Sunday, 8 May 2011

Nick Clegg

File:Nick Clegg by the 2009 budget cropped.jpg 

Nicholas William Peter "Nick" Clegg (born 7 January 1967) is a British Liberal Democrat politician who is the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Lord President of the Council and Minister for Constitutional and Political Reform in the coalition government of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. Clegg is the Leader of the Liberal Democrats and is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Sheffield Hallam.
Clegg's first major elected position was as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the East Midlands from 1999 to 2004. He was elected Member of Parliament for Sheffield Hallam in the 2005 general election and became the Liberal Democrats' Home Affairs spokesperson in 2006. Clegg defeated Chris Huhne in the party's 2007 leadership election. Clegg became Deputy Prime Minister following the 2010 general election, when the Liberal Democrats formed a coalition government with the Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister David Cameron. As well as his parliamentary roles, Clegg has contributed to many pamphlets and books on political issues.
Clegg was educated at Caldicott School in Buckinghamshire and Westminster School in London, followed by Robinson College at the University of Cambridge, where he studied Social Anthropology; he later studied at the University of Minnesota and the College of Europe in Belgium. He is married to Miriam González Durántez; they have three sons.

Early life, family

Clegg was born in Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire, in 1967, the third of four children. His father, Nicholas Clegg CBE, is chairman of United Trust Bank, and is a trustee of The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, where Ken Clarke was an adviser. Clegg's paternal grandmother, Kira von Engelhardt, was the daughter of a Baron from the multiethnic Imperial Russia, of German-Russian and Ukrainian origin, whose family fled the Bolsheviks after the 1917 Russian Revolution. One of his great-great-grandfathers, Ignaty Zakrevsky, was attorney general of the imperial Russian senate. One of his great-great aunts was the writer, Baroness Moura Budberg. Clegg's paternal grandfather, Hugh Anthony Clegg, was the editor of the British Medical Journal for 35 years.
Clegg's Dutch mother, Hermance van den Wall Bake, was, along with her family, interned by the Japanese military in Batavia (Jakarta) in the Dutch East Indies. She met Clegg's father during a visit to England in 1956, and they married on 1 August 1959.
Clegg is multilingual: he speaks English, Dutch, French, German, and Spanish. His background has informed his politics. He says, "There is simply not a shred of racism in me, as a person whose whole family is formed by flight from persecution, from different people in different generations. It’s what I am. It’s one of the reasons I am a liberal." His Dutch mother instilled in him "a degree of scepticism about the entrenched class configurations in British society".


Clegg was educated at two independent schools: at Caldicott School in Farnham Royal in South Buckinghamshire, and later at Westminster School in Central London. As a 16-year-old exchange student in Munich, Germany, he was sentenced to a term of community service after he and a friend burned a collection of cacti belonging to a professor. When news of the incident was later reported during his time as Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Clegg said it was something he was "not proud" of.
He spent a gap year as a skiing instructor in Austria, before attending Robinson College, Cambridge at Cambridge University in 1986. Clegg studied Social Anthropology at Cambridge University and was active in the student theatre; he acted alongside Helena Bonham Carter in a play about AIDS, and under director Sam Mendes. He was captain of the college tennis team, and campaigned for the human rights organisation Survival International. In 2008 it was reported that while at university, Clegg had joined the Cambridge University Conservative Association between 1986 and 1987, with contemporary membership records citing an "N. Clegg" of Robinson College. (At the time, Clegg was the only person of that name at Robinson.) However, Clegg himself later maintained he had "no recollection of that whatsoever".
Clegg spent summer 1989 as an office junior in Postipankki bank in Helsinki.
After university he was awarded a scholarship to study for a year at the University of Minnesota, where he wrote a thesis on the political philosophy of the Deep Green movement. He then moved to New York City, where he worked as an intern under Christopher Hitchens at The Nation, a left-wing magazine.
Clegg next moved to Brussels, where he worked for six months as a trainee in the G24 co-ordination unit which delivered aid to the countries of the former Soviet Union. After the internship he took a second master's degree at the College of Europe in Bruges, a university for European studies in Belgium, where he met his wife, Miriam González Durántez, a lawyer and the daughter of a Spanish senator. Nick Clegg belonged to the "Mozart Promotion" at the College of Europe.
Between 1992-1993, he was employed by GJW, which lobbied on behalf of Libya.

