Thursday 10 January 2013, 18:36
The Hulk is of course a reference to the logo on the green onesie that is dominating headlines after the final question on today’s Call Clegg debut.
But, on the first of his new weekly LBC phone-in shows, he was actually rather chipper. Not only that, he was pretty good. Public question-and-answer sessions are, after all, what he does best, evidenced by the monster 72% approval ratings during the televised Q&As of the 2010 election campaign.
How things have changed. The recent eighth place Liberal Democrat drubbing in the Rotherham by-election would have been unthinkable back then. So maybe this risky, ‘back to basics’ approach is a desperate attempt to remind voters of why they liked Nick Clegg in the first place.
Even though presenter Nick Ferrari described the inaugural show as “making history”, it didn’t really feel like it. The deep-throated, X-Factor-style voiceover that breathlessly introduced the programme indicated high drama - but the first questioner used her opening monologue to praise and “commend” the Deputy Prime Minister “for coming on the radio and giving people the opportunity to ask questions”.
In fact, it felt a little bit like producers were easing him into it. On the whole, the six -undoubtedly thoroughly vetted - callers who made it through to the programme were easily charmed by Clegg. Even when John from Woking announced he’d torn up his Lib Dem membership card before saying he was “ashamed” of what the party was doing, Ferrari seemed to jump to Clegg’s defence by telling the caller that the Deputy Prime Minister’s points were “truthful”.
Thankfully, Clegg’s answers were detailed and mostly free of the clichéd sound-bites the British public are growing increasingly weary of. Yes, he was characteristically rushed, filling voids with 15 chummy “you knows…” and the irritatingly condescending commencement of sentences with “Look…”, so beloved of all our political leaders.
But look, you know, for a first outing, he did a good job. The problem is it just wasn’t very interesting, hence why the obviously pre-planned and frankly lame final ‘onesie’ question is the only thing listeners will really remember.
Billed by voiceover man half-way through as “London’s biggest conversation”, Clegg will continue to face criticism that the whole thing is capital-centric. Perhaps wary of this, a student journalist from Birmingham was one of the callers, with Ferrari saying, “it proves the fact we’re national”.
It remains to be seen whether producers will let the likes of rival party members on air to put the really tough questions to the Deputy Prime Minister, giving him a chance to make meaningful national headlines. And if Call Clegg continues to be as unexciting as today’s outing LBC’s raised profile may mean it's the only real winner.
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Wednesday 9 January 2013, 15:23
Tuesday 15 January 2013, 11:18