BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 December 2007, 09:06 GMT
The Nick Clegg story
Nick Clegg - who has been elected leader of the Liberal Democrat party by the narrowest of margins - was tipped for great things almost from the moment he entered Parliament in 2005.

Nick Clegg
Age: 40
Job: Lib Dem leader
Family: Married, two children
Education: Westminster School, Cambridge University
Before MP: Journalist, lecturer and Euro MP

One of a generation of bright "young Turks" promoted to the frontbench by former leader Sir Menzies Campbell, he will be, at 40, the youngest party leader in the UK - beating Conservative leader David Cameron by three months.

A fluent television performer, he placed much emphasis during his leadership campaign on his skills as a communicator - claiming he could reach out to voters disaffected by party politics.

In his acceptance speech, he said his leadership would be about "ambition and change" - stressing that he wanted to forge a "liberal alternative" to the discredited policies of "big government".

Thatcher era

He is seen as being on the liberal economic wing of the party and, as such, is expected to appeal to wavering Tory voters or those Lib Dems attracted to Mr Cameron's party.

He faced accusations during the leadership campaign that he was a "clone" of David Cameron - something he angrily denied.

He was given his first job in politics by a Conservative, former Cabinet minister Sir Leon Brittan, but resisted attempts to recruit him to the party.

He says his politics were forged in the Thatcher era - when he opposed everything the then Tory leader stood for.

In his acceptance speech, he said he was a liberal by temperament and instinct, adding: "I believe liberalism is the thread that holds together everything this country stands for."

Aristocratic grandmother

With his Dutch and Russian heritage, and more than a decade working in Brussels, Mr Clegg is probably the most Eurocentric of Britain's party leaders.

An accomplished skier, who reputedly speaks five languages, he is married to a leading commercial lawyer, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, a former Middle East expert at the foreign office, whose father was a conservative senator in the Spanish parliament.

Nick Clegg and wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez
Nick Clegg and wife Miriam have two young children

The couple, who met while studying at the College of Europe in Bruges, live in South London have two young sons.

When Ms Gonzalez Durantez gave birth to the first of their children, Mr Clegg took a long period of paternity leave so that she could return to work first.

Mr Clegg's father, a banker, is half Russian and his aristocratic grandmother fled St Petersburg after the tsar was ousted.

His mother, Hermance van den Wall Bake, a special needs teacher, is Dutch and arrived in Britain, aged 12, after being incarcerated in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Indonesia.

Show business connections

Mr Clegg is said to favour hiking in the hills near his Sheffield Hallam constituency, a well-heeled part of the city where he won more than 50% of the vote, to the London party circuit.

But he can boast a few show business connections.

TV presenter Louis Theroux and his novelist brother Marcel are friends - he once took a road trip across America with the pair, during which, to the amusement of the brothers, he frequently practised transcendental meditation.

Film director Sam Mendes is also a friend and he once acted opposite a teenage Helena Bonham-Carter in a university play about Aids.

Mr Clegg was educated at Westminster school, one of the country's top public schools.

Friends recall a "spotty" but self-confident teenager with a keen sense of fun, who sought out the limelight in school plays.

The one blot in his copybook came when, as a 16-year-old exchange student in Munich, he and a friend were arrested for setting fire to a collection of rare cacti belonging to a professor.

'Drunken prank'

The incident appeared on the front page of the local newspaper in Munich.

Mr Clegg has since described the incident as a "drunken prank," of which he was "not proud".

He was given community service and had to spend the summer digging gardens.

I hope I've inherited some of my mum's unerring compassion, her ability to see potential in everyone, her despair at the class system, and her total belief in justice
Nick Clegg

After studying anthropology at Cambridge, he briefly became, in his own words, a "ski bum" and tried to write a novel, which he later described as "embarrassingly bad".

He won a postgraduate scholarship to the University of Minnesota where he studied the political philosophy of green campaigners.

He tried his hand at journalism, as an intern in New York on left-wing magazine The Nation. He took full advantage of New York's nightlife - in one picture from the period he appears in drag with friend Marcel Theroux at a party with, in Marcel's words, his "fashionista" friends.


After a spell in Hungary, where he was sent as the first winner of the Financial Times David Thomas Prize, he went to work for European Commissioner Leon Brittan, in Brussels.

It was here that he began to make his mark in the world of politics.

He managed aid projects in the poorest parts of Russia and led the EU's negotiations on China and Russia's entry into the World Trade Organisation.

A brief spell as a lecturer at Sheffield University followed before he became a Liberal Democrat MEP in 1999.

Lord Ashdown, Charles Kennedy and Nick Clegg
Former Lib Dem leaders have rallied behind Mr Clegg

He was talent-spotted by the then Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown and it was not long before he was swapping Brussels for Westminster.

Despite his relative inexperience, he was tipped as a future leader almost from the moment he arrived in the Commons in 2005.


He did not have to wait long for his first chance.

He was among 25 MPs who refused to go on serving under Charles Kennedy, as details of his alcohol problems emerged.

Friends urged him to throw his hat into the ring when Mr Kennedy finally stood down.

But he decided to back Sir Menzies Campbell instead - on the understanding, it is said, that Sir Menzies would back him for the top job when the time came.

His loyalty was rewarded with the high-profile home affairs brief, spearheading the party's defence of civil liberties, speaking out against ID cards and proposing a freedom bill to repeal what he perceives as illiberal legislation.

His most eyecatching - and controversial - proposal was "earned" citizenship for illegal immigrants, described by opponents as an "amnesty".

Seafront confrontation

As leadership speculation began to swirl around Sir Menzies at this year's party conference in Brighton, Mr Clegg's name was inevitably thrust into the frame - and he did little to dampen speculation by admitting he would stand if there was a vacancy.

Sir Menzies' wife, Lady Elspeth, in a famous seafront confrontation, said she did not know whether he was being helpful or not.

Sir Menzies may have shocked Westminster a few weeks later when he handed in his resignation - but no one was surprised when his young protege entered the race to succeed him.

Mr Clegg began as favourite - with the backing of the majority of the party's MPs and grandees such as Paddy Ashdown.

He ran a measured, even at times low-key leadership campaign, as he sought to avoid being drawn into public rows with Mr Huhne.

But his image as an unflappable performer took a knock during televised debates, appearing angry and flustered when accused by Mr Huhne of "flip-flopping" on policy.


The two men clashed over the Trident missile programme, which Mr Huhne pledged to dump.

Mr Clegg argued that such a move would destroy the UK's bargaining power in non-proliferation talks in 2010.

He tried to appeal to all sections of the party - by stressing his liberal instincts and background.

He has said the biggest influence on his politics was his mother, who was imprisoned by the Japanese during the Second World War.

"I became a liberal not in a library, but over the dinner table, in the car, in the park, in conversation with my mum," Mr Clegg told the Lib Dem Voice website earlier this year.

He added: "I hope I've inherited some of my mum's unerring compassion, her ability to see potential in everyone, her despair at the class system, and her total belief in justice."

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific