On a scale of 1-10, Clegg feels 9.5 "shitty" about tuition fees. Photo: YouTube screengrab
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"The unthinkable happened": comedian Adam Hills reviews Nick Clegg's performance on The Last Leg

The presenter of The Last Leg, an anarchic chat show that recently played host to the Lib Dem leader, reviews his appearance.

Last Friday night, the Deputy Prime Minister of Great Britain appeared on what is variously described as “a gang show” “a chat show” and “an anarchic late night comedy show”. I host that show, and I witnessed first-hand what few thought would happen.

Nick Clegg did well. Really well. I mean, really, really well.

Twitter – a medium recently described by the Australian Prime Minister as electronic graffiti – was overwhelmingly positive. Some tweeps said they would now vote for Nick Clegg, others said they now liked him, and a few said simply: “I would”.

What do I think led to this turnaround?

Simple. He didn’t talk bullshit. More to the point, he wasn’t allowed to talk bullshit.

On the advice of former spin-doctor Alistair Campbell, our own barely-trained Alex Brooker sexed up the interview by using a “bullshit buzzer”. Whenever The Deputy PM defaulted to political double speak, or avoided a question, Alex bashed a buzzer that said quite loudly “Bullshit.”

And it worked. After a bit of banter, during which the leader of the Lib Dems said, “I think these questions are - ” then hit the buzzer, Alex got down to the questions. And the DPM avoided them. At first.

Then Alex asked this:

“On a scale of one to ten, where one is 'couldn’t give a stuff' and ten is 'literally can’t sleep at night' how shitty do you feel about what you did to tuition fees?”

It drew a cheer and applause from the audience.

The DPM answered “I’m not the Prime Minister, so I can’t do everything I want”

The buzzer was pounded: “Bullshit.”

“I only have nine per cent of MPs in parliament”

“Bullshit.”

Alex repeated the question: “On a scale of one to ten, how shitty do you feel?”

Then the unthinkable happened. Nick Clegg said “Nine and a half”

The man that many consider a liar for claiming he would never vote for tuition fees, admitted he felt bad about those fees being introduced. Not just bad, a nine and half out of ten bad.

Watch Nick Clegg attempting to avoid "bullshit". Video: YouTube/The Last Leg

Then the even more unthinkable happened – the audience applauded. And in its own way, so did Twitter.

The guy who 30 seconds earlier was being jeered for going back on his promise was now being lauded for feeling bad about it.

If only he had thought to do that earlier. Like, years earlier.

A similar thing happened later in the interview when Alex gave the DPM thirty seconds to convince him to vote. Not to vote for the Lib Dems, just to vote. For anyone.

Clegg started by asking Alex what issues were important for him.

Nope, said Alex, I don’t want questions. You need to give me answers.

Again the DPM tried to find out what is important to Alex.

“Bullshit.”

The DPM ploughed on. “If you’re concerned about the NHS, if you’re concerned about the economy, if you’re concerned about . . . ”

“Bullshit.”

“Fine then,” Clegg blurted, “if you go to Nando’s and get someone else to go up to the counter and order for you, you can’t complain if they come back with a meal you don’t want.”

Now, I don’t know if Nick Clegg had planned to end with that analogy, if he had it up his sleeve in case of an emergency, or whether through exasperation the Deputy Prime Minister blurted out the first thing that came into his head. The point is, it worked.

It was the single best description of the value of voting I’ve ever heard. And according to the electronic wall of scribble known as Twitter, it was a very convincing one. And all because there was no bullshit.

In a world where the overwhelming feeling among voters, young and old, is that “they’re all as bad as each other” and more often “they all talk such rubbish” perhaps “not talking bullshit” could be a revolutionary tactic for politicians.

Because we want them to be real. We want them to talk to us. Actually to us.

Maybe more politicians should use the bullshit buzzer when they prepare for interviews. Because people aren’t stupid. We know there are economic trials, we know there are harsh realities of Government, and we know sometimes tough times call for tough measures.

We also know when someone is talking bullshit. And we appreciate it when they don’t.

Adam Hills presents The Last Leg on Channel 4

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"We repealed, then forgot": the long shadow of Section 28 homophobia

Why are deeply conservative views about the "promotion" of homosexuality still being reiterated to Scottish school pupils? 