GQ magazine interview

Clegg's rocky start to the role was exacerbated in March 2008 when GQ magazine ran with an interview conducted by Piers Morgan in which Clegg admitted to sleeping with "no more than 30" women. Senior Lib Dem MPs defended his comments; Lembit Opik said it showed "you can be a human being and a party leader", and Norman Lamb that "Nick tries to be absolutely straight in everything that he does, and that might sometimes get him into trouble but he will build a reputation for being honest and straightforward." Speaking to the BBC about the interview Clegg said "wisdom with hindsight is an easy thing" as what had been a split second response had been "taken out of context, interpreted, over interpreted and so on".

Attitudes to other parties

In the Commons Clegg initially concentrated most of his fire on Labour and Prime Minister Gordon Brown, but in the autumn of 2009 began also focusing on Conservative leader David Cameron and the Conservatives. Clegg rejected an appeal from Cameron for their two parties to work together. Clegg argued that the Conservatives were totally different from his party, and that the Lib Dems were the true "progressives" in UK politics. At the 2009 party conference in Bournemouth he accused the Conservatives of "simply believing it is their turn" and claimed that come the election the "choice before people is the choice between fake, phoney change from David Cameron's Conservatives, and real change the Liberal Democrats offer".

Parliamentary Expenses

Clegg became the first party leader in modern political history to call for a Speaker to resign following his handling of the expenses scandal, describing Michael Martin, the Speaker at the time, as a defender of the status quo and obstacle to the reform of Parliament.

In response to revelations about MPs' expenses, Clegg set out his plans for reform of Parliament in The Guardian. Speaking about the plans, he said: "let us bar the gates of Westminster and stop MPs leaving for their summer holidays until this crisis has been sorted out, and every nook and cranny of our political system has been reformed." He argued for the "reinvention of British politics" within 100 days, calling for a commitment to accept the Kelly expenses report in full; the power to recall members suspended for misconduct; House of Lords reform; reform of party funding; fixed term parliaments; enabling legislation for a referendum on AV+; and changes to House of Commons procedure to reduce executive power.
Shortly ahead of the election, Clegg was asked about his own expenses by Andrew Neil of the BBC. Clegg allegedly claimed the full amount permissible under the Additional Cost Allowance, including claims for food, gardening and redecorating his second home. The Telegraph also said Clegg claimed £80 for international call charges, a claim he said he would repay.

Personal life

Clegg with his wife Miriam holding their son Miguel on 23 February 2009
In 2000 Clegg married Miriam González Durántez, from Valladolid, Spain. They have three sons: Antonio, Alberto and Miguel, who are being brought up bilingually in Spanish and English. He has said that "The most important things in my life are my three young children: I’m besotted by them". The family were affected by the air travel disruption caused by the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull when the three brothers were grounded in Spain. His wife is a Roman Catholic and they are bringing up their children as Catholics; nevertheless, Clegg has stated that he does not believe in God. On 16 September 2010 during Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United Kingdom, Clegg attended the State reception in the grounds of Holyrood Palace and was introduced to the Pope by Queen Elizabeth II.
Clegg lives close to the Peak District and often walks with his wife near Stanage Edge, which he describes as "one of the most romantic places in the world". He also has a house in Putney, South West London. Downing Street has announced that Clegg and the Foreign Secretary William Hague will share use of Chevening, which is typically the official country residence of the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom. When he appeared on Desert Island Discs in Oct 2010, his choice of discs included Johnny Cash, Prince and Radiohead and his luxury was a "stash of cigarettes". In an interview in April 2011 Clegg stated he dealt with the pressures of political office by reading novels late at night and he "cries regularly to music". Clegg's wealth is estimated at £1.9 million.

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