Nick Clegg accepting a position at Facebook shouldn’t be viewed as an isolated anomaly, or even particularly noteworthy in its own right. It’s the coming together of two long-term trends in British politics: the unhealthy relationship between the media and state, and the so-called ‘revolving door’ between the parliament and the commanding heights of the economy. That and, of course, another manifestation of Clegg’s comically tin ear for politics. The unhealthy relationship between the media and the state has always existed in one form or another, and presumably always will. It’s a function of parliamentary democracy that much of modern journalism can be reduced to boozy lunches in London and intra-party intrigue, otherwise known as gossip. For as long as our political system is predicated on a relatively small number of big personalities, we’ll have to deal with political journalists who chat, rather than investigate and analyse.
This became much worse under Blair, where it deeply permeated the culture at the Labour press offices. Both Blair and Brown expended a lot of political capital to keep Murdoch and the newspapers on their side, going so far as to regularly meet with the de facto representative of British tabloid journalism. The implicit agreement between New Labour and Murdoch is documented, and even Conservative MPs have publicly discussed the deals between David Cameron and Murdoch from 2010 onwards. This same poisonous relationship can be seen today with the pandering of the Conservative Party to the kinds of unrealistic jingoism so prevalent in Britain’s most popular newspapers. Much like the now heavily criticised slide into dangerous rhetoric about ‘multiculturalism’ seen towards the latter half of New Labour. There has long since been a Faustian pact between politicians and the press, so Nick Clegg moving into a high powered role in arguably the most powerful media organisation in the world is just another bridge between politics and press.
The second long-term trend that Clegg’s new job demonstrates is that of the revolving door. This mechanism is effortlessly moving the British ruling class from centre stage in the most popular farce in history to the commanding heights of the British, and sometimes global, economy. The major problem, particularly in this case, is that inexperienced individuals are promoted to positions for which they are wholly unqualified. This is the natural consequence when jobs are given out based on profile or favours, rather than ability alone. Considering the mammoth task facing the head of Facebook’s global communications, this is particularly significant. Clegg’s appointment is certainly evidence of his tin ear for politics. He should have tried to leave after losing his seat, not when his pet cause is finally seeing its day with 700,000 people marching in London. It is not unusual though – just a sad continuation of a long-term trend in British politics.
Clegg’s new job certainly spells the end of his career in British politics. Even the Lib Dems wouldn’t take him back now that he is tainted by Facebook. On the other hand, he clearly has an astute eye for what’s best for Clegg. Britain is floundering; Europe is engulfed by crises. In the US, living in sunny California with a hefty salary and a senior position in one of the world’s most influential companies, the world could be his oyster.
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