Clegg gives ‘highly personal’ leader’s speech
British deputy prime minister says his views forged by family trauma
British deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg delivers his key-note speech to delegates at the end of the Liberal Democrat Autumn Party Conference in Glasgow: Photograph: Getty Images
Nick Clegg revealed how his family history shaped his political views and priorities for Government in a highly personal leader’s speech.
His address to the Liberal Democrat conference reflected on his own “privileged” background and his desire to live a normal family life away from the Westminster spotlight, indicating that he “won’t be in politics forever”.
Mr Clegg highlighted the political achievements of his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez’s father, and his own increased focus on education and social mobility as a result of having three sons.
In a speech billed by aides as his most personal yet, the British deputy prime minister said he was determined that Westminster would not take over his family life in Putney, south west London.
He said: “Miriam and I chose not to live behind the Government battlements in Whitehall, so we live in the same home we’ve been in for some years.
“We try very hard to keep our family life normal and private - we keep our children away from the cameras. We don’t pretend we’re a model family - we are who we are. We try to make sure that Westminster doesn’t take over our lives.
“I know I won’t be in politics forever. What I will be is a father, a husband, a son, an uncle to all those I love in my family for good - just like anyone else.”
Mr Clegg’s mother, Hermance van den Wall Bake, was born under Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia and was interned by the Japanese during the Second World War and his father, Nicholas, was the son of a Russian immigrant mother.
The Lib Dem leader said: “My upbringing was privileged: home counties; private school; Cambridge University. I had a lot of opportunities. But I also had two parents who were determined that my brothers, my sister and I knew how lucky we were. On both sides, their families had experienced huge upheavals.
“My Dutch mother had spent much of her childhood in a prisoner of war camp. My dad’s Russian mother had come to England after her family lost everything in the Russian Revolution. So our home was full of different languages, relatives with different backgrounds, people with different views, music and books from different places.
“And my mother and father always told us that people’s fortunes can turn quickly - that good fortune should never be assumed and misfortune can occur suddenly, without warning.