Nicholas William Peter Clegg (born 7 January 1967), known as Nick Clegg, is the British Member of Parliament for Sheffield Hallam and, since 18 December 2007, leader of the Liberal Democrats. He was appointed to the Privy Council on 30 January 2008 and affirmed his membership on 12 March 2008.
His Dutch mother Hermance van den Wall Bake was a teacher of children with special educational needs who, as a girl had been interned with her family by the Japanese in Batavia (Jakarta) in the Dutch East Indies. He was brought up bilingually in Dutch and English and also speaks French, German and Spanish.
He attended Robinson College, Cambridge, after spending a gap year as a ski instructor in Austria and as an office junior in a Helsinki bank. At Cambridge, Clegg studied Archaeology and Anthropology. He was active in the student theatre, captain of the college tennis team, and campaigned for Survival International, protecting the rights of threatened indigenous peoples.
After university he was awarded a scholarship to study at the University of Minnesota for a year, where he wrote a thesis on the political philosophy of the Deep Green movement. He then moved to New York, where he worked as an intern under Christopher Hitchens at The Nation, a left wing magazine.
Clegg next moved to Brussels, where he worked for six months as a trainee in the G24 Co-ordination Unit, which delivered aid to the countries of the former Soviet Union. After the internship he took a second Master's degree at the College of Europe in Bruges, where he met his wife, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, whose father, José Antonio Gonzalez Caviedes, was a member of the Spanish Senate representing the Partido Popular.
In April 1994 he took up a post at the European Commission, working in the TACIS aid programme to the former Soviet Union. For two years he was responsible for developing direct aid programmes, worth €50 million, in central Asia and the Caucasus. He was involved in negotiations with Russia on airline overflight rights, and launched a conference in Tashkent in 1993 that founded TRACECA – the Transport Corridor for Europe, the Caucasus and Asia, otherwise known as the 'New Silk Road'. Vice President and Trade Commissioner Leon Brittan then offered Clegg a job in his private office, as a European Union policy adviser and speech writer. As part of this role, Clegg was in charge of the EC negotiating team on Chinese and Russian accession talks to the World Trade Organisation.
On his election in 1999, he was the first Liberal parliamentarian elected in the East Midlands since Ernest Pickering was elected MP for Leicester West in 1931, and was credited with helping to significantly boost the Liberal Democrat poll rating in the region in the six months after his election.
Clegg worked extensively during his time as an MEP to support the party in the region, not least in Chesterfield where Paul Holmes was elected as MP in 2001. He helped persuade Conservative MEP Bill Newton Dunn to defect to the Liberal Democrats; Newton Dunn subsequently succeeded him as MEP for the East Midlands.
As an MEP, Clegg co-founded the Campaign for Parliamentary Reform, which led calls for reforms to expenses, transparency and accountability in the European Parliament. He was made Trade and Industry spokesman for the European Liberal Democrat and Reform group (ELDR), and led on legislation for "local loop unbundling" – opening up telephone networks across Europe to competition. It was the fastest piece of legislation ever to go through the parliament, and the subject of an in-depth BBC Open University documentary on EU decision making.
Clegg campaigned extensively against illegal logging, and wrote a report which advocated that World Trade Organization (WTO) rules should be waived to allow an embargo on illegally logged timber. Clegg worked with fellow MEP Chris Davies on legislation to ban cosmetics tested on animals, pushing the law through despite arguments from the government that it was impossible under WTO rules.
He also worked extensively with Green MEPs on legislation to liberalise the EU's energy sector, arguing that liberalisation was a crucial tool to promote greater energy-efficiency and sustainability. Clegg took a leading role in providing Parliamentary oversight in the ongoing WTO world trade talks and attended WTO summits.
Clegg decided to leave Brussels in 2002, arguing in an article in The Guardian newspaper that the battle to persuade the public of the benefits of Europe was being fought at home, not in Brussels. Clegg's work in the East Midlands included campaigning together with the neighbouring MP Richard Allan, in the Sheffield Hallam constituency. When in November 2004, Allan announced his intention to stand down from parliament, Clegg was selected as the candidate for Sheffield Hallam. He then took up a part time teaching position in the politics department of the University of Sheffield, combining it with ongoing EU consultancy work which he took up after his departure from the European Parliament. He also gave a series of seminar lectures in the International Relations Department of the University of Cambridge.
On his election, Clegg was promoted by leader Charles Kennedy to be the party's spokesperson on Europe, focusing on the party's preparations for an expected referendum on the European constitution and acting as deputy to Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Menzies Campbell. Clegg's ability to articulate liberal values at a very practical level quickly lent him prominence, with many already seeing him as a future Liberal Democrat leader. Following the resignation of Charles Kennedy on 7 January 2006, Clegg was touted as a possible leadership contender. He was quick to rule himself out and to declare his support for Sir Menzies Campbell, who won the ballot.
In Sheffield, Clegg has campaigned on local transport, recycling, housing development and health. He has close links with both of the city's universities and has opposed the closure of local services including fire stations and post offices. Before becoming leader he also served as treasurer and secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Group on National Parks, a particular interest given that his constituency includes part of the Peak District National Park.
He wrote a controversial pamphlet for the Centre for European Reform advocating devolution and evolution of the European Union, and contributed to the 2004 Orange Book, where he offered market liberal solutions for reform of European institutions. He also co-authored a pamphlet with Duncan Brack arguing for a wholesale reform of world trade rules to allow room for a greater emphasis on development, internationally binding environmental treaties, and parliamentary democracy within the WTO system.
Clegg chaired a policy working group for the Liberal Democrats on the Third Age in 2004, which focused on the importance of ending the cliff-edge of retirement and providing greater opportunities for older people to remain active beyond retirement. The group developed initial proposals on transforming post offices to help them survive as community hubs, in particular for older people. He served on Charles Kennedy's policy review, 'Meeting the Challenge', and the 'It's About Freedom' working parties. Clegg also wrote a fortnightly column for Guardian Unlimited for four years while serving as an MEP.
After the resignation of Campbell, Clegg was regarded by much of the media as front-runner in the leadership election. The BBC's Political Editor Nick Robinson stated the election would be a two-horse race between Clegg and Huhne. On Friday 19 October 2007, Clegg launched his bid to become leader of the Liberal Democrats. The campaign was largely good-natured, with Clegg and Huhne clashing over Trident but largely in agreement on many other issues. It was announced on 18 December that he had won.
He recently supported "liberal interventionism", arguing that the "unjustified invasion of Iraq" should not weaken support for this. He expressed that there should be more emphasis on a more humanitarian foreign policy.
Clegg was also a member of the Cambridge University Conservative Association .