So Who Is Nick Clegg?

"Who is Nick Clegg?" I hear you ask? Well, actually I don’t really hear many of you asking at all. And you may be forgiven. Until a week ago he was the scarcely known—even in Britain—leader of the third party, the Liberal Democrats. And then he appeared on Britain’s first televised ‘Leaders debates’ something of course that Americans have been used to for years, but up until now resisted in Britain.

Clegg is a former European Member of Parliament, before that he was briefly a lobbyist and before that he briefly worked for the European Commission. In a party short of talent, and in a country where age and maturity count for less, Nick Clegg became leader of the third party, and the story would have probably ended there had it not been for that televised debate. Appearing as an equal to the Leader of the Opposition, and until last week probable next Prime Minister of Britain David Cameron from the Conservatives, and the hulking, brooding Labour Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, Clegg played his hand well. Children watching at home liked him, and more to the point those talking to pollsters did too. Despite the fact that his party can trace its beginnings back to 1688, thus making it the oldest party in Britain and possibly the World, Clegg batted away at the other two attacking the ‘old parties’.  He was pronounced the winner by the pollsters, who have miserably failed to make any common ground in actually reporting the national mood with any accuracy at all.

In fairness, Clegg probably did win on the first bout of televised debates, and did pretty well in the second. A third is yet to come before the polls close on May 6th. The scenario therefore, and this is still two weeks before voters are forced to make up their minds, is that Britain will have a hung Parliament, and some power sharing deal will be hammered out with Nick Clegg by either Cameron or Brown. How can that happen you may ask if the Liberal Democrats are so popular? Well, the answer lies in Britain’s antiquated ‘first past the post’ system of elections, and the fact that old class loyalties still stack the votes in the red corner (Labour) and blue corner (Tory) constituencies, so the Liberal Democrats have a bigger mountain to climb.

So the British election which a week ago looked as dull as ditch water has fired into life. And with the emergence of Clegg—some of the aforementioned polls have his party ten per cent in the lead—comes another interesting development. Britain’s press barons, foremost amongst them Rupert Murdoch, had for the most part shifted to Cameron and the Conservatives, as ever taking the position as king makers. Except that they have so horribly misjudged the mood, they appear to have lost both their bearing and influence. When one independent national newspaper—yes, The Independent—had the temerity to point out that Rupert Murdoch's newspapers wouldn’t decide the election, his son James Murdoch and News Corporation executive, Rebekkah Wade, stormed into Editor Simon Kelner’s office demanding to know, "What the f***k do you think you are doing?"

Kalner and The Independent of course know exactly what they are doing, and as longstanding sympathisers for the liberal cause may yet have the most to smile about in a fortnight’s time.

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons, user Geoking66.

Related Articles

How does alcohol affect your brain?

Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.

(Photo by Angie Garrett/Wikimedia Commons)
Mind & Brain
  • Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
  • Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
  • Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists sequence the genome of this threatened species

If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.

Surprising Science
  • A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
  • It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
  • Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.

If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.

Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.

elephant by Guillaume le Clerc

Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons

13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.

It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.

But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.

John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."

What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.

Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.

Why cauliflower is perfect for the keto diet

The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.

Purple cauliflower. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Surprising Science
  • The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
  • The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
  • It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
Keep reading Show less