If this was part of Clegg's 'masochism strategy' there wasn't much pain

Sketch

The decisive moment came early in the first of Nick Clegg’s weekly radio phone-ins on LBC, when ex-Lib Dem county councillor John from Surrey, who had torn up his party membership card, said he was “just wondering” if the Deputy Prime Minister had his own card on him. “Not on me right now,” the party leader replied. “Do you remember what it says on it?” asked John. “Yes,” said Clegg.

This was the fork in the road. It is only fair to say that if Clegg felt a second’s sheer, full-onset, bowel-churning panic, he showed no sign of it. Maybe he doesn’t carry his card because he knows every word of its contents by heart. But the point is that John didn’t ask him to recite them, despite the frivolous hopes of some of us listeners. 

And if even John, who had left the party after 30 years because was so “ashamed” of what he saw as its betrayal of the principles inscribed on the card and which he proceeded to read out on air (“values of liberty, equality and community ... no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity” and suchlike), was not going to test his memory, then it was a fair bet the leader was going to get a fairly easy ride.

Which, by and large, he did. True, the only supportive questioner, and the last - asking whether he had ever worn a “onesie” - was a Lib Dem from Clegg’s own political base of Sheffield. After admitting that he had been given a “big green” version of the inexplicably popular adult babygro equivalent but that it was still “in its packaging”, he later mysteriously amplified this at a press gallery lunch to say that he had “held it against my person”.

He was asked by presenter Nick Ferrari if he would be prepared to don it in public for charity. “It’s almost certainly something I would do in the privacy of my own home,” he replied guardedly. And then only at gunpoint, he did not need to add.

But while there were plenty of criticisms, especially on tuition fees, benefits and defence cuts - and he postively revelled in the Coalition’s split over Europe, saying somewhat optimistically that David Cameron would be making his much-trailed  EU speech as “Conservative leader” - there was no Belgrano moment. (As in when the geography teacher Diane Gould infuriated Margaret Thatcher on BBC Nationwide during the 1983 election by challenging her to admit that an Argentinian warship had been sunk while steaming away from the Falklands).

So if this was part of his “masochism strategy” to rebuild the party’s image after a string of bad Lib Dem by-election results (“at least we were in the top 10!” he later joked about coming eighth at Rotherham) there wasn’t much pain. Perhaps that will come in subsequent weeks. Meanwhile, Clegg should probably memorise the text on his party card - in the unlikely event he hasn’t already done so.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leader in the e-cigarette ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeping / Admin

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's leading stem cell comp...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Project Manager

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future