Clegg takes Lib Dems back into power after decades

By Avril Ormsby

LONDON (BestGrowthStock) – Nick Clegg, once the unsung leader of Britain’s third largest party, has led his Liberal Democrats back into government for the first time in nearly 70 years.

Previously largely ignored by the media, Clegg stole the show during the first of three live televised election debates with former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Conservative leader David Cameron, who became prime minister on Tuesday evening.

Cameron said he would form a formal coalition government, something the country has not seen since 1945 and all the more surprising given their political differences. Clegg, 43, was made deputy prime minister.

It was Britain’s first televised election debate between party leaders that boosted Clegg’s popularity, although his Liberal Democrats lost seats in the election.

“I agree with Nick,” Brown told the audience of millions seven times, creating an instant catchphrase and raising Clegg’s standing.

On the back of that assured performance, some opinion polls put Clegg’s Liberal Democrats on course for a major breakthrough at the May 6 election — with talk of them gaining more than 100 seats in the 650-member parliament.

Polling day was a disappointment, in Clegg’s own judgment, with the party losing six seats to retain only 57.

But Britain’s first inconclusive election since 1974 meant Clegg and his center-left party were now courted by their two larger rivals, Labour and the Conservatives.

Brown stood aside to try and smooth a deal with the Liberal Democrats while the Conservatives dangled the offer of a vote on electoral reform and seats around a cabinet table.

RAPID RISE

Clegg and Cameron have much in common. They are the same age. Cameron is the Eton-educated son of a stockbroker, Clegg the privately educated son of a banker. Cameron was at university in Oxford, Clegg at Cambridge.

Clegg has enjoyed a rapid rise since entering British politics in 2005, becoming party leader two years later.

Born to a Dutch mother and half-Russian father, and married to a Spanish lawyer, he is the most pro-European Union of the main party leaders and speaks five languages.

Clegg was an adviser at the European Commission before becoming a member of the European parliament from 1999 to 2004.

In Britain’s 2005 election, when the Liberal Democrats picked up votes from Labour supporters angry over the Iraq war, Clegg was elected member of parliament for the constituency of Sheffield Hallam in northern England.

He retained his seat comfortably last week.

Since taking charge of the party he has steered it away from a previous tax-and-spend agenda.

He has whittled down a host of costly pledges to four election promises: fairer taxation, higher school funding for younger children, infrastructure investment and political reform.

Clegg’s opposition to replacing the Trident nuclear weapons system may leave him open to attack from those who suggest he would jeopardize the country’s security.

His former enthusiasm for Britain’s entry into the euro single currency proved unpopular among those who want to retain national financial independence.

Clegg’s wife joined him on the final stage of the campaign trail and he has become accustomed to photographers and journalists staking out his smart London home.

He rarely mentions his children, only succumbing during the election campaign when his three sons were stranded with family in Spain after flight disruptions caused by an ash cloud spewing from a volcano in Icdeland.

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Clegg takes Lib Dems back into power after decades