Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. Q&A
17 May 2017updated 18 May 2017 11:55am

Nick Clegg Q&A: “I loved the idea of living like Stig of the Dump“

The Liberal Democrat politician and former deputy prime minister talks Emmanuel Macron, Prince and Brexit.

By Nick Clegg

What’s your earliest memory?
The turquoise colour of my mum’s dressing gown. At least I assume it was a dressing gown; it was almost exactly 50 years ago.

Who is your hero?
Emmanuel Macron, for saving us from an unimaginably bad fate in Europe. My childhood hero was Stig of the Dump. I got it into my head that I wanted to live not quite like a latter-day caveman, but I loved the idea of living outside – in a dump.

What was the last book that changed your thinking?
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan is the only book I have found so uncomfortable to read that I had to put it down. It made me think hard about the nature of violence and human suffering – but also human generosity.

What politician, past or present, do you look up to?
Jo Grimond has always loomed large in my own perception of British Liberalism. He seems a sort of Romantic figure, who kept British Liberalism alive through some pretty fallow years. And he did so with great dignity and great intellectual panache.

What would be your Mastermind special subject?
The music, life and times of Prince. He promoted such an original and subversive character in modern music. I saw him in concert when he was last in London and he didn’t appear to have aged at all in the quarter-century since I’d last seen him. So it came as an even bigger shock that someone so ageless should suddenly die.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday - from the New Statesman. The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live in?
The 1950s: after great catastrophe, societies have the ability to think in a way that isn’t the case in normal times. Europe’s leaders now wouldn’t have the breadth of vision to do what the founding fathers (and they were largely fathers, I’m afraid) of European integration did in the 1950s. At the moment it’s just a generation of pygmies compared to the big dreamers then.

Content from our partners
What is the point of inheritance tax?
How to win the next election? It's the data, stupid
Businesses must unlock the regional growth agenda

What’s your theme tune?
“The Battle”, from the film Gladiator. In an election campaign you have to clip on your armour, pick up your weapons, and deal with the slings and arrows hurled in your direction.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My mum always taught me to treat everybody, no matter how low they are in the pecking order, kindly and with respect. I no doubt fail to do that in Westminster all the time, but I try.

What single thing would make your life better?
No Brexit. I regard the Brexit vote as a grotesque act of generational theft, telling youngsters they can’t have the future that they themselves have said they want. What mature democracy does that?

If you weren’t a politician what would you be?
David Attenborough. Even if I could make his tea while he explores the world’s natural wonders, that would be something.

When were you happiest?
I’m probably at my happiest in the summer when, with the three boys, Miriam and I go up to the mountains in the north of Spain. You can jump into river pools, with golden eagles wheeling overhead and fish almost within arm’s length.

Are we all doomed?
It depends on what we do on 8 June. I now worry about the future in a way that I’ve never worried before. Some pretty ugly currents have been awakened in politics and we’ve got to relearn the virtues of moderation.

Nick Clegg’s “Politics: Between the Extremes” is published in paperback by Vintage

This article appears in the 17 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Age of Lies