Review – Politics: Between the Extremes

Posted 2 January, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Politics: Between the Extremes by Nick CleggPolitics: Between the Extremes, Nick Clegg

Once upon a time, I was a Lib Dem voter — in fact, I was one of the values-driven, idealistic voters who chose a party based on my values instead of on political realities, like how likely they were to be able to beat Labour in my area. (Answer: they weren’t, it would’ve been impossible, and indeed the place where I grew up is still a pretty safe Labour seat.) I suppose to some extent I still am: I’m unlikely to vote for certain parties based on their stated values, even if they somehow came up with a policy I agreed with strongly (like electoral reform, perhaps). So I wanted to see what Nick Clegg had to say for himself and for his party’s time in government.

It’s pretty defensive of the Liberal Democrat position, unsurprisingly; at times slipping into self-pity, I think. Clegg vividly defends the Lib Dem policy of compromise with the Tories, and claims that he was sidelined by the Tories in order for them to present a picture of a Tory-led government. Behind the scenes, says Clegg, the Lib Dems exerted a disproportionate amount of influence. This may well be true, and it makes sense that they did compromise; idealist or not, I know that politics must involve some compromise, especially in a coalition between the left and the right. I just don’t agree with some of the compromises made.

Clegg seems naively surprised by the extent to which the heart rules the head in the public’s political decisions. He expects a liberalism based on cool reason and logic — despite the fact that his own rise was a highly emotive thing, driven by the hopes of young voters. He’s right that he should have taken more control of the political narrative and shaped it, but I don’t know to what extent that would have helped the Lib Dems in the specific situation in which they found themselves.

His personal-level musings aren’t the key feature of this book, but he does show a healthy respect for David Cameron, and a disgust for Michael Gove that warms the heart. Ultimately, of course he tries to justify what the Lib Dems achieved, or didn’t, during the coalition. But he also makes a fairly convincing case that we need more compromise, more coalitions; we need to temper the current tide of conservatism with a revitalised liberalism. I’m sure from his comments on the Labour party that he doesn’t expect to see Corbyn doing it… in fact, it’s not very clear where he does hope for it to rise from.

I suppose the only answer left is: you and me. Writing this review in advance, just days after Trump became the President-elect of the United States, I don’t know what to say. I wonder what the world will look like politically by the time this goes live!

Rating: 3/5

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4 Responses to “Review – Politics: Between the Extremes”

  1. Interesting musings, Nikki. As a political extremist myself, I’m wholly cynical about the possibility of the state’s being benign or working impartially – and I so envy those of a Liberals inclination, who are confident of the potential of parliamentary reform. Looked at objectively, the liberals did during their power sharing at least protect the NHS, etc; I remember well in the Thatcher days of the 1990’s people hooked up to equipment lying for days on trolleys in hospital corridors; I saw it first hand. I thought the wealth tax was a great idea of the Liberals; also, the challange to the insane idea that rising house prices is a good thing for the majority of the population. Sadly, we have heard little of that of late (goes off ranting).
    Lucinda Elliot recently posted…WordPress.com in 2016: A Year in ReviewMy Profile

    • I wouldn’t say that I think it’d solve all problems, but it’d solve some of them while working within the system we have. Wouldn’t frighten the horses too much. I haven’t yet met a system I’d trust totally!

  2. I voted Liberal for the first and only time in 2010 when they became part of the coalition…I was so disillusioned with what Labour were doing under Brown that I had to change my vote and I was impressed by his debate performances. Remember ‘I agree with Nick’?!! I had different views on Europe and electoral reform but was willing to put it aside and I had high hopes for the coalition-until The Liberals did that u turn over tuition fees, alienating a huge chunk of their core voters, and then sided with the Tories on the bedroom tax. Clegg for me did have more power than even he thought…so why not say ‘dump the bedroom tax which you can’t get through without our support and we’ll support you on…’ Instead he stood back and let the Tories inflict the Bedroom Tax on the poor and I know people suffering because of it. I’d never vote Liberal again for that. TBH when you look at our voting options, it’s a bit depressing sometimes. Try living in Scotland where our local SNP MP called those who voted no in the Indyref gullible and selfish!

    Nice review! I do enjoy a nice political biography. I’ve read Tony Blair, George Bush, and almost all the US Cabinet involved in the war on terror stuff and now I have books on The Clintons and a pile of Brexit ones to read. Fun year ahead!
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    • Yes, same — particularly on the bedroom tax. I’d never vote Liberal under Clegg again, I think — but I might under a different leader. The leader does seem to matter.

      This is one of the first I’ve read, but I enjoyed it more than I expected!

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