I’ve long believed that Boris is a particularly powerful blond jellyfish, swimming along under the radar, looking quite harmless, before delivering a series of painful stings to an unsuspecting victim. Normally the poor recipient of these verbal stings is David Cameron, whose face now forms a classic mask of horror whenever the Mayor approaches, knowing that not only will he be upstaged as Prime Minister by the Mayor, but also stung in the process by a sugary yet deeply patronising reference to ‘Dave’.
But today it’s Nick Clegg, treading water at the Liberal Democrat conference, who gets stung. Boris’ column this morning in the Telegraph is full of praise and flattery, while managing to undermine the Deputy Prime Minister rather spectacularly. He gives 20 reasons why Tories should save ‘the Cleggster’. They range from the truly praiseworthy – ‘If it hadn’t been for the good sense of the Deputy PM, we would still have Gordon Brown in Downing Street, biting his nails, chucking staplers around’ – to the downright awkward: ‘In fact, I have always thought that if you leave out Europe, he is probably a natural Tory.’ Ouch! Poor Clegg: as he tries this week to differentiate himself from the Conservatives, he finds that party’s most popular figure describing him as one of theirs.
Another one of his stings undermines how effective the Lib Dem leader actually is in government, saying:
‘Every time he half-heartedly proposes some new wealth tax, he reminds us that he doesn’t have a hope of delivering it, and he underscores the point that the Tories remain better on tax than the rest.’
This is a particularly nasty sting, given the slogan for this conference is ‘fairer tax in tough times’. Clegg is also compared to a ‘human shield’ for the Conservatives, a ‘lightning conductor’ for public anger about cuts and, rather elaborately, to the emperor Valerian who was ‘turned first into a living footstool, and then flayed and used as a rather striking wall hanging’.
So Nick Clegg is a natural Tory who provides a human shield for his Coalition partners while serving as a footstool, and who fails to win in key policy areas for the Lib Dems. This jellyfish’s kindness knows no bounds.Tags: Boris Johnson, Nick Clegg, UK politics