In these uncertain, unsettling times, with unpopular policies being implemented by a patchwork coalition of the damned, Nick Clegg is proving to be perhaps the most useful tool in the government's shed. Not because he says or does anything particularly inspiring, but because he functions as a universal disappointment sponge for disenchanted voters. You stare at Nick Clegg and feel infinitely unhappy, scarcely noticing Cameron and co hiding behind him.As an aside, a Clegg is a blood sucking horse fly. Nasty things. I don't think that Clegg himself is nasty, but he certainly has a nasty job.
Governments around the world must be studying the coalition and working out how to get their own Clegg. He's the coalition's very own Pudsey Bear: a cuddly-but-tragic mascot representing the acceptable face of abuse. But unlike Pudsey, he actually speaks. Immediately following each unpleasant new announcement, Cleggsy Bear shuffles on stage to defend it, working his sad eyes and boyish face as he morosely explains why the decision was inevitable – and not just inevitable, but fair; in fact possibly the fairest, most reasonable decision to have been taken in our lifetimes, no matter how loudly people scream to the contrary.
It's hard not to detect an air of crushed self-delusion about all this. At times Clegg sounds like a once-respected stage actor who's taken the Hollywood dollar and now finds himself sitting at a press junket, patiently telling a reporter that while, yes, on the face of it, his role as the Fartmonster in Guff Ditch III: Fartmonster's Revenge may look like a cultural step down from his previous work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, if you look beyond all the scenes of topless women being dissolved by clouds of acrid methane, the Guff Ditch trilogy actually contains more intellectual sustenance than King Lear, and that all the critics who've seen the film and are loudly claiming otherwise are misguided, partisan naysayers hell- bent on cynically misleading the public – which is ethically wrong.
It's only a matter of time before the word "Clegg" enters the dictionary as a noun meaning "agonised, doe-eyed apologist". Or maybe it'll become a verb. Years from now, teachers will ask their pupils to stop "clegging on" about how the dog ate their homework and just bloody hand it in on time.
Clegg's most recent act of clegging was to explain to this newspaper that the Institute of Fiscal Studies was wrong to brand the spending review "unfair".