Profile: Nick Clegg

Leader of the Liberal Democrats appointed deputy prime minister in coalition government.

    Clegg was raised speaking Dutch and English and is fluent in French, German and Spanish  [EPA]

    Nick Clegg, the leader of Britain's Liberal Democrats, was appointed deputy prime minister in a coalition government with the Conservative party following the country's general election on May 6.

    Clegg shone in the election's first-ever televised prime ministerial debates, but despite doing well in opinion polls his party lost five seats in the election, taking 57 constituencies.

    However, after neither the ruling Labour party or main opposition Conservatives took enough seats to form an overall majority, Clegg found himself kingmaker in forming a coalition government.

    After negotiations with both parties, the Liberal Democrats sided with the Conservatives, taking five seats in cabinet.

    Among the Liberal Democrat policiy commitments agreed with the Conservatives was a referendum on a new voting system and an enhanced "pupil premium" for deprived children.

    Clegg said the coalition would herald a "new kind of government".

    International influence

    Born on January 7, 1967 in Buckinghamshire, England, Clegg boasts an international background with a Dutch mother and a half-Russian father.

    special report

    He was brought up speaking Dutch and English and is also fluent in French, German and Spanish.

    After attending London's exclusive Westminster School, he read archaeology and anthropology at the University of Cambridge.

    This was followed by further studies at the University of Minnesota and the College of Europe in Bruges.

    Clegg's political rise began in the mid-1990s when he began working at the European Commission and worked as an aide to Leon Brittan, the commission's vice president and a former interior minister in the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher.

    He became an MEP in 2001 and was selected as a parliamentary candidate for Sheffield Hallam, in the north of England, in 2004, winning more than 50 per cent of the vote at the 2005 general election.

    'Savage cuts'

    Clegg replaced Sir Menzies Campbell as leader of the party in December 2007, narrowly beating rival Chris Huhne, who now serves as the party's home affairs spokesman, by a margin of just 1.2 per cent.

    On becoming leader, he declared his priorities as: defending civil liberties; devolving the running of public services to parents, pupils and patients; and protecting the environment.

    In September 2009, Clegg angered many Liberal Democratic supporters at a party conference by speaking of the need for "savage cuts" in the face of the country's financial crisis.

    Until the present election, the Liberal Democrats had long pledged to provide free childcare and free personal care for the elderly but these have now been forced on to the backburner.

    Another of the party's flagship policies, the scrapping of university tuition fees for students, has been scaled down to a promise to phase the fees out over the course of two parliaments.

    Despite these decisions, Clegg remained popular within the party.

    Music fan

    Clegg met his wife, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, a Spaniard, during his studies in Belgium.

    Clegg married his wife, Miriam, in Spain in 2000 [GALLO/GETTY]

    They were married in 2000 in Spain and have three children sons, Antonio, Alberto and Miguel.

    Gonzalez Durantez has not taken up British citizenship and consequently could not vote for her husband.

    An expert on European Union law, she has distanced herself from the high-profile support that Gordon Brown, the prime minister, and David Cameron, the leader of the main opposition Conservative party, have received from their wives. 

    Gonzalez Durantez has said that she would be "willing to help" with her husband's campaign, but that she would be unable to take time from work and her family life to take part.

    In 2007, the day after winning the leadership of the party, Clegg told the BBC in a radio broadcast that he did not believe in God, saying: "I myself am not an active believer, but the last thing I would do when talking or thinking about religion is approach it with a closed heart or a closed mind."

    The following year, he notoriously revealed in an interview that he had slept with "no more than 30" women.

    A close friend of Sam Mendes, the British film director, he enjoys listening to Schubert, Prince and David Bowie.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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