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“We’re not going to do it the way it was done in the ‘80s.”

hundred most influential living Yorkshire people, and his rise to power has been extraordinary. Six years ago he was an unknown Euro MP who had yet to set foot in the House Of Commons. Even at the beginning of this year, the Liberal Democrat leader was still largely anonymous to the general public. But in April, ahead of the General

Election, all of that changed. Clegg’s impressive, personable performance in the first-ever televised leader debates brought him to the wider attention of the public, his natural, relaxed demeanor making him more appealing to many than the visibly awkward Brown and polished, PR-savvy Cameron. Despite this surge in popularity, dubbed

‘Clegg mania’, the election results failed to deliver the boost in Lib Dem seats that the polls had predicted. But a hung parliament still presented Clegg with an unprecedented opportunity to take his party into Government. An extraordinary few days followed

in which Gordon Brown stepped down, talks were held with both Labour and the Conservatives and a touch choice had to be made. In the end, Clegg elected to join forces with the Tories to form the first peacetime coalition Government since the 1930s. Many felt the decision was ultimately mathematical, but Clegg insists it was more complex than that. “Firstly, it was very obvious that the

Labour party itself didn’t know what it wanted. There was a public split. When you’ve been in government for 13 years, you’re tired. Renewal is best done in opposition. “Gordon Brown disappointed immensely

as Prime Minister. He was desperate to get the job, but it wasn’t very obvious why he wanted it in the first place.

“Labour no longer speaks for the

aspirations of the majority of British people. The last Government

fanatically over-

centralised things, decimated traditional civil liberties, and ran out of road and steam.” Still, there’s no doubt that this is a tough

time for Clegg. Getting into bed with the Tories may have been the most sensible post-election option, but it disillusioned a fair number of Lib Dem voters and it’s never easy heading-up the minority partner in a coalition government. However, he has described his relationship

with Prime Minister and Tory chief David Cameron as “friendly but very tough”, and maintains that as they disagree on certain issues, he will continue to push for the policies that both he and his voters believe in. “The trick obviously is for both coalition

parties to cooperate, but also to express distinct identities,” he said. “That means making sure that the values we hold dear are the ones we really promote in this government.” Still in his early forties, Clegg has led quite

a life. The former journalist may be happily married to Spanish-born Miriam Gonzalez Durantez and the proud father of three young children, but youthful transgressions and exploits – such as those documented in his infamous 2008 GQ interview with Piers Morgan – hint at a genuine wild side to a man who was, at one stage, criticised in some quarters for lacking personality. Revelations stemming from the Morgan

exchange were both surprising and amusing. As well as the widely reported quip that he had slept with “no more than 30 women”, there were anecdotes about the time he and Marcel Theroux went to a party in New York dressed in female get-up (“we plunged in like two British wallies to be confronted by

very cool people wearing normal clothes”), and the time he accidentally set fire to a collection of rare cacti during an exchange- trip to Munich. “I was 16, and fairly inebriated,” he told

Morgan. “I left the party with a guy I was at school with, we wandered around the garden and found two greenhouses, and decided to go inside. “It was an accident. One of us had a lighter

and turned it on. The first thing I remember is my German teacher calling the place I was staying, and a series of expletives tumbling out of his usually mild mouth. “What made it worse was that we found

out that this was Germany’s premier collection of rare cacti. The owner was a professor who had flown to jungles to bring them back. They were almost irreplaceable.” Rare plant arson aside, other fascinating

blasts from the past include the fact that he was directed by Oscar-winner Sam Mendes in a production of Cyrano de Bergerac at Cambridge, and that he religiously followed pop superstar Prince around while at University in the US. “I wasn’t what you’d call a groupie,” he

laughed, “but I did spend a whole year following him around. Once I spent all night drinking in a bar waiting for him, before eventually giving up and going home. Then I heard he’d turned up at 1 or 2 am and played the best gig anyone had seen.” More charming is the fact that the

multi-lingual Deputy PM learned Spanish specifically to woo the future Mrs Clegg while at college in Belgium. Perhaps that demonstrates a level of

dedication that will come in handy for the tough political decisions ahead. Certainly, if his rapid rise and earnest assertions are anything to go by, Clegg is one politician determined to make an honest difference.

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