The Sketch: He's the Eurocrat son of a banker, so how can he play the outsider?

Yesterday, at The Tories' morning press conference... there wasn't a Tory press conference yesterday. This is so clever they'll be talking about it in a decade. What were the Conservatives doing, withdrawing from the campaign at a moment of existential threat? "Ah," a wise strategist will say (probably Oliver Letwin, on the brink of retirement), "It's too early to tell."

Perhaps they thought a press conference every day would look anxious. Too eager for attention. Better just to lie low and let Clegg blow over. Let the Big Society sink in, settle into people's minds. People don't like to be nagged and chivvied.

The danger is that their party is entering the ranks of the Great Ignored because out there, the country is "Cleggulating". This wild man is going to clean up politics and rebuild the economy on an entirely new model – and this time it's sustainable! It's a new day, is it not? The first of seven, there is great work ahead.

Quite a trick, that, for a public school Eurocrat from a banking family to present himself as a hairy outsider.

Maybe it was cheating, but the Liberals did have a press conference. And they'd worked up some good lines. British banks are four times bigger than the British economy – I hadn't heard that before. Change? Conservative? The clue is in the name. Labour and Conservative? A contest of mutual loathing.

This is the reward for being ignored by the media for so long. Even the old lines – if they are old lines – sound fresh.

Vince had a sparkling analogy about banks failing to supply credit. Imagine the privatised water companies had over-extended themselves, crashed and been bailed out with public money. And then, to rebuild their balance sheets... they stopped supplying water.

Clegg was still getting a relatively easy ride from the press conference. Andrew Neil – now looking like a Batman villain – asked him whether it was true he'd really spent all his time and energy "cleaning up politics" as claimed. Then he read out a list of expenses. They just stopped short of flying in a pet sturgeon by private jet to provide caviar for his children. But it turned out that Clegg had been very, very clear about this. He's going to give any profit back to the taxpayer. That really was new. He offered to let Neil into his house. Sensation! But by the end off his answer he'd taken another look and imagined what his wife would say. The invitation was withdrawn.

So. Is the "Cleggulatory" regime going to last? He has a good foreign affairs debate coming up because his lot was alone in opposing the Iraq war. And he alone wants to get out of Afghanistan. The country has been telling pollsters: "I agree with Nick."

He's also treating the poll surge pretty well, neither talking it up or down.

I wonder what the Tories have to say about that? Do we have to pay them to get the answer?

Comments