You are currently browsing the daily archive for April 19, 2010.

On April 16, I featured a post on the first ever televised party leaders’ debate.  Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats featured prominently. 

Since the debate, poll support increased markedly for Mr Clegg and his party.  Now, maybe it’s the weekend volcanic ash floating around, but we’ve suddenly gone barmy for this chap who many view as a viable alternative to Labour’s Gordon Brown and the Conservatives’ David Cameron.  Why? Based on anecdotal evidence I’ve read over the weekend, these were among the reasons: he has nice hair, he had a casual look to him, he’s new and exciting.  Okay, so we’re looking at him as if he were a product not someone who will represent this nation on the world stage.  Mmm-kay.  Really, this isn’t a talent show we’re talking about here — this is about policies which could affect us years down the line.  But more on that tomorrow.

Let’s explode a few myths first:

Nick is ‘one of us’.  Well, no, he isn’t. Actually, David Cameron is more ‘one of us’ than Nick is.  First, although David Cameron may be an Old Etonian and the son of a baronet’s daughter, his dad was a stockbroker and estate agent.  Nick Clegg has much more blue blood flowing through his veins.  That’s not a problem for me, but I know a lot of English will avoid voting for toffs.  On Clegg, the Telegraph reports:

Parents: Father: Nicholas Clegg, son of Russian-born baroness, now chairman of United Trust Bank. Mother: Hermance Clegg, nee van den Wall Bake, teacher of children with special education needs.

The Daily Mail explains:

The multilingual Lib Dem leader was born to a Dutch mother and a half-Russian father …

Hermance’s father Hemmy – a friend of the country’s royal family – became president of the Dutch banking giant ABN … 

Of all the colourful names in the Clegg family tree it is his great, great aunt Moura Budberg who stands out.

The Russian-born noblewoman was suspected of spying for both the Soviet Union and British intelligence..

Mr Clegg’s parents met in 1956 when Hermance visited Cambridge and met Nicholas Clegg Snr, the son of Russian-born Baroness Kira von Engelhardt.

About the von Engelhardts, the Telegraph explains that the Baroness is:

a descendant of an Attorney General in the Imperial Russian senate.

Nick’s just a regular guy.  Well, not really.  The Telegraph (same link) reports:

Mr Clegg grew up in the picturesque commuter town of Chalfont St Giles, Bucks, but his family also owns a large chalet in the Alps and a chateau in France.

He was sent to school at Westminster School in London where fees for boarders are now £28,344 a year.

One of his peers was [Louis] Theroux – best known for his BBC2 documentary series, Weird Weekends – who claims that he used to wait upon the politician every morning and bring him a newspaper.

Mr Theroux said that he had been Mr Clegg’s “fag”, in the old-fashioned system formerly widespread in public schools whereby younger pupils had to act as servants for older ones, waking him up in the morning during term time and presenting him with a newspaper.

Mr Clegg said that he didn’t remember Theroux’s fagging for him.  Theroux, as he points out in the article, said this was because Clegg was always asleep when he went to his room in the morning.

Nick will support British interests.  Erm, perhaps.  See his lineage above and his career profile below.  He is a European internationalist who plays in the big leagues.  The Daily Mail (same link) says:

Before becoming the MP for Sheffield Hallam five years ago, Nick Clegg honed his five languages during a decade-long spell in Brussels working for the European Commission – including three years as Chief of Staff to Tory Commissioner Sir Leon Brittan – and as an MEP.

He met his Spanish wife Miriam during that time.  The Mail adds:

Mr Clegg said: ‘Miriam told me in no uncertain terms that if they had to live with this short, stubby Anglo-Saxon name of Clegg, then [our sons] needed something a little more exotic to come before it.’

The three boys all have Spanish surnames.  When the Mail pressed the subject they found:

Mr Clegg, 43, plays down his international background. When it was pointed out that he was only a quarter English, he said: ‘Well, biologically…yeah. But I was born here, brought up here, went to school here, and I feel very proud to be British. I have been very fortunate to have different bits to my identity. That’s enriched me.’

Clegg also employs a German spin-doctor, Lena Pietsch. 

Boris Johnson, Conservative Mayor of London and my tip for next Tory leader, also has some fascinating bloodlines, but he really loves this country.  Clegg I’m less sure about.  A 2009 article in the Mail states:

Clegg is also something no Conservative leader could get away with being: a fervent European.

Nick is open and transparent.  Okay, let’s see.  The Mail found that he’s left a bit off his CV — note the third paragraph:

The Liberal leader was accused last night of trying to cover up his work for a controversial lobby firm.

Mr Clegg has called for ‘more openness and transparency’ in politics. But there is no mention in his CV of his time with GJW between 1992 and 1993.

The firm helped Colonel Gaddafi resist efforts to send the Lockerbie bomber to [Britain] for trial in 1992 and was also embroiled in the 1998 ‘cash for access’ scandal.

A former employee said: ‘I was surprised to see Nick has left GJW off his CV. I was proud to work for them but it seems Nick would rather keep it quiet.’

A spokesman for Mr Clegg admitted that he had not referred to GJW on his CV but denied he had tried to cover it up.

He is also an atheist, so don’t be fooled by his wooing of Christians by attending an Anglican church in New Malden on April 18.

In another article from earlier this year, the Mail tells us what he has to say about faith schools and the way they teach sex education:  

Mr Clegg said faith schools must ensure they do not become ‘asylums of insular religious identity’.

Gee, I didn’t realise they were.  The Church of England said in response:

‘The Church’s traditional teaching is that sex should be set within the framework of a faithful marriage, and sex education in church schools will be delivered within that context.

‘Whatever one’s view on sexual ethics, the notion people should be forced to teach as fact what are arguably matters of belief is disturbing.’

So, that’s the skinny on Nick Clegg. 

Is he going to force us into the euro?

Is he going to demand that your child take sex ed without a moral framework?  What if you can’t opt them out?

Is he going to have British interests at heart in the legislation he promotes?

Based on this, if you really want change, is Nick your guy?

Just something more to think about before you cast your vote on May 6.

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