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Clegg: I am more anti-establishment now than when I entered government

March 20, 2015 7:25 AM
By Phoebe Greenwood and Rowena Mason in The Guardian

Nick Clegg (The Guardian)Lib Dem leader makes unexpected claim in a Guardian interview in which he says the way politics works is 'bust' and Westminster is a 'joke'

Nick Clegg has declared he feels more anti-establishment now than he did when he entered government five years ago as deputy prime minister.

The Liberal Democrat leader made the unexpected claim in an interview with the Guardian, in which he said the way politics works is "bust" and described Westminster as a "joke".

Talking of the difference between the Lib Dems and the rise of parties such as the SNP and Ukip, he said it was possible for his party to be anti-establishment without being populist, despite still being part of the government.

"I think wanting to rip the country apart like the SNP or impoverish the country by pulling us out of Europe are quite quite different to saying, as the Liberal Democrats do, that the way in which politics works is bust. Of course it's bust," he said.

"Westminster is a joke. PMQs is a joke. The way all parties, including my own, get into hot water about party funding needs to be cleared up. The fact we've got a democratic system that isn't democratic. We've got a House of Lords that passes laws even though no one votes to get them there. Of course it's ridiculous.

"And curiously enough I am more anti-establishment now than I was because I am infuriated [by these things]."

Clegg has been arguing his party may once again hold the balance of power after the election, potentially rejoining a coalition with the Conservatives or doing a deal with Labour.

However, he cast doubt on the workability of "rainbow coalitions" between a number of parties, saying they would lead to "insomnia" for MPs and instability for the country.

His own leadership may face a challenge if the Lib Dems do not gain enough MPs to be a significant force after the election. The party is now polling neck and neck with the Greens at around 7%-8%, could lose dozens of seats, and Clegg's own personal opinion ratings are very poor.

Asked how he feels about the swing from net positive to negative ratings over the last five years, the deputy prime minister said: "It is what it is. I don't spend too much time ... I'm quite a practical person."

Speculation about possible rivals for the Lib Dem top job grew last week around the time of their spring conference when former president Tim Farron said he would give his party two out of 10 for the way they had handled the coalition.

The Lib Dem leader dismissed the furore around this statement. "Tim is an old friend of mine who I've been speaking to over the last several days and he feels gutted about that. He feels that he's been woefully misreported and feels a great sense of pride in what we've done."

Clegg added: "I hope when I stand down there will be lots of people who will be after my job ... Tim is an incredibly gifted politician and his own intentions he'll have to make clear when the time comes."

Defending his decision to go into coalition, the Lib Dem leader said this was always going to "provoke the wrath of left and right". But he insisted history will judge the party kindly after it takes a "hit in the short term".

Asked for one word to describe some of the Tories he has clashed with in government, Clegg said the home secretary, Theresa May, was hardworking while former education secretary Michael Gove was an interesting character.

He struggled to think of an adjective to encapsulate David Cameron, settling on the phrase that they "found a way of working together".

Clegg's interview is the second in a series the Guardian is conducting with the leaders of the parties in the runup to the election.

Related links:

See the original full inteview at:- The Guardian Leaders Interviews: Nick Clegg