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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 March 2008, 15:00 GMT
Clegg talks Europe - and football
Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg earnestly answered questions on the environment...
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has been put through his paces by a group of would-be journalists for School Report News Day.

He was interviewed at his Houses of Parliament offices by pupils from Banbury School in Oxfordshire on weighty subjects including his recent management of the party, the environment, and citizenship.

But conversation eventually moved around to football - and politicians who can kill people with their bare hands.

One of the first questions, which instantly drew a rueful smile, alluded to his party's recent rows over Europe.

Three of his frontbenchers resigned and almost a quarter of his parliamentary party rebelled last week, when he ordered his party to abstain from a Commons vote on holding a referendum on the new EU treaty.

I have no regrets
Nick Clegg on recent events in his party
"Taking recent events into account, which do you find easier to look after - your children, or the Liberal Democrat party?" he was asked by School Reporter David.

"It's completely different, I wouldn't want to compare MPs to children," he laughed, rather grimly.

"I'm obviously at the end of the day much more committed to looking after my children than I am to Liberal Democrat MPs, as a parent they're the most important thing to my life.

"But managing a party, any party, is sometimes difficult because you have sometimes issues like the European issue where you just cannot get unanimity.

"And then as a party leader you have to do something pretty straightforward but sometimes difficult, which is simply to do the least divisive thing, and that's exactly what I did last week.

"I have no regrets."

'Very overcrowded'

The discussion then moved onto the environment.

"If you could do anything to improve Britain's environment, what would be your number one priority?" he was asked by Freya.

That would be public transport, he said.

Nick Clegg
... but was amused by a question about making a football team out of politicians
"The Liberal Democrats have just found out that the government over the last several years have spent 15 times more on road building than it has on public transport.

"We just can't carry on, we're a very overcrowded island... everybody's creeping around on overcrowded roads. It's the single largest increase in pollution, is transport."

Mr Clegg was then asked about the allegiance oath recently suggested by the government.

"Gordon Brown's a bit too star-struck by what happens in America," he said.

"He thinks we can turn Britain into America... we have a completely different concept of citizenship and identity in this country, we can't just be turned into America by making some pledge of allegiance every morning.

"I would like Gordon Brown to spend less time on these whizz-bang gimmicks, and a bit more time thinking about why it is that so many young people of your age are feeling utterly shut off from politics."

'Devastatingly effective'

But Mr Clegg appeared to think longest and hardest when asked by Adam who would be his star player, if he had to create a football team out of politicians - finally plumping for one of his predecessors, Paddy Ashdown.

"In defence," he said.

Go easy on your next victim
Nick Clegg
"He was one of the few politicians who knew how to kill someone with his bare hands, so that would probably be quite a good place to put him."

What about Gordon Brown?

"Oh no, he'd be on the reserve benches if he's lucky."

David Cameron?

"He wouldn't be in the team."

As the interview ended, he told the Reporters: "Thank you very, very much, I've really enjoyed it. I thought you were all devastatingly effective interviewers.

"Go easy on your next victim."

Prime minister Gordon Brown and Conservative leader David Cameron have also been interviewed for School Report.

Northern Ireland first minister Ian Paisley, Scotland's first minister Alex Salmond and the presiding officer of the National Assembly of Wales, Dafydd Elis-Thomas, are also being quizzed.





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