Sunday 24 October 2010

Castaway Clegg's revealing choices

The idea of leaving Nick Clegg on a desert island will doubtless polarise political and public opinion. Warning: this post contains spoilers for those hoping to listen to Radio 4's Desert Island Discs at 11.15am this morning - since the BBC has rather unsportingly provided a media preview.

Most media coverage highlights the deputy PM's wish to stash away some cigarattes, but his choices might also tell us more than he realises about the deputy PM's political project.

Clegg's book choice The Leopard is a fine choice. One hopes that Clegg intends this to show that he understands the underlying motivations of David Cameron's progressive Conservative project, since the novel is a subtle study of the importance to conservatism of having to adapt to progress if it is to secure its foundational goal: that things should change as little as possible.

"If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change", as Tancredi, the Prince's ambitious young nephew, says in the novel's most famous line.

The Prince, who is instinctively extremely worried about his nephew's embrace of and involvement in Garibaldi's Italian nationalist movement as a threat to aristocratic status, comes to understand that he is in fact far more minded to preserve the privilege and power of the traditional elite than he had realised, and has indeed developed a more effective strategy to do so.

Clegg may have had to u-turn on tuition fees, but perhaps choosing Shakira's Waka Waka keeps him down with the kids. The official World Cup 2010 soundtrack was first released the day after the General Election, and was in the charts through the World Cup after Shakira performed it (along with 'She Wolf' and 'Hips Don't Lie') at the opening ceremony. So it would seem to have provided Clegg's personal soundtrack - his Coalition Anthem, so to speak- for that heady first month of Coalition power last summer.

The lyric is pretty profound stuff too.

The pressure is on
You feel it
But you've got it all
Believe it

An even more personal choice is Prince's The Cross.

Its not quite John Lennon's The Ballad of John and Yoko - "The Way Things are Going/They're Gonna Crucify Me" - but there is clearly a theme there. However, the Prince lyric is more optimistic.

So a closer reading suggests a (slightly messianic) message to worried Liberal Democrats that their leader can turn around their opinion poll ratings.

Black day, stormy night
No love, no hope in sight
Don't cry, he is coming
Don't die without knowing the cross

Ghettos 2 the left of us
Flowers 2 the right
There'll be bread 4 all of us
If we can just bear the cross

The reason he didn't choose Purple Rain instead is that Clegg's credentials as a Prince fan are truly impressive, as he told the Telegraph's Mick Brown in a campaign interview.

“I wasn’t what you’d call a groupie, but I did actually spend a whole year – 1990 I think – in Minneapolis, following him around while on a fellowship at the University of Minnesota. He comes from there. He used to try out new songs in bars and clubs, and I would go wherever I’d heard he he was going to be.

“Once I spent all night drinking in a bar waiting for him before eventually giving up and going home. And of course then I heard he’d turned up at 1 or 2 am and played the best gig anyone had seen.

“I think he’s gone slightly off the boil now. But at his height – and when I was that age – he was very clever, very funky and different. I don’t listen to him much any more. It was my Prince phase.”

Interesting stuff from the political artist formerly known as on the centre-left!

1 comment:

cje said...

the lyrics to Radiohead's Street Spirit also make interesting reading in this context.
especially perhaps the 2nd line...and the line 'Before we all go under'...

Rows of houses, all bearing down on me
I can feel their blue hands touching me
All these things into position
All these things we'll one day swallow whole
And fade out again and fade out

This machine will, will not communicate
These thoughts and the strain I am under
Be a world child, form a circle
Before we all go under
And fade out again and fade out again

Cracked eggs, dead birds
Scream as they fight for life
I can feel death, can see its beady eyes
All these things into position
All these things we'll one day swallow whole
And fade out again and fade out again

Immerse your soul in love