Mr Morsi’s Nick Clegg moment

This is an unfair world in which people are always trying to bring a guy down. Take President Mohammed Morsi of Egypt. Here's a chap who, since taking the reins of power in his country in June (and then the saddle, the spurs and the bridle), has by and large acted in foreign affairs as his predecessors did.

Has he reneged on any treaties? He has not. Has he advocated jihad against Israel? Not a bit of it. Liberals and democrats in his own country may have reason to dislike the Morse but the international community - so far - does not.

And then, out of the blue, someone digs up a bit of televised stuff of Brother Morsi on the Brotherhood stump a couple of years back, when Mubarak was in charge and state power would have seemed like an improbable fantasy, and the balloon goes up. So the question I want to ask all fair-minded JC readers is: "Is this fair?"

The quotations from Mr Morsi that have caused the most consternation were first: "Dear brothers, we must not forget to nurse our children and grandchildren on hatred towards those Zionists and Jews, and all those who support them. They must be nursed on hatred. The hatred must continue."

The Jews and the fees are still there and can’t be wished away

And second there was a description of Israelis as "these bloodsuckers who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs".

Now Mr Morsi has explained that his remarks were "taken out of context". And, of course, like everyone else, I at first wondered what difference that could make. In what way would a context alter the meaning of "nursing our grandchildren on hatred"? Or alter the phrase about people being "descendants of apes and pigs"?

Unless, I suppose it is discovered that being descended from a pig is somehow a good thing (let us leave apes aside for a moment, since being descended from them is not, for a Darwinian, much of a calamity). It is hard to imagine Mr Morsi admitting that "some of my greatest friends are boars".

No, I think that when Mr Morsi says his remarks have been taken out of context, he means that, when he said all this stuff about blood, hatred and various animals, he said them in the context of being a loud-mouthed, rabble-rousing Islamist revolutionary, but they are now being repeated in the context of him being a president of Egypt who takes a lot of money from the United States and needs a continuing peace with the simians and porcines over the desert border.

In that sense, President Morsi is a bit like our own Nick Clegg. When Mr Clegg was in perpetual opposition but battling for every disgruntled vote that he could get - which included a student vote that had turned out for the Liberal Democrats in 2005 - he was adamant that tuition fees were the evil legacy of a cynical older generation to the bright-eyed youth of Britain. If you were in opposition and never likely to be in power, that's what you said and you swanned around sounding good.

Then a hung election later, there you are in power looking at real balance sheets and real dilemmas, and actually tuition fees don't look quite so evil after all. Naturally you can't embrace them, but you certainly won't do away with them.

So it is with Morsi and the Jews. In opposition he just said what they all say in Arab parts. Apes, pigs, bloodsuckers and perpetual war. Or, abolish tuition fees. Then the context changes and the Jews and the fees are still there and can't be wished away, and you just have to hope that no one is ill-mannered enough to remind you of all the stupid things that you once said. Mr Morsi, you see, has taken himself out of context.

    Last updated: 10:05am, January 30 2013