Monday, October 25, 2010
Nick Clegg on Desert Island Discs, why I want to smack him round the head and the truth about him and smoking
I'm just listening to Nick Clegg's Desert Island Discs on the BBC iPlayer. The first thing that comes across is how important his wife Miriam is to him. It reminded me of when I first knew Nick 12 years ago. I didn't have to know him for very long to know how utterly besotted he was with her. She came across one weekend during the selection campaign and I got together some of the nicest people I know at an Indian restaurant in Chesterfield to make her feel welcome. It's not surprising that his first choice of music was Chopin's Waltz in A Minor which Miriam played a lot when she was pregnant with their first son Antonio.
His second choice was a Johnny Cash track, Sunday Morning Coming Down. Apparently Mum and Dad Clegg used to subject their children to Johnny Cash on long journeys through Europe. I have similar childhood memories, although, we never left Scotland but it was Billy Connolly cartridges that I was exposed to. "If it wisnae for your wellies" was engrained in my brain from a very early age.
Nick and Kirsty Young talked about all sorts of things, from Nick's fascinating family background, to drawing a line between what's public and private about his life, to how he copes with the pressures of Government, how he managed to strike a deal with David Cameron. I liked the fact that he'd sat up until 2am one morning trying to work out which songs he'd choose for the programme and how much he'd enjoyed the first chance he'd had in ages to listen to CDs and relax.
He talks about how difficult he found the whole tuition fees issue but says that he believes that what the Government comes up with will be more progressive and fairer than the current system. That, to be honest, would not be difficult. He states his belief that "there's a utility in learning but it has to be treasured and cherished and valued as an end in itself." However much I believe that the Government should reject the Browne Report and ensure that higher education is free again in England as it is in Scotland, thanks to the Liberal Democrats, I acknowledge the hand of Nick and Vince in making the final outcome a lot better than it would have been had the Tories, or Labour, for that matter, been governing alone.
He talked about his preparation for the leadership debates during the election and how his was all done on a shoestring, like all Liberal Democrat campaigning. I laughed out loud when he described his practice sessions with certain people playing the roles of Brown and Cameron.
He said that he hoped that over time, people would realise that the picture emerging from the Government would be a good, progressive one.
This was a conversation which meandered from the UN, to his time with his children, to the trauma of both his eldest son and his wife being seriously ill in the same year.
There was one thing he said about being a father that I simultaneously totally understood and wanted to smack him around the head for. He was talking about how being a dad means everything to him and how spending his time playing with his kids is so vital to him. I'm a great one for enjoying life and taking time to smell the roses and that sort of thing and I'll happily cuddle up on the sofa with Anna and be tested on how well I've remembered the names of her little plastic toys, or rating them out of ten, or talking about the latest books she's reading, or watching Doctor Who. All of these things are much more important than housework, but somebody has to make sure she has clean clothes of the right size to wear, and food to eat, and is in the right place at the right time. And it's usually the woman, whether they work full time or not who does the lion's share of this sort of thing. Mr Clegg seems to have quite a charmed life at home if his time with his kids exclusively consists of those good moments and none of the practical ones. At least he understands the debt he owes Miriam, which is more than many men, even in this day and age do, but still!
It certainly sounds from what he was saying later on about Miriam laughing at the thought of him being able to feed himself on the desert island, that he doesn't do much of the cooking in their house. We know that he can boil an egg because we saw it on the ITV interview before the election, so nobody would starve if he were left in charge, but it annoys me that anyone, man or woman, of my generation should have grown up unable to cook a decent meal.
And as for all this fuss about him taking a stash of cigarettes, with hysterical headlines about him "confessing" his smoking habit, reported in the press with the sort of horror they'd reserve for someone found torturing puppies, well, it's hardly a secret. Look at this from April this year:
There's good stuff in there about evidence based drugs policy too.
The thing about Nick is that he's pretty upfront and honest, and always has been - sometimes painfully so. It's good to see that being in Government hasn't changed him.