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Nick Clegg: Lib Dem leader in government

By Anna Doble, Channel 4 News

Updated on 11 May 2010

As Nick Clegg takes his place as deputy prime minister in a Tory-Lib Dem coalition government Who Knows Who takes a look at the Lib Dem leader's journey - from schoolboy pranks to power.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg (Reuters)

At 43, Clegg is the same age as David Cameron, but billed as a "fresh" alternative to both the Tory leader and Gordon Brown. So who is Nick Clegg, the "Kingmaker" of the Commons?

A look through the Liberal Democrat leader's CV reveals an interesting range of influences, across the political spectrum.

Born in Buckinghamshire in 1967 to a half-Russian father and Dutch mother, Clegg can speak five languages.

His great-great aunt, on his father's side, was Russian aristrocrat Moura Budberg, a suspected spy. Mistress of science-fiction writer HG Wells, she knew Josef Stalin, whom she once gave an accordion.

Clegg attended Westminster School where he became friends with TV presenter Louis Theroux. The pair later drove across America on a road trip during which Clegg dabbled in transcendental meditation, frequently asking to stop the car so he could "go into a trance."

During his teens, Clegg worked as a ski instructor in Austria and - bizarrely - picked up a conviction for arson when he and a friend set fire to a greenhouse (which contained a rare cactus) in a drunken prank.

The young Clegg then won a place at Cambridge, where he studied not the politician's staple of law or PPE, but archaeology and anthropology at Robinson College. It is claimed he joined the university's Conservative club in 1986, which Clegg has said he "can't remember".

He went to the US after graduation, where he attended the University of Minnesota, followed by a stint as a trainee journalist working for controversial leftwing writer Christopher Hitchens at The Nation magazine in New York.

(Nick Clegg during his successful Lib Dem leadership campaign in 2007 - Reuters)

Nick Clegg's political rise began in the mid-1990s when he began working at the European Commission.

A far cry from the school of Hitchens, during this period Clegg worked as an aide to Margaret Thatcher's former home secretary, Conservative veteran Leon Brittan.

Tipped for great things by former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown, Clegg became an MEP in 2001. He was selected as a parliamentary candidate for Sheffield Hallam in 2004 and won more than 50 per cent of the vote at the 2005 general election.

A quick succession of high-profile roles (home affairs spokesman, Europe spokesman) paved Clegg's route to the Liberal Democrat leadership.

Notably, he was one of 25 Lib Dem MPs who helped bring about Charles Kennedy's resignation by refusing to serve under him after details of the former leader's alcohol problem emerged.

Clegg replaced Sir Menzies Campbell as Liberal Democrat leader in 2007, narrowly beating rival Chris Huhne who now serves Clegg as the party's home affairs spokesman.

Clegg's wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez is the main breadwinner. She is a partner in international law firm DLA Piper, whose senior staff can earn £500,000 a year. The couple have three children, Antonio, Alberto and Miguel.

The Lib Dem leader's showbiz connections go beyond the Theroux family. He once starred opposite Helena Bonham-Carter in a play at Cambridge.

In 2007, Clegg enlisted former Roxy Music keyboardist and ambient producer Brian Eno to advise the Liberal Democrats on "how to appeal to young people".

He is also a friend of Sam Mendes and enjoys listening to David Bowie, Schubert and Prince.

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