Monday, 20 April 2015

On Nick Clegg and Evan Davis

No, I couldn't think of a 'funny' title for this, and I was running out of time…

Nick Clegg must have become fairly accustomed to being given a hard time in the media over the past five years (not always deservedly), but even so I was surprised to hear that Newsnight's Evan Davis had interviewed Clegg recently and brought up the Liberal Democrat leader's European heritage (his mother is Dutch) and multilingualism as evidence that he might be 'out-of-touch' with the 'British working class'.  Of course, 'out-of-touch' is a spectacularly vapid and meaningless accusation to level at any politician – but these comments by a presenter on one of the BBC's flagship political programmes strike me as particularly stupid.

What, exactly, does Mr Davis feel is bad about Clegg being able to speak more than one language?  The idea that if a politician has at least some level of intelligence and decent communication skills, that should somehow count against them is one I find completely baffling.  In matters of trade, of diplomacy, or of foreign policy, multilingual Clegg – who speaks five languages fluently – is surely an asset to the British government when it comes to communicating with foreign diplomats and politicians, and forging relationships with other nations?

And think about those photographs you see in the press sometimes – more frequently than ever, now, as we approach a general election – of politicians desperately trying to look at ease as they meet people in a mosque or a gurdwara, but clearly not feeling comfortable…  It might be fun to make amusing posts about it on Tumblr, but integration is a real issue which politicians often don't do enough to address.  Maybe the sons and daughters of immigrants in government – who have an innate understanding of other cultures – would be able to reach out to other communities (both in Britain and abroad) with more success, and help to improve relationships between them?

To dismiss Nick Clegg as 'out-of-touch' or 'élitist' is foolish – to do so because he possesses skills which are actively useful and beneficial in the day-to-day work of government is just staggering.

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