- Matt Cardy/Getty Images
- Exclusive: Nick Clegg tells BI that the criticism of his knighthood was “predictable” and does not take away from his pride in his record.
- “The Daily Mail is never going to agree with my worldview and neither is Owen Jones. I don’t take it too seriously,” Clegg said.
- Clegg attacks Corbyn’s “pathetic” Labour for failing to punish Tory dithering over Brexit.
- The former Lib Dem leader said Sir Vince Cable’s main focus should not be a second referendum.
LONDON – Nick Clegg has told Business Insider that he doesn’t take criticism of his imminent knighthood “too seriously” and says his critics are “free to whinge” about it.
The former deputy prime minister and ex-leader of the Liberal Democrats was named in the New Year’s honours list for “public and personal service” at the end of last month.
However, the news was met with anger and confusion from various figures across the political spectrum.
Guardian columnist Owen Jones described the knighthood as a “safety net for the shameful and shameless,” while The Daily Mail said Leave campaigners like Nigel Farage had been ignored to accommodate Remainers like Clegg.
Two e-petitions calling on Clegg to be blocked from becoming a knight of the realm were created in response to the news. Over 100,000 people had signed the petitions at the time of writing.
However, speaking to BI on Thursday evening, the former MP for Sheffield Hallam said the negative reaction “doesn’t really affect my pride” in what he achieved in government with Cameron’s Conservatives.
“You can hardly call it a backlash when the entirely predictable people don’t share my views on things and criticise,” he said.
“The Daily Mail is never going to agree with my worldview and neither is Owen Jones. I don’t take it too seriously.
“I was included in the honours because of the work I did as deputy prime minister and I remain immensely proud of what me and my team succeeded to do in providing stability to the country at a time of immense turbulence and difficulty.
“It doesn’t really affect my pride in what we achieved that there are people on either side who want to snipe.”
On whether he thought the honours system was biased in favour of pro-EU figures, he said: “I don’t decide who gets honours and my honour had nothing to do with my views on Europe.
“It was entirely to do with my service over five years as deputy prime minister. People who don’t like what the Coalition did or don’t like my views on Europe will whinge. It’s a free country – if people want to whinge, they can.”
“Labour should be 20% ahead”
Clegg was speaking in north London at an event hosted by anti-Brexit group Islington In Europe.
At the event, the former Liberal Democrat MP accused the Labour Party of failing to capitalise on the “mugs” in Theresa May’s government who are struggling to deliver Brexit.
“Labour should be 20% ahead. A good opposition would kill this government in a week. It’s absolutely pathetic,” he said.
He described the recent resignation of Andrew Adonis as chair of the government-backed National Infrastructure Commission as a “significant” moment in the Brexit process.
“There is a limit to how much the public follow these Westminster dramas,” he said.
“But it is significant nonetheless that someone who is widely regarded as thoughtful about politics and has friends across party divisions has found it simply impossible to work for a government that is so paralysed about politics.
“It just lifts a lid on something that is becoming incredibly obvious, which is that the obsession with hard Brexit has rendered this government dysfunctional.”
Clegg: Lib Dems need to switch their focus
Clegg also distanced himself from his former party’s insistence that there must be a second referendum on the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union, claiming the party’s primary focus ought to be pressuring MPs to vote down a bad deal when it is put to Parliament later this year.
- REUTERS/Andrew Yates
“This is where I slightly disagree with Sir Vince Cable,” Clegg said. “The vote in Parliament is the only cul de sac out of Brexit.”
He later told BI: “The realistic deadline is the vote in parliament.
“If MPs swallow their misgivings and simply sign along the dotted line, even though the government clearly has no intention of providing MPs with much meaningful detail for what the future holds, then at that point the Brexit juggernaut will proceed without any further meaningful restraint or scrutiny.”