Tell me what you hate, not what you love.
This is now a recurring theme in speeches by the main party leaders. Ed Miliband's done it, Cameron has waxed lyrical on a number of times on how great Britain is, and now we have Nick praising the BBC, the NHS, and err, how we queue abroad even if the locals don't. He loves Britain for its contradictions, for how we're modest while at the same time proud. Just as all litanies from politicians on why their particular country is the greatest on Earth are patronising, cringe-inducing bollocks, so was Clegg's. According to Nick, Miriam loves to tell him how you don't get the feeling of freedom you get in Britain anywhere else. Now, it'd be great to think this is Miriam being far too subtle for her husband, making the case that we have a very different sense of what freedom is to both the French and the Americans, and that we could learn something from both, but I suspect it's meant to be taken as is, as he then goes on to say how he loves living in a country "synonymous with human rights and the rule of law," for which try and control your sniggers.
Like Cameron, Clegg doesn't seem to realise that while we're not a worldwide laughing stock, no one takes pretty much anything we say seriously any more. This isn't incidentally anything to do with weakness or perceived weakness of the Dan Hodges "we're not bombing a country at the moment hence clearly every tin pot dictator is getting ready to invade their neighbour" variety, more that just like most other nations, we're hypocrites and our politicians continue to pretend to be like the great elder statesmen of yesteryear when they are very much not. There are only two great world leaders currently, and they are predictably enough from Germany and America. Moreover, we ourselves recognise this, as the treatment given to Angela Merkel a couple of weeks back showed.
What's more, I really don't care what politicians love about the country. Unless they love the country exactly as it is, which none of them do, telling me how much the admire the BBC, enjoy our love of the monarchy or the irreverence of Private Eye doesn't tell me anything. What I really want to know is what they hate, and I mean really despite about the country and the world. Not the obvious easy things, whether it be benefit cheats, bankers, Bashar Assad, or ignorance, I mean the stuff that annoys or outrages them on a daily basis. It doesn't have to be strictly political; it can be television shows, music, culture or the media. If they don't like football, beer or pop music it would be genuinely interesting to know. So one-dimensional have our leaders become, both out of how they've been told to act by spin doctors and focus group gurus and how the media responds to them, that they feel obliged to pretend to like all of these things. If they also loathe the things that are spectacularly wrong right now, such as how a country as rich as ours needs hundreds of food banks to feed the poorest, how hundreds of thousands are being punished for not being able to get a job despite there not being enough vacancies, and how millions of those in work are paid a pittance and don't know from one week to the next how many hours they will get, then all the better. Let's go one step a time though.
More than anything, it would be great if we could move on from the Tony Blair-era of politics. Clegg's speech said absolutely nothing that we don't already know about him or his party. It did however contain the same empty platitudes, verbless sentences, and shaming mendacity we came to expect from one of his sermons. The reason Nigel Farage appeals to some is he is the anti-Blair, and that's why Clegg's debate with the leader of the UKIPs (™ Stewart Lee) will be so utterly pointless when both sides have made their minds up already. What we could really do with is a politician who talks straight and isn't a populist cretin. Barring Boris, we might be waiting a while.