Grim stories of LGBTI children being bullied in school are all too common. But one which emerged over the weekend garnered particular attention - because of the echoes of the infamous Section 28, nearly two decades after it was scrapped.

A 16-year-old pupil of a West Lothian school, who does not wish to be named, told Pink News that staff asked him to remove his small rainbow pride badge because, though they had "no problem" with his sexuality, it was not appropriate to "promote it" in school. It's a blast from the past - the rules against "promoting" homosexuality were repealed in 2000 in Scotland, but the long legacy of Section 28 seems hard to shake off. 

The local authority responsible said in a statement that non-school related badges are not permitted on uniforms, and says it is "committed to equal rights for LGBT people". 

The small badge depicted a rainbow-striped heart, which the pupil said he had brought back from the Edinburgh Pride march the previous weekend. He reportedly "no longer feels comfortable going to school", and said homophobia from staff members felt "much more scar[y] than when I encountered the same from other pupils". 

At a time when four Scottish party leaders are gay, and the new Westminster parliament included a record number of LGBTQ MPs, the political world is making progress in promoting equality. But education, it seems, has not kept up. According to research from LGBT rights campaigners Stonewall, 40 per cent of LGBT pupils across the UK reported being taught nothing about LGBT issues at school. Among trans students, 44 per cent said school staff didn’t know what "trans" even means.

The need for teacher training and curriculum reform is at the top of campaigners' agendas. "We're disappointed but not surprised by this example," says Jordan Daly, the co-founder of Time for Inclusive Education [TIE]. His grassroots campaign focuses on making politicians and wider society aware of the reality LGBTI school students in Scotland face. "We're in schools on a monthly basis, so we know this is by no means an isolated incident." 

Studies have repeatedly shown a startling level of self-harm and mental illness reported by LGBTI school students. Trans students are particularly at risk. In 2015, Daly and colleagues began a tour of schools. Shocking stories included one in which a teacher singled out a trans pupils for ridicule in front of the class. More commonly, though, staff told them the same story: we just don't know what we're allowed to say about gay relationships. 

This is the point, according to Daly - retraining, or rather the lack of it. For some of those teachers trained during the 1980s and 1990s, when Section 28 prevented local authorities from "promoting homosexuality", confusion still reigns about what they can and cannot teach - or even mention in front of their pupils. 

The infamous clause was specific in its homophobia: the "acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship" could not be mentioned in schools. But it's been 17 years since the clause was repealed in Scotland - indeed, it was one of the very first acts of the new Scottish Parliament (the rest of the UK followed suit three years later). Why are we still hearing this archaic language? 

"We repealed, we clapped and cheered, and then we just forgot," Daly says. After the bitter campaign in Scotland, in which an alliance of churches led by millionaire businessman Brian Souter poured money into "Keeping the Clause", the government was pleased with its victory, which seemed to establish Holyrood as a progressive political space early on in the life of the parliament. But without updating the curriculum or retraining teaching staff, Daly argues, it left a "massive vacuum" of uncertainty. 

The Stonewall research suggests a similar confusion is likely across the UK. Daly doesn't believe the situation in Scotland is notably worse than in England, and disputes the oft-cited allegation that the issue is somehow worse in Scotland's denominational schools. Homophobia may be "wrapped up in the language of religious belief" in certain schools, he says, but it's "just as much of a problem elsewhere. The TIE campaign doesn't have different strategies for different schools." 

After initial disappointments - their thousands-strong petition to change the curriculum was thrown out by parliament in 2016 - the campaign has won the support of leaders such as Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale, and recently, the backing of a majority of MSPs. The Scottish government has set up a working group, and promised a national strategy. 

But for Daly, who himself struggled at a young age with his sexuality and society's failure to accept it, the matter remains an urgent one.  At just 21, he can reel off countless painful stories of young LGBTI students - some of which end in tragedy. One of the saddest elements of the story from St Kentigern's is that the pupil claimed his school was the safest place he had to express his identity, because he was not out at home. Perhaps for a gay pupil in ten years time, that will be a guarantee. 

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