Monday 24 December 2007

"I. Am. Clegg."

I've had a hatful of lazy media speak this week. First it was Nick Robinson's analysis on Radio 4 of Nick Clegg's interview, sticking to the sad old two dimensional model. They're left, they're right, you must be in the middle. At least we're no longer being painted as being to the left of labour - basically because everybody is nowadays.

Then we have Rosie Millard's cheap sneers in the Sunday Times, and of course Simon Jenkins' habitual inability to connect to liberal democracy.

Politics is more complicated than that nowadays, but it will take an earthquake for the media ever to present it so. I think the best way to conceive of politics is to think in terms of a series of dimensions, but it's very diffcult to get that across in news media. You can get it across, but you need Newsnight or Andrew Marr. News as such doesn't do anything that can't be labelled in three words or less.

One phrase that got to me particularly about this weekend's coverage was the repeat in the Daily Telegraph of the horrible phrase "Cameron lite". That more than anything illustrated to me the vapidness of journalist speak. Look at Cameron. How is it possible for anything or anyone else to be Cameron lite? Cameron is Cameron lite. He is so insubstantial, he'd float away if it weren't for the dead lump of the Conservative party anchoring him to the seabed.

Unfortunately journalist speak has great power, so it's not possible just to wish it away. Cameron's biggest asset is that he knows this. He has the DT, for instance, saying that like Clegg, he has put the environment at the heart of his agenda. This is a man who habitually takes a private jet to go places. It's at the heart of what he's saying, but not of what he's doing.

So Nick Clegg needs to combat that attempt to paint him as light and frothy as Cameron. Maybe he needs to come out and say straight, "I am not Cameron lite. If I was Cameron anything I'd be Cameron weighty. But I'm not Cameron anything. I. Am. Clegg."

I'm pleased to say he's going about things the right way. The measured response to Dave's overtures - this from the Telegraph again " "At least Blair made these approaches with some skill and also with serious intent," said one official in Mr Clegg's office. "Cameron's offer was opportunism. They have not approached us privately in any serious way. It is inconceivable that we could go into a formalised arrangement with any other party without electoral reform." " The tone is excellent and the comparison to Tony Blair is deadly.

And I particularly like his response in the People, this via Stephen Tall on Libdemvoice.

"Rs 'What Christmas gifts would you buy Gordon Brown and David Cameron?'

Nc 'After Northern Rock, the PM needs basic lessons in finance, so I'd buy him Monopoly. Cameron needs a compass to help him work out what political direction he's going in.' "

Does the job nicely.

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