The Emperor's New Clothes (23/09/12)

To be ridiculed is fatal to the career of a public figure, or so it is always assumed...

Share

What a great idea it must have seemed to Nick Clegg, as he lay on a sunlounger at his in-laws' villa in Spain this summer. I can almost see him batting away a protest from no-nonsense Miriam, glass of Rioja in hand, that he would look foolish. She was right, of course. The Lib Dem leader's video apology for his tuition fees pledge drew ridicule. Then, when it was put to music and his words Auto-tuned into "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm suh-uh-sorry", lambast was heaped upon ridicule.

Poor Nick. On the eve of a tricky autumn conference too, with his poll ratings zooming down faster than a seagull swooping on a plate of chips on Brighton beach. We know when a politician has committed an indelible gaffe: think of Neil Kinnock falling over backwards on that same beach, back in 1983. Remember David Miliband's banana? Of course you do. When, appearing on Today in the dying weeks of his leadership, Iain Duncan Smith started laughing instead of answering questions. No going back.

But maybe Clegg's quick-footed decision to agree to thepoke.co.uk's version being released to iTunes rescued him. He showed he can laugh at himself, and, what's more, the message has been hammered home by the song. Clegg should also take comfort from Waitrose's skirmish with satire last week: asking Twitter users to say why they shop there, using the hashtag #WaitroseReasons, was asking for trouble, as most responses poked fun at the store's posh customers. Yet Waitrose later tweeted a thank you for all the replies. It has won some publicity, just as sales are down. Every Cloudy Bay Sauvignon has a silver lining.

Clegg can also take heart from his fellow Cabinet minister, Jeremy Hunt. Before the Olympics, he was tipped for the sack after the scandal surrounding BSkyB. Then, hours before the Opening Ceremony, he accidentally hit a spectator with a bell that went flying off its handle. The clip became a YouTube hit, and the nation started to warm to him again. And let's not forget Boris Johnson swinging from a zip-wire: he has built his entire career on an inverted pyramid of piffle. As Adam Ant said, ridicule is nothing to be scared of.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Finance / Accounts Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established and expanding ...

Recruitment Genius: Bench Locksmith / Engineer / Technician

£14000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading Key Cutting equipm...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - B2B Sales & Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you great at forming strong...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ed Miliband contends with difficult questions from Jeremy Paxman  

Battle for Number 10: Miliband survives a rough ride but Cameron takes the edge in first TV battle

John Curtice
Prime Minister David Cameron is interview by Jeremy Paxman  

The TV non-debate: Miliband does better than expected, but not better than Cameron

John Rentoul
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss