First, an admission, or a repeat of an old admission. I was too unkind about Sir Nick Clegg back in the glory days of the coalition government, when he was patriotically putting his Lib Dems into the political meat mincer to ensure a stable government. As he did so, all I could do was talk about how he must have known that he could not deliver on his promise to students on student fees. Unfair.
I was wrong. Cleggie took one for the nation. Give that man a knighthood. Oh, they already have.
On that note, I observed recently to a leading politician that after the Brexit farce is over the lead civil servant, Mr Oliver Robbins, will deserve a medal.
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” came back the response. “This is Whitehall. Afterwards, there will be plenty of medals… for the civil servants”
David Miliband is another person I was excessively harsh about back in the day. The terrible speech he gave – “it’s a scary world out there” – as Foreign Secretary at Labour conference in 2007 was simplistic and a bit rubbish, but it was not, as I claimed at the time in The Daily Telegraph, the single worst speech ever heard from a major figure at a party conference. Since then, I have heard several even worse speeches. My criticism was over the top. Miliband Major was trying to find his voice, to connect with a mass audience, and we hacks were flippant. And then he didn’t take out Gordon, and there was the banana thing, and then he got beaten by his brother Ed, and… oh well.
I say all this because after today’s performance on Brexit by Miliband and Clegg, I’m shifting back towards the view that my original criticism was – while excessively exuberant at points – justified. At least Nicky Morgan, the Tory Remainer who joined them today, is still an MP and open to the idea that Brexit is happening.
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Seeing the Miliclegg intervention on Brexit I am astounded – though shouldn’t be – by the absolute cheek of it. The sheer brass neck. The audacity. The hubris. The insufferable arrogance.
These are pampered princes of the political class, who lorded it in the decade and a half pre-Brexit.
At the time when immigration numbers went through the roof, and voter anxiety began to build about control, they were in the vanguard of the patronising progressive movement that dominated the age. No-one ever consulted the voters about the huge increase in immigration, or the transfers of powers to the EU. All they got when they mentioned their concerns – Brown’s “bigoted woman” – was disdain.
So, amusingly, the voters got together and, on the first time they could in June 2016, they booted the patronising political class up the backside. That’s what really cuts through. Forget boring Max Fac, or Customs Partnership chicanery, or Boris bus bamboozling, weeping Remainers crying into their ridiculous EU flags (only adopted by the EEC in 1985), and people so liberal that they call their fellow citizens stupid and wish for their death so they can get the UK back in.
Forget all that. What will outlast all of the political class pant-wetting of the moment is the beautiful reality that 17.4m people said to the Miliband and Clegg class: Brexit, time’s up, hop it.