of the century) and a special four day holiday weekend on 29 April, making the referendum campaign the political equivalent of a fart in a hurricane.
- Overly Narrow Superlative - The BBC's report on the Lib Dem 2010 conference claimed he's the third-best archer in the Lib Dems.
- The Quisling - Labour claimed to have received record interest in joining their party from disaffected Lib Dems since the election, but at the same time, local Lib Dem parties claim memberships have gone up. It's generally accepted that the Lib Dems collapsing in the polls is a result of the more left-wing elements of the party using this as an accusation.
- The Scapegoat - Clegg seems to think he is this, according to this interview which also discusses the impact on his children
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Humorously feigned this this reaction at the press conference where he and Cameron announced the coalition's formation, after learning that some time earlier Cameron, asked what his favourite joke was, had replied, "Nick Clegg." (Watch the clip.)
- Wimpification - Bizarre real-life example. Chances are if one of the Clameron duo is portrayed as the wife or more feminized partner, 9/10 times it's going to be Clegg. Most likely due to his androgynous appeal as the more Bishōnen of the two and his subordinate position, with a healthy dose of Rule of Funny topping it all off. See two particularly Brain Bleachy examples here and here.
Fictional Depictions of Nick Clegg:
- Ruthlessly mocked on the satirical programme Russell Howard's Good News. The fact that the show's second series coincided with the live debates helped.
- After Clegg's popularity soared as a result of the debates, Howard was good enough to eat humble pie on air.
- "They call me Nick Clegg! Nick Clegg! I got a third leg! Third leg!"
- Although after the Tuition Fees issue, Russell Howard portrayed his soul as peaceful woodlands before, and burning wastelands after.
- Private Eye portrayed various people as viewing Clegg as a Messiah-like figure after his success in the debates.
- After the formation of the coalition, Clegg is presented as the Deputy Head of the New Coalition Academy, the Eye's school-themed politics parody.