Page last updated at 12:35 GMT, Sunday, 6 April 2008 13:35 UK

'Candid' Clegg acknowledges risk

Nick Clegg
Mr Clegg became Lib Dem leader in December

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, who spoke about his sexual history recently, has said that politicians who are "candid" about their lives did "run some risks".

Asked if he regretted an interview in which he said he had slept with "no more than 30" women, he said he did not want to "add fuel to the fire".

He said it had become a distraction from issues he did care about.

He dismissed claims that his rival Chris Huhne would have become leader if postal votes had not been delayed.

The Independent on Sunday reported that the votes for Mr Huhne, who lost the December contest by just 511 votes, were held up by the Christmas post.

'No foundation'

"My understanding is that is complete nonsense," Mr Clegg told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show.

"I can't comment on a piece which I think is based on no foundation or fact whatsoever."

If I have any regrets it's that I don't want it to be a distraction from the things I do care about
Nick Clegg

He was asked about the GQ interview in which he talked about the number of sexual partners he had, but would not talk about his drug use.

Mr Clegg said he probably should be "consistent on both - and private on both".

"As a modern political leader you enter into these split-second conversations in interviews, they then get interpreted and reinterpreted and over interpreted - it's not comfortable, it's not nice but I don't think I'm going to add to it by second guessing it now.

"I'm not going to, with the benefit of hindsight, start reinventing what did or didn't happen, if I have any regrets it's that I don't want it to be a distraction from the things I do care about...You just move on."

Cannabis category

He said he did not want to "add fuel to the fire" by commenting on whether he regretted saying it.

"Being candid in a media environment where that is demanded of you all the time does run some risks and have some disadvantages."

On the issue of drugs, it was reported last week that Prime Minister Gordon Brown was determined to tighten the law on cannabis, which was downgraded from a class B drug to class C in January 2004, despite the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs belief it should remain in the lowest category.

'Brushed away'

Asked again about his own drug use, Mr Clegg said how a politician behaves 25 years before considering going into politics should not have any bearing on what they do as a politician.

But he said Britain could not "chop and change" on the categorisation of cannabis and a "dispassionate view" was needed.

"My own view on drug classification, which has been in the news this week as Gordon Brown appears to have second guessed the conclusions of the drug misuse advisory committee, is that we need to take the politics out of this debate on classification."

He added: "I personally would beef up the status of the committee and the ability of the committee to act independently and make recommendations which can't simply be brushed away by a prime minister keen to make a headline."

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