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The Nick Clegg Interview (Part Two)

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Do you think the Royal Wedding should be a low-cost affair?

I think it should be exactly what William and Kate want. In the grand scheme of things it’ll really lift the spirits. Lots of people will be visiting this country, helping our shops and our tourism industry. I really don’t think we should turn this into an accountancy exercise.

Did you feel sorry for Gordon Brown when he lost the election?

I don’t think Gordon Brown wants my pity. He’s a very experienced and formidable politician in his own right. It’s almost not very respectful to him. I've never had any personal animosity towards him whatsoever.

Do you have a better understanding of the pressures he faced?

Not so much about Gordon Brown, but government, particularly at a time when there’s no money left, is tough. So in a strange kind of way, we’re facing a tougher environment than the previous government was because, as we all know, they left office and left the coffers bare.

Do you feel more stressed? Any noticeable wrinkles or grey hairs?

I’m incredibly lucky. I’ve got an incredibly strong marriage, a very warm and loving family, a very big family, lots of brothers and sisters, I’ve got friends outside. I try to keep a balance, which keeps things in perspective.

Are you moisturising, just in case?

I’ve never been particularly attentive to that. But if you’ve got any product recommendations you’d like to make…

I’ll speak to our man in the know… What was the most surreal moment of Cleggmania?

Being compared to Churchill and Stalin within 24 hours. At first someone said Churchill, then the Daily Mail thought, “Oh no, we can’t possibly have this chap complimented. Let’s call him Stalin.” No, it was a Nazi! Churchill to a Nazi in 24 hours. [Clegg’s advisor interjects: “Clegg in Nazi slur.”] Yeah, that’s it. Front page.

When you finished the first TV debate, did you know that you’d nailed it?

I hadn’t the faintest idea. I rang my mum who, like all good mums, said, “Yeah, you did all right, son.” I was kind of relieved. People made a big deal about how I looked into the camera, but that was because of an accident. Unlike Gordon Brown and David Cameron, we didn’t have a team of highly paid American consultants advising us on how to raise our eyebrows. I was watching the Ross Perot, Bill Clinton, George Bush Senior television debate on

a laptop on a train and my earphones fell out as Bill Clinton was speaking to the camera. And I found it very striking. I noticed that it made me want to listen more to what he had to say, so I thought I’d try it myself. As ever, much more haphazard than people think.

Did you notice Cameron and Brown trying to copy you in the next two?

Yes, it was a bit transparent that there was a changing of tactics going on.

If you gained total power in the next election, which of the coalition policies would you change?

I would implement our manifesto. The same applies to David Cameron if he won outright. But that’s stating the obvious. I just hope people appreciate the way we’ve conducted ourselves in this coalition government, being really grown up about the fact that we didn’t win, that it was an election of losers, and that therefore you need to compromise and can’t regard every compromise as a betrayal or a failure. I’m not a very tribal politician. No party has a monopoly on wisdom, so it’s not a bad thing from time to time for people to come together, or be forced together, in order to do the right thing.

Has it brought a few politicians down a peg or two?

Yeah. What’s wrong with listening to each other? What we’ve found in government is that if you listen to each other you come up with some brilliant ideas that blend policies.

Are you frightened of Ed Miliband?

Frightened?

Yes, politically, not physically.

No, it’s not an emotion I readily…

Is he the best man for the job?

He was chosen, by the trade unions at least. I don’t know him that well. He seems like a very nice guy. Bluntly, at the moment — and I’ll give him a chance — I’ve simply no idea what he stands for. But hey, he said he’s going to start with a blank piece of paper and I look forward to seeing him fill it in.

If he takes Labour further left, will there be a tinge of envy now you’ve been dragged further right by your coalition partners?

I’m a liberal. If I believed in the nationalisation of everything and if I believed in crushing civil liberties and being authoritarian, I would’ve joined the Labour party.

There have been calls for George W Bush and Tony Blair to be charged as war criminals — would you agree with that?

I genuinely don’t think it’s as simple as that. I don’t think it’s a question of bandying about those kinds of labels, but I certainly think people who take decisions like that, which in my judgment prove to be disastrously wrong, should, where possible, be held to account. That doesn’t mean they’re war criminals, that’s for lawyers to judge, not me. But I always believe in people taking big decisions being held accountable for those decisions.

Talking of disasters, Sarah Palin may throw her hat into the US presidential ring. Does that frighten you?

[Laughs] Do you know what? One thing I’ve learnt in my new job is that I can’t pronounce on the politics of other countries as readily as I did before, so I probably shouldn’t make an exception for Sarah Palin. Even Sarah Palin.

(Image: Christopher Furlong)

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