Sir Nick Clegg just got destroyed live on the BBC for “sowing the seeds” of a Brexit vote that he’s now desperate to overturn.
It was so painful you almost felt sorry for him. Almost.
For a while after his highly questionable run as deputy prime minister, Clegg was essentially in self-imposed political exile. He briefly returned to frontline politics in 2016 but went quiet again after losing his seat in the 2017 general election.
However, his desire to turn the clock back on Brexit has seen his second (or is it third?) coming. But it’s proven hard to wipe his coalition-tainted slate clean. And his appearance on BBC Two’s Politics Live on Tuesday 18 September was no exception.
An unremarkable legacy
Presenter Jo Coburn asked Clegg if the many unpopular policies he helped to push through while in government justified the Lib Dems’ nose dive in the 2015 general election. Oddly enough, an unrepentant Clegg thought not.
But it was after Clegg’s defence of the coalition’s crippling austerity measures that co-panellist and Huck Magazine editor Michael Segalov decided it was time to put the brakes on the Lib Dem’s positive self-appraisal:
You can’t get away with that, especially to distance yourself from Brexit.
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— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) September 18, 2018
Taken to task
Segalov charged Clegg with speaking like a “statesman, detached from politics,” when in fact he had played an important role in inflaming “the three fundamental reasons” that led to the Brexit vote:
The first one is around immigration, which admittedly the Conservative Party were more forceful on, but your party signed up to the hostile environment policy, propped it up by being in government.
Clegg’s sheepish look didn’t stop Segalov’s slating:
The second key one is around welfare. A report from Warwick University which came out this summer, which said quite clearly welfare cuts and increased sanctions on benefits are a key factor in people voting for Brexit, again something your party delivered.
By this point, Clegg was looking down at his shoes. But Segalov wasn’t done:
And thirdly, and most importantly, disillusionment with politicians. I was one of those people who was excited about the potential of voting Lib Dem in 2010… because of the pledge of tuition fees. And what we saw as a generation, and a society more broadly, left jilted by a party that broke its promises.
And now you come on here and say Brexit’s this problem that I have no part in, when clearly you sowed the seeds of Brexit happening and are now coming on saying you didn’t.
An abashed Clegg tried to defend himself. He told Segalov that when holding politicians to account for their hypocrisy:
we have to have a slightly more grown up approach than say oh no, because you did that one thing that we don’t like, therefore you have to be condemned in a… Old Testament way.
Ageism and the Bible aside, the journalist clearly struck a nerve. And no one could say he was “unjustified”.
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