The New York Times lauds Nick Clegg’s “central role” in election race

by Stephen Tall on May 6, 2010

One of the most amazing – and welcome – aspects of this election campaign has been how Nick Clegg has completely stolen the show, as Jonathan Freedland noted in his Guardian article yesterday. But it’s not just at home that ‘Cleggmania’ has been in evidence: the foreign press in particular have been fascinated by his rise without trace.

Here, for example, is how a major feature in the New York Times begins:

LIVERPOOL, England — Chris Garlick arrived a skeptic, but departed a convert.

“I think he’s refreshing,” Mr. Garlick said of Nick Clegg, the earnest, fresh-faced leader of the newly insurgent Liberal Democratic party, who has thrown an enormous wrench into conventional British politics as the country prepares for its general election on Thursday.

“I think he’s backed up his policies with concrete particulars, and I like the way he presents himself,” said Mr. Garlick, who is 43 and usually votes Conservative. “He doesn’t do the aggressive, in-your-face arguing that a lot of politicians do.”

This is just the sort of voter that Mr. Clegg is looking for as he tries to make good on the early excitement of his campaign, in which he used an assured, revelatory performance in a televised leaders’ debate to turn a two-party race into a three-way contest.

And the paper has an interesting choice of analogy for the three major party leaders:

Mr. Clegg has the campaigner’s habit of answering questions with canned, well-rehearsed paragraphs. But if Mr. Brown by now seems like a piñata that remains attached to the ceiling even though chunks have been hacked off, and Mr. Cameron seems like a sleek, self-satisfied seal, then Mr. Clegg seems like a happy terrier, wagging his tail and full of excitement as he faces an uncertain future.

You can read the NYT’s article in full here.