SARAH VINE: Entitled Sir Nick Clegg (vice-president of global affairs at Facebook) is the Prince Harry of politics
Here’s a quiz question: which titled (and entitled) member of the Establishment has turned his back on the realities of life at home to live a life of unimaginable luxury in a wealthy Californian suburb, unencumbered by awkward questions from the British press and insulated from the real world by wealth and power?
Prince Harry, I hear you cry.
But for once that’s not who I’m talking about. I speak of none other than Sir Nick Clegg, former Deputy Prime Minister of this parish and now vice-president of global affairs at Facebook.
Admittedly Sir Nick has not done quite as well as Prince Harry. His £7 million mansion in the wealthy Silicon Valley suburb of Atherton boasts a mere five bedrooms compared to Harry’s 14.
It’s rich for titled and entitled Nick Clegg to now be defending the cowboy practices of Facebook.
But when it comes to everything else, the two men are remarkably similar. Harry for the way he complains about privacy and then bares his soul on TV. And Clegg for the way he has set aside all his previous lofty principles in order to take Mark Zuckerberg’s shilling.
I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised.
After all, this was the man who broke his pledge on tuition fees and who, when he finally did get a pop at power, proved himself to have the spine of a whelk.
But for someone who made a great show of wanting to tighten the screws on Britain’s free press in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry (he even fell out with his Coalition partner, David Cameron, on the issue) it’s rich to now be defending the cowboy practices of Facebook.
Because make no mistake: Facebook is a far more rapacious force than any British red-top tabloid.
Unregulated, unscrupulous and unashamed, not only does it facilitate the spreading of conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated rumours without accepting responsibility for the repercussions, it is becoming increasingly clear that it will also stop at nothing to defend its right to do so – and turn eye-watering profits into the bargain.
Witness the company’s response to the Australian government’s valiant but ultimately futile attempts to get it to remunerate providers for the information it uses – information which, while it costs Facebook nothing, is nevertheless what drives its huge advertising revenues.
Prince Harry’s California mansion boasts 14 bedrooms compared to Nick’s five in his home
Faced with having to stump up for content, Facebook simply switched off access to news for its Australian users. Eventually the two parties reached an agreement. But not before the government’s proposals had been significantly watered down.
Yet even the fact that Facebook could take such action in the first place constitutes an egregious abuse of power.
Some might even call it blackmail.
Something you might expect from the Soviet Mafia (maybe they learned a few tricks from hosting all that Russian-backed election disinformation few years back); but not from an organisation that styles itself as a benign, touchy-feely user-facing service. Which reminds me: Sir Nick. Wasn’t he king of the touchy-feely user-facing politicians?
Not any more. Ruthless corporate salesman, our Nick.
Indeed, in a blog post he justified his company’s actions by saying the proposed law would be ‘like forcing car makers to fund radio stations because people might listen to them in the car’.
An interesting analogy. But a wrong one. Facebook isn’t a car. It’s an out-of-control juggernaut.
If Sir Nick, as he claims, truly believes that ‘quality journalism is at the heart of how open societies function – informing and empowering citizens and holding the powerful to account’, then maybe he will use his position at Facebook to protect it. Then again, so much easier to just take the money, get the help to light the outdoor fire – and kick back by the pool with a glass of something cool.
I won’t pretend to fully understand the intricacies of the Alex Salmond/Nicola Sturgeon debacle – and I suspect no one but the individuals concerned really does.
But whatever else transpires from this sordid tale, I hope at least the Scottish people will finally see the SNP’s leaders for what they really are: bitter, ruthless individuals whose only purpose is the pursuit of power.
Dear Captain Tom was finally laid to rest yesterday, having lifted all our lives.
But it saddens me that he is constantly described as yet another ‘victim’ of Covid.
He may have tested positive for the disease at his time of passing, but his cause of death was really pneumonia as a result of extreme old age.
And increasingly it seems there may be many others in a similar situation, people who have died with Covid but not necessarily of Covid.
Isn’t it time this distinction was reflected in the statistics?
Lady Gaga’s bonanza for dog-nappers
It’s measure of the mad world in which we live that thieves are prepared to shoot a man in order to kidnap a pair of dogs.
Thankfully, Lady Gaga’s dog-walker is recovering well and the dogs were later handed in to the police, unharmed.
By offering sums with no strings attached, Lady Gaga has boosted the market for dog-nappings
But not before she had offered a reward of $500,000 for the safe return of her pets – ‘no questions asked’.
As the owner of two adored pooches, I understand how distraught she must have been. But such selfish stupidity beggars belief.
Dog theft is already at an all-time high – by offering such a sum with no strings attached, she’s effectively boosted the market for violent dog-napping.
Up to to 70 migrants – many of whom may well have come from countries on the Government’s red list – took advantage of the calm seas to cross the Channel yesterday, and no doubt more will be on their way.
It’s imperative that they are quarantined and, ideally, vaccinated on arrival, for the sake of public health.
No excuses, no exceptions.
Otherwise how can the Government justify forcing legal arrivals to quarantine in hotels for two weeks at vast personal cost?
Isis bride should rot in Syria
Defenders of Isis bride Shamima Begum say she should be allowed to return to the UK because she was just 15 at the time she ran away.
I have some sympathy: every parent of teenagers knows how stupid they can be. But it’s one thing to go a bit off the rails, quite another to join a death cult with an explicit agenda to torture, maim and kill.
But the most compelling reason why she should not be allowed to return is that she has not shown an ounce of genuine regret. Indeed, when she was interviewed in 2019, she claimed that the murder of 22 people – many of them young girls like her – at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester was ‘fair justification’ after Western air strikes against Isis in Syria.
If I ruled the world (which thankfully I don’t), I’d ban cyclists (and all variants thereof, including rollerbladers and people on electric scooters) with loudspeakers in their backpacks.
Ever since the sun came out they’re everywhere.
Bad enough having their sweaty, Lycra-clad thighs shoved in our faces – must we also endure their terrible taste in music?
Oh Haz, where do I start?
So much to say about Prince Harry’s latest PR offensive.
Firstly, isn’t the sight of a privileged white man pretending to be a black kid from the mean streets of Philadelphia doing a rap a) excruciating; and b) borderline ‘cultural appropriation’ (something I’m sure Meghan does not approve of).
Secondly, what is ‘Haz’ short for? Has-been?
How does Prince Harry prances about with James Corden tally with the couple’s desire for privacy
And thirdly, and perhaps most seriously, how does prancing around on the top of a bus with James Corden and FaceTiming each other with pet names tally with the couple’s expressed desire for privacy?
Service is universal, Harry and Meghan reminded the Queen last week. Indeed it is.
For example, Sophie Wessex quietly helping out St John’s Ambulance during the pandemic.
Can’t do that from the top of a tour bus in California, can you?
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