Nick Clegg: it's the Daily Mail that really hates Britain

"It seems to me that if anyone excels in denigrating and often vilifying a lot about modern Britain, it's the Daily Mail," says Clegg on his LBC show.

One of the ironies of the Daily Mail's smearing of Ralph Miliband - "the man who hated Britain" - is how vulnerable the paper, with its loathing of multiculturalism, the BBC, the welfare state and immigration, is to the same charge. On his LBC phone-in this morning, Nick Clegg became the first politician to make this point, and did so brilliantly. 

He said

My honest reaction was that when I heard the Daily Mail accusing someone of saying that they did not like Britain, I'm not a regular reader of this newspaper but every time I do open it, it just seems to be overflowing with bile about modern Britain. They don't like working mothers, they don't like the BBC, they don't like members of the royal family, they don't like teachers, they don't like the English football team. The list goes on. So talk about kettles and pots ... It seems to me that if anyone excels in denigrating and often vilifying a lot about modern Britain, it's the Daily Mail.

The Lib Dem leader and the Mail have, of course, never seen eye-to-eye. At the height of Cleggmania, the paper ran a memorable hit-piece accusing him of a "Nazi slur on Britain". 

The smear was based on a 2002 Guardian piece written by Clegg in which he wrote: "All nations have a cross to bear, and none more so than Germany with its memories of Nazism. But the British cross is more insidious still.

"A misplaced sense of superiority, sustained by delusions of grandeur and a tenacious obsession with the last war, is much harder to shake off. We need to be put back in our place."

In the case of Ralph Miliband, the paper similarly misrepresented his words, in this instance an adolescent diary entry, to claim that he hated Britain (the similarity between his and Clegg's observations is striking). As a 17-year-old Jewish refugee, Miliband wrote: "The Englishman is a rabid nationalist. They are perhaps the most nationalist people in the world…You sometimes want them almost to lose [the war] to show them how things are. They have the greatest contempt for the continent. To lose their empire would be the worst possible humiliation."

The earlier Clegg affair is a reminder that the paper has form in this area and that its past support for fascism has never restrained it from lecturing others. 

Nick Clegg speaks at the UN General Assembly on September 27, 2013 in New York. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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What happened when a couple accidentally recorded two hours of their life

The cassette tape threw Dan and Fiona into a terrible panic.

If the Transformers series of movies (Transformers; Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen; Transformers: Dark of the Moon; Transformers: Age of Extinction; and Transformers: the Last Knight) teach us anything, it is that you think your life is going along just fine but in a moment, with a single mistake or incident, it can be derailed and you never know from what direction the threat will come. Shia LaBeouf, for example, thinks everything is completely OK in his world – then he discovers his car is a shape-shifting alien.

I once knew a couple called Dan and Fiona who, on an evening in the early 1980s, accidentally recorded two hours of their life. Fiona was an English teacher (in fact we’d met at teacher-training college) and she wished to make a recording of a play that was being broadcast on Radio 4 about an anorexic teenager living on a council estate in Belfast. A lot of the dramas at that time were about anorexic teenagers living on council estates in Belfast, or something very similar – sometimes they had cancer.

Fiona planned to get her class to listen to the play and then they would have a discussion about its themes. In that pre-internet age when there was no iPlayer, the only practical way to hear something after the time it had been transmitted was to record the programme onto a cassette tape.

So Fiona got out their boom box (a portable Sony stereo player), loaded in a C120 tape, switched on the radio part of the machine, tuned it to Radio 4, pushed the record button when the play began, and fastidiously turned the tape over after 60 minutes.

But instead of pushing the button that would have taped the play, she had actually pushed the button that activated the built-in microphone, and the machine captured, not the radio drama, but the sound of 120 minutes of her and Dan’s home life, which consisted solely of: “Want a cup of tea?” “No thanks.” And a muffled fart while she was out of the room. That was all. That was it.

The two of them had, until that moment, thought their life together was perfectly happy, but the tape proved them conclusively wrong. No couple who spent their evenings in such torpidity could possibly be happy. Theirs was clearly a life of grinding tedium.

The evidence of the cassette tape threw Dan and Fiona into a terrible panic: the idea of spending any more of their evenings in such bored silence was intolerable. They feared they might have to split up. Except they didn’t want to.

But what could they do to make their lives more exciting? Should they begin conducting sordid affairs in sleazy nightclubs? Maybe they could take up arcane hobbies such as musketry, baking terrible cakes and entering them in competitions, or building models of Victorian prisons out of balsa wood? Might they become active in some kind of extremist politics?

All that sounded like a tremendous amount of effort. In the end they got themselves a cat and talked about that instead. 

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder