The Sketch: He's a nice chap. Pity you can't agree with anything he says

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The Independent Online

You have to accept he's a perfectly nice man, he has a full set of feelings, decent instincts, well-off, well-educated, well-mannered. So why do we want to argue with everything Nick Clegg says?

If he announced it was important to put milk into babies I'd think, "Whose babies? Do I have to pay for it? Why can't their parents get their own milk? Why can't the babies feed themselves? Are they stupid? Why do I have to feed babies who are so useless they ..." [and so on, 'til madness descends].

He invited the audience to feel his pain. He praised them for their courage and integrity. Yes, he was definitely less irritated with them – though when they clapped too long at his line, "We are not in anyone's pocket," he shut them up with: "I get it. You agree."

He asked if he could tell them about his passion – something about tearing down every barrier to children succeeding.

And even there I was thinking, "Big job, that. Sounds mad." And when he said, "Every child can do great things!" I said, "No, they can't." They really can't, you know, even if you're a great optimist.

And 87 per cent of Britain has the same reaction. Why?

The Libs are "on your side", they've taken millions out of tax, fought tooth and nail for human rights, believe devoutly in fairness, the NHS and internationalism – and are polling only a little more than the BNP.

Is it the tough decisions they keep on taking? Is it because they called the economy back from the brink? Is it because they're building a new economy and it's going to be "an economy for everyone". Why have they got 13 per cent support?

With all the immense strength, character, determination, optimism, and real leadership that Nick Clegg talked about so loudly – he turned himself up to 11 – you'd think the country would take better note. But they reached for the earplugs instead.

But here's a Sketch prediction. If they change leaders and swing left just before the election – as if to say that the previous four years were all a strategic mistake – they will be annihilated and their autumn conference of 2015 will be held in a phone box on the Isle of Skye.