Déjà vu: it’s #nickcleggsfault all over again, as right-wing press froths at Lib Dem leader

by Stephen Tall on December 12, 2011

There are, I know, a few Lib Dems who question whether Nick Clegg has done enough to prove the party’s pro-European credentials in the last few days. (And to be clear: to be a liberal pro-European means also being in favour of significant reform of the EU to make it more open, transparent and democratic.)

But if there’s one thing that should reassure such Lib Dems, it’s this: the rabid response of the most extreme right-wing press (ie, all of it) to Nick Clegg’s interview yesterday in which he declared himself “bitterly disappointed” with the outcome of last week’s European summit.

I think the last time I can recall such foaming fury was in April 2010, when following the leaders’ TV debates the Lib Dems (briefly) took pole poll position. That upsurge provoked the Torygraph to demean its serious news journalism by splashing on an innuendo-laden smear of Nick Clegg’s finances. While the Daily Mail took a short-cut to Godwin’s Law with the furious, spurious headline ‘Nick Clegg’s Nazi slur on Britain’.

The upside of this full-throttle onslaught was the Twitter hastag #nickcleggsfault which poked fun at this hyped-up hyperbole.

Today’s Telegraph and Mail is the #nickcleggsfault re-up, with both papers gleefully choosing to distort Nick’s suggestion that the UK would be much weaker if it left the European Union. The Mail’s leads with ‘Tory fury at Clegg’s ‘pygmy’ insult to Britain’, while the Telegraph is even less third-person: ‘Clegg’s jibe at “pygmy” Britain’.

What remark by Nick was it that prompted such derision? This one:

Well I will fight that tooth and nail because I think a Britain which leaves the EU will be considered to be irrelevant by Washington and will be considered a pygmy in the world when I want us to stand tall and lead in the world.

In Mail-speak, that’s an insult. To the Torygraph, it’s a jibe. To me, that’s reality.

As I’ve already stated here, I’m relieved Nick Clegg is in government right now — the UK needs a grown-up at the top table negotiating in the UK’s fundamental interests, not playing to the gallery. And if I doubted that was the case, a glance at today’s fulminating front pages confirms me in the verdict.