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Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has enjoyed an astonishing rise to power. David Schaffer profiles the man from Sheffield, charting his journey from obscurity to Downing Street and delving into his wild and wonderful past.


Additional research by Oliver Denton A


s a young man he went cross-dressing with Louis Theroux’s brother, pursued pop-singer


Prince around the States and landed himself community service for burning down a priceless collection of rare cacti. But Sheffield politician Nick Clegg has certainly


come a long way since then. Years on from these youthful exploits the Lib Dem leader has shot through the Westminster ranks to become Deputy Prime Minister, and now holds the balance of power in the UK parliament. It’s a meteoric rise that few would have


predicted, but the man once dismissed as “Calamity Clegg” has defied his critics to make it to the very top, and now has a huge part to play in this most turbulent period in British politics. Perhaps his success owes much to his adopted


home county. Clegg certainly insists that his Yorkshire roots have had a strong bearing on his outlook and approach. “I’m a politician firmly in the Yorkshire


mould,” he said, “someone who is candid and straightforward. I’m not frightened to get into trouble by telling it like it is – like calling for a speaker to resign or championing Ghurkas. I’ve tried to be a straight-talking MP.” There’s no doubt that the 43-year-old will need


a fair amount of Yorkshire grit if he is to see the country through the monumental economic and social challenges it is facing. Speaking last Summer, Clegg acknowledged


that the nation was in a state of “anxiety, uncertainty and insecurity”. He said: “Many families in Yorkshire are very worried – about overheads, their jobs, their children as they battle through college and university, not to mention


terrorism and climate change.” The Lib Dems may be in coalition with the


Conservatives, but with the Tories in power and billions in public spending cuts set to bite, many people – particularly in the North – fear a return to Thatcherism and the turmoil of the 80s. Clegg is adamant he will not let that happen. “We’re not going to do it the way it was done in


the 80s,” he said. “We’re going to make sure that we are particularly sensitive to those parts of the country – like my own part, South Yorkshire – which are very dependent on the public sector, so you don’t just have a sink or swim approach to the North. We are not going to allow a great North/South divide to reappear like in the 1980s.” The Sheffield MP is clearly genuine in his


desire to try and allay people’s fears and help Britain back to prosperity, and with widespread constitutional and voting reform very much on the agenda, Clegg argues that the approach of the unlikely current political union will be a particularly liberal one. “We have got a very dramatic push for


rebalancing of the statute book away from state authority towards individual liberty,” he explained. “It’s been talked about for years and now we are going to get on with it. “Arguably, in my view, this is the most liberal


parliament we have had in a generation or two, rebalancing the relationship between the state and the individual, defending not trashing civil liberties, political reform, internationalist in outlook, dedicated to greater green sustainability. There are really big signals.” This reform agenda is one of the key reasons


why Clegg has topped beyond’s list of this year’s /


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