Not a Kellogg's family. Photo: Getty
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Miriam González Durántez hits out at the "victim complex" of politicians and their families in the public eye

The international trade lawyer and wife of the Deputy Prime Minister discusses election campaign scrutiny, defending her husband's record, and protecting her family from the public eye.

Miriam González Durántez, the international trade lawyer and wife of Nick Clegg, has done a live webchat with Mumsnet. In it, she speaks frankly about family life during the election campaign and her experience as a politician's wife.

Her strongest words were aimed at those politicians painting themselves as victims of media scrutiny:

Having been married to Nick, the Deputy Prime Minister of this country for the last five years, and seeing British politics so close-by has been a privilege. I do not agree 'at all' with the victim complex that seems to be applied recently to some politicians and their families. If there are difficult times we deal with them together as a family, as I suppose most families do. But I can guarantee you that most of what families of politicians go through is nothing in comparison to the issues that other families have to deal with.

But probably the most exciting revelation, which she feared would land her in trouble with Lib Dem press officers – "when my husband's advisers learn this they are going to freak out!" – was her recipe blog. She has been teaching her children (three sons called Antonio, Alberto and Miguel) to cook, and running a food blog with them for three years called "Mum and Sons".

Yet in spite of what sounds like quite an idyllic homelife, González Durántez won't be forced to portray a certain image of her life with her husband for political purposes:

I have always accepted public scrutiny provided I am not asked to pretend we are a Kellogs family, because we are not one. 

She and Clegg have indeed been quite reticent about making their private life public, never releasing pictures of their children, and generally protecting them from the press. As a Spanish citizen, González Durántez can't even vote for her husband in the general election.

However, she did appear recently (as the other two main party leaders' wives have done) in an interview set in their kitchen. She's also been out campaigning with some of the women running for Lib Dem seats, and hinted at political aspirations of her own during her Mumsnet chat:

I cannot even vote in this country, so there is no chance I could be a candidate. Though I would tell you this; I would have given my right arm to have been able to do for my country what Nick has done for his. 

As well as cooking, González Durántez filled us in on her television preferences. In terms of courtroom dramas, she enjoys The Good Wife more than Suits (joking that by "Daily Mail standards she would be the Bad Wife!"), and would have preferred a different actor playing her husband in Channel 4's recent film about the coalition: "I only watched the end . . . and still think George Clooney would have been a so much better fictional husband!"

I've yet to hear back from the actor who played Clegg, Bertie Carvel, for comment...

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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