I have returned to Britain to find the place in the grip of Clegg-mania. In some polls, the Lib Dems are now actually ahead. The Sunday Times has claimed that Clegg is now more popular than Churchill. Today’s Guardian compared him to Barack Obama. Now I know Nick Clegg, Nick Clegg is a friend of mine – and Nick Clegg is no Barack Obama. (That is a subtle reference to the Lloyd Bentsen-Dan Quayle debate, not an outrageous name-drop.) Mind you, I think even Barack Obama isn’t Barack Obama, if you know what I mean.
How to account for Clegg-mania? Well, the Brits have a stolid reputation. But actually the population is prone to bouts of contagious hysteria. Remember Diana mania? Clegg may be the beneficiary of a similar fickle, but powerful, public shift. He just has to hope that it lasts until the election.
Well, I finally made it home this morning – five days after my first attempt to leave Tel Aviv, last Thursday. I finally got out of Israel on Sunday morning, I think, so it’s taken roughly 48 hours to get back, via plane, mini-bus and train – with overnight stops in Genoa and Paris, and lunch in Geneva yesterday. The trip has had its moments. I’ve never driven through the Alps from the Italian side, and the scenery is astonishing.
I think my last update was posted from Geneva railway station, about this time yesterday. The rest of the journey was relatively straightforward. We got into Paris around nine at night. Found a pleasant little flop house near the Gare du Nord, had dinner (confit de canard, always a good stand-by, since it comes out of a tin) – then got up at 6am to check the Eurostar situation. It is always worth going in person, Although the electronic boards claimed that there were no places on trains available until next Saturday, it was easy enough to secure seats on stand-by. Lots of people have made reservations – and are not turning up, either because they have found some other way to get home, or because they haven’t yet made it to Paris.