It’s becoming standard practice to affix the label “The most hated politician in Britain” to Nick Clegg. That doesn’t necessarily make it true, but certainly, as the polls are showing, he has a significant body of people in Britain who actively regard him not just as someone they disagree with, but a figure of loathing. Brian Cowen, his fellow European Liberal counterpart, is in a similar position in Ireland.
What must that be like? After all, neither man is evil. Neither man arrives into his office every morning and begins plotting to inflict needless suffering upon a section of society. Both men must feel a heavy heart when they review their options for cutting public services, as they study the impact those decisions will have on people at the bottom of society.
Both men face electoral oblivion. Yet both men could end the hate. They could have resigned, left public life, disappeared from the public view for a few years and emerged no longer hated, just forgotten. Brian Cowen could have walked off the pitch a year ago. But they didn’t? Why not? The money? At that level of politics, I just don’t believe that honest politicians remain just for the money. The power? There’s that, and that is probably the answer. The ability to do things, even if it means managing painful decisions in the belief that you have the ability to make them less painful. Does that warrant hate? In Brian Cowen’s case, he was there from the beginning, and many of his decisions as a minister have led us partially to where we are today. In Clegg’s case, he’s guilty (Like John Gormley) of being a proponent of Proportional Representation who never thought through what making wide-ranging promises in opposition actually meant under a PR-style system of coalition. But does that deserve hate? Or is the manufacture of hate just yet another product of the over-emotional psycholgically manipulated bawl-your-eyes-out-on-national-TV society that we now live in?