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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Parker says: 'I once had a taster use the phrase 'smells like the sex glands of a lemming'. Who in the world can relate to that?'
food + drinkRobert Parker's 100-point scale is a benchmark of achievement for wine-makers everywhere
News
i100
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing