Nick Clegg

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Nicholas William Peter "Nick" Clegg (b. January 7, 1967) is the leader of the Liberal Democrats, and is the current Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Lord President of the Council. Clegg is a self-described liberal (in the British sense of the word) and agnostic.[1] He claims to have great respect for people of faith, and to keep an open mind about religion.[2]

Early Life

Nick Clegg was born in Buckinghamshire to Nicholas P. Clegg CBE and Eulalia Hermance van den Wall Bake. His father is half-English, half-Russian, and his mother is Dutch. He speaks English, Dutch, French, German and Spanish. His wife, Miriam González Durántez, is Roman Catholic. The couple has three sons, and they have agreed to raise them in the Catholic faith.[2] Aged sixteen, Clegg and some friends were involved in destroying a collection of rare cacti whilst drunk.[3]

Politics

Clegg describes himself as liberal and is in favour of handing over further powers from British sovereignty to the European Union. Each of the five bodies of the EU currently has some sort of legislative or judiciary power over the UK (with these ranging from simple group discussions in the Council of Ministers to fully independent legislation from the European Parliament.) He is in favour of significantly higher taxes for the rich, including a mansion tax - a fixed annual levy on all houses worth more than two million pounds, and of raising the income tax threshold to £10,000.

The policies of Clegg and his Party differ significantly from that of the two major UK parties, but in very different ways. The main points of difference with the Conservatives are over tax and monetary policy, with Clegg being definitely to the left of the Conservatives, but probably a little to the right of Labour (this is hard to say as Lib Dem tax policies are more leftist than Labour's, yet Labour's Keynsian approach to ending the recession is far to the left of Clegg, whose policies in this area are more Conservative.) However, the differences with Labour are mostly social, with the Liberal Democrats being significantly more in favour of small-government and decentralisation than even the Conservatives, who have (since Labour reversed many of its positions in the 90s) been the less authoritarian of the two major parties. In this area Clegg, like Cameron of the Conservatives, favours less central administration of schools and hospitals, and more power to local communities. Because of this, it is untrue to claim that Clegg's views are a "more extreme" version of either Labour or the Conservatives, but they cannot be placed in the middle either. The complex nature of their stance makes such simple comparisons impossible. On a few other policy issues, such as nuclear weapons, Clegg is noticeably distant from either major party (Clegg favours disarmament.)

Clegg is in favour of the Single Transferable Vote system for elections to Westminster. This system combines elements of majoritarianism (where an unpopular candidate cannot be elected by default because of a split in the vote of his opposition between several similar opposing candidates as is the case in FPTP (first past the post)) with elements of proportionality (where the number of votes cast for any candidate is directly proportional to the power said candidate has in government.) This system is praised by the UKs Electoral Reform Society, which has condemned the FPTP system for being unfair, as many votes are "wasted" and parties represented in a smaller area of the country need fewer votes to achieve a majority in Parliament. This system has resulted in several Labour victories with vote percentages that would not give the Conservatives a victory, and would garner very little support for parties with nationwide support such as UKIP or Clegg's own Liberal Democrats. In fact, in the 2010 election itself, UKIP received more than 3% of the vote, but assumed not a single one of the 650 seats in Parliament.

Clegg's performance in the first ever televised live UK election debate thrust him into the spotlight and up the opinion polls, with one poll even placing him first among the Prime Ministerial candidates at one point. However, a number of factors conspired to actually end up reducing the number of seats held by the Liberal Democrats at the election. The FPTP system, as mentioned above, discriminates against a party that is supported across the whole country, such as the Liberal Democrats or UKIP (the UK independence party, a vehemently anti-EU party.) David Cameron's support markedly increased in the final week leading up to the election. Gordon Brown's popularity took a major hit in the lead-up to the election, peaking with an occasion where he referred to a pensioner as a "bigoted woman", due to the nature of the FPTP electoral system's making the election a race between Conservatives and Labour, despite widespread Liberal Democrat support, many voters abandoned the Liberal Democrats at the 11th hour in order to prevent Brown's re-election by the splitting of his opposition between Clegg and Cameron. Despite this - Clegg was left in a position of considerable power when the Conservatives failed to gain a majority. This was not quite as important as it may have seemed, as a Labour-Liberal coalition would also not have had a majority, so a Liberal-Conservative coalition was really the only feasible option. Some had predicted Clegg would be a "king-maker" (able to form a majority when allied with either major party, and thus in a position of huge power out of proportion to his vote) but this did not come about. Despite Brown's resignation in the hope of sweetening a deal, David Cameron assumed the office of Prime Minister, with Nick Clegg as his deputy. Four other Liberal Democrats were placed in cabinet positions, and the "coalition manifesto" included a number of Liberal Democrat policies including a high-speed rail network (as opposed to further airport expansion planned by Cameron) and the raising of the income tax threshold to £10,000. It was reported that many senior Liberals were sceptical of a Conservative coalition until they had seen the manifesto. On voting reform and inheritance tax, as well as many other major issues, a compromise was reached.

References

  1. General Election 2010: Nick Clegg's balancing act as hung parliament looms - The Telegraph, April 10, 2010, retrieved June 2, 2012
  2. 2.0 2.1 I don't believe in God, says new Lib Dem chief scotsman.com, December 19, 2007, retrieved January 8, 2011
  3. Daily Mail - Nick Clegg on his regrets
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