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Nick Clegg: "Politics Between the Extremes" and "Have I Got News For You"

October 3, 2016 4:48 PM

Nick Clegg at Conference

One of the striking images of the recent Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton was the long queue of people clutching stark white-and-grey hardbacks, waiting for a scheduled book-signing session by Nick Clegg. Publication of his book, Politics Between the Extremes, was originally delayed so that an analysis of Brexit could be included, but it was eventually published just before the conference started, and it flew off the shelves at the Waterstones bookshop in the exhibition area.

The book is a good read, with engaging insight into the former Liberal Democrat leader's time as Deputy Prime Minister, and plenty of interesting discussion of the referendum result and its aftermath. As Clegg writes in the introduction:

"This book is not a blow-by-blow account of what happened between Rose Garden and Cenotaph, between the formation by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties in 2010 of the first coalition government in Britain since the Second World War and the Liberal Democrats' spectacular loss of power in May 2015. Nor is it a kiss-and-tell revelation of my time as Deputy Prime Minister, designed to settle scores with my erstwhile coalition partners, tempting though that undoubtedly is. And it is most definitely not a self-congratulatory rewriting of history - I've made too many mistakes to make that possible.

"Instead, it is a candid reflection on my experiences, and an attempt to understand why politics has become so volatile and unpredictable in recent years. It is also an attempt to suggest how the politics of reason and reform - the politics of the centre ground - can compete with the politics of anger and grievance, which is on the rise across the developed world."

Clegg seems to have achieved that aim. His book shows a good balance of personal opinion, political comment and anecdote, and is written in an approachable and readable style that is very much in keeping with the relaxed ease with which Clegg can command a room. The words bounce off the page in a voice that sounds very much his own.

At a different packed-out conference fringe session in Brighton, Clegg had to hold the fort single-handedly while some of the other panel speakers were delayed at another event. He spoke fluently and fluidly about European issues, drawing on his wide knowledge and understanding in this area, and giving credit to others for ongoing research. When the other guests eventually arrived, he self-deprecatingly joked about how he had been doing service as "political muzak" in their absence, before gracefully giving them the floor. Politics Between the Extremes is far from being "political muzak". It is a compelling look at the politics of coalition and at our turbulent Brexit-tainted times, and is well worth reading.

There will be more from Nick Clegg on BBC1 on Friday 7 October at 9 p.m., when he will be a guest presenter in the first episode of the new series of Have I Got News For You.



Politics Between the Extremes, Nick Clegg (The Bodley Head, 2016) -- Kindle edition [accessed 3 Oct 2016]