Worstward Ho

Christopher Tayler · Nick Clegg's Texts for Nothing

The Lib Dem Manifesto

I don’t know what kind of demographic targeting apparatus the Lib Dems are packing in this election, but it seems to have determined that there are votes to be had from readers of the Saturday Guardian with a taste for the great masters of modernistic gloom and a relaxed attitude to not namechecking Nelson Mandela. The evidence:

Subjects addressed by party leaders in the Guardian Review’s ‘My Hero’ slot:

Gordon Brown: Nelson Mandela
David Cameron: n/a
Nick Clegg: Samuel Beckett

The Guardian Weekend magazine, 24 April 2010. Question: ‘Which living person do you most admire, and why?’

Gordon Brown: Nelson Mandela (‘for inspiring us never to give up, even in the darkest times, on the fight for justice and, with his wife, Graca, for championing the movement against poverty and for education that has changed hundreds of millions of lives’)
David Cameron: Nelson Mandela (‘for his grace and complete lack of bitterness’)
Nick Clegg: J.M. Coetzee (‘he writes with a simplicity which lays bare what really matters’)

Question: ‘What is your favourite book?’

Gordon Brown: ‘There are so many that have made a big impression on me – the one I've read and loved most recently was about the female winners of the Nobel prize.’
David Cameron: ‘Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves.’
Nick Clegg: ‘Life & Times of Michael K, by JM Coetzee.’

A plug for Kafka or Thomas Bernhard in the next few hours could make all the difference.


  • 5 May 2010 at 9:15am
    loxhore says:
    Kafka's funny!

  • 5 May 2010 at 10:15am
    Jenny Diski says:
    Beckett's funnier.

    Lost in the wilderness of vile options, Clegg's eulogy to Beckett quite turned my head. 'Subversive, funny.' You got me, Nick.

  • 5 May 2010 at 11:40am
    alex says:
    Obama started this, avowing a predilection for Miles Davis and Melville (admittedly the Melville of Moby Dick rather than the proto-Beckettian Bartleby). I was less sure about his favorite foods though, which included shrimp linguini and peanut bars. what does Clegg like to eat?

  • 5 May 2010 at 12:03pm
    Jenny Diski says:
    At this stage of the election - less than a day to go - he'd probably be delighted to answer that question if he was emailed. Tom?

  • 5 May 2010 at 12:16pm
    Christopher Tayler says:
    According to this he likes eating mangoes, has porridge for breakfast every morning and once, in China, ate fried bees.

    • 5 May 2010 at 12:58pm
      Jenny Diski says: @ Christopher Tayler
      OK, that's it. Nothing there I can quarrel with. If I hadn't already voted for him with my postal vote, I'd vote for him.

    • 5 May 2010 at 1:39pm
      alex says: @ Jenny Diski
      If he gets in maybe his Spanish wife could devise a bee paella to match Michelle Obama's shrimp linguini.

  • 5 May 2010 at 12:27pm
    outofdate says:
    'All is ready. Except me. I am being given, if I may venture the expression, birth to into death, such is my impression. The feet are clear already, of the great cunt of existence. Favourable presentation I trust.'

  • 5 May 2010 at 5:14pm
    LorenzoStDuBois says:

    I remember how thrilling it was when Obama would answer all these personal questions with such non-political answers. It is indeed refreshing when a political figure you're already a bit fond of shows such confidence and intelligence in his tastes.

    However, turns out just like Bush made white reactionaries comfortable with his folksy charm, Obama made people like me comfortable with his nods to high culture. Behind each of these facades however, we got the same policies.

    This Clegg guy seems the best of the three, but let's not get carried away here.

  • 6 May 2010 at 9:31am
    Robert Hanks says:
    God, yes, I'd vote for anyone who was touting Thomas Bernhard. Just imagine what the Queen's Speech would be like. (It would have been nice if Clegg had stuck to his guns and insisted on party political broadcasts modelled on Beckett. I'm thinking Breath. Or Not I featuring Vincent Cable's mouth. Or an excerpt from Godot with Cameron as Pozzo and Brown as Lucky.)

  • 6 May 2010 at 10:52pm
    alex says:
    I was gutted by the commentary in the Guardian. Although they saw fit to tell us that G. Brown just ate ‘a lamb stew cooked by his wife’ (11.38pm) they had the nerve to criticize the BBC for feeding us ‘filler’ information about the fact that Nick Clegg and his wife are at home, cooking dinner (10.52pm, via Heidi Stephens), without actually telling us what they were cooking!
    Does anyone have any better information?

    • 8 May 2010 at 9:52pm
      alex says: @ alex
      ... according to the Times, Conservative plotting on election day was done over a chili con carne prepared by Samantha Cameron ('How Cameron’s secret kitchen cabinet had to rethink plans for power', May 8)

  • 7 May 2010 at 9:31am
    alibrown18 says:
    When Beckett-loving Clegg makes his post-election speech in a few moments, I fully expect him to acknowledge this was the election where nothing happened for the Lib Dems,, wait, for the umpteenth time in a row.

  • 7 May 2010 at 10:23am
    Jenny Diski says:
    Or: We lost. We would have lost anyway.

    Fail again. Fail better...

    Oh never mind.

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