Nick Clegg’s praise for honesty and warmth of city people

IT’S a declaration that will be seen by some as the political equivalent of a goalscorer kissing his shirt badge - but Nick Clegg loves Sheffield.

He loves the people, the parks, the instant access to the Peak District and its cultural heart.

But unlike many of those Match Of The Day mercenaries and their fleeting gestures of loyalty, Nick Clegg insists he has no intention of moving on.

“As long as I’m in politics I will be a Sheffield MP,” said the Deputy Prime Minister at his Hallam constituency office in Nether Green.

“I’m not a born Sheffielder. I moved up from the south and lived in Nottingham for a while. Then like a lot of people who have come to Sheffield I found that I really love this city. I think it’s the greatest city in the country.

“There is a kind of straight forward honesty about people in Sheffield and I think there’s a real warmth about Sheffield that other cities do not have and it’s also a wonderful place to live.

“Within ten minutes of home I can be at Stanage Edge in the Peak Park with my kids. Ten minutes the other way and I can be taking my boys to see one of the best pantos in England - Ecclesall Road traffic permitting.”

Fair points, that’s why most people like living here.

But does Sheffield like him?

“I hope the people of Sheffield understand what we are trying to do,” he said.

“Of course it frustrates me that people I am proud to represent are not happy about what I am doing in their name. But I don’t just hide away. When I’m out and about in Sheffield, plenty of people come up to me and say supportive things.

“I was in a queue in the Co-op on Ecclesall Road buying some stuff on Saturday morning with one of my sons and people were coming up to me saying ‘you’re doing a good job, keep it up’ but they say it in a whisper.

“That shows to me that a lot of people who don’t shout and come to my office to yell at me recognise that we are trying to do a very difficult job and sort out this unholy mess we have inherited from the previous government.

“On a personal level it’s not about me. As long as my kids are safe and happy, as they are, I’m generally pretty resilient. All the recent fuss has not affected my family life too badly,

“Miriam and I have always worked hard to keep our family life as private as possible. We have never displayed our children in public and we try and keep our family life private for the benefit of the children.

“They are very small, nine six and two-year-old little boys and I’m completely besotted by them, I dote on them and Miriam and I are dedicated parents and as long as we have the privacy to do that we are alright. I think Miriam and I have done a passable job as parents as best as we can.

“I’m lucky in a sense that the school they go to, a local state school, which is actually a brilliant school, just wonderful, is a very happy and protective environment.”

For the time being the Clegg family bubble remains intact, but he acknowledges with a wry smile that there may be issues to face.

“They are very young at the moment. I sometimes think that it must be a lot tougher to be in frontline politics partcularly if you are attracting a lot of controversy and especially if you have teenage children.

“I look back on my teenage years and that’s when you are most sensitive about your family and your mum and dad, your whole perspective on your own parents changes as a teenager.

“I’m still in that blissful phase where my children think I’m great because they aren’t old enough to know any different! I’m sure that will change.”

But surely not as quickly or violently as the public perception of him has changed since last May’s general election.

“There is a huge gap between what people are saying about me and what actually happens,” he said.

“It’s part of my job to fill that gap. You have to remember that during the election campaign I was hailed as Churchill and condemned as a Nazi within about 24 hours.

“There is a tendency for people in politics to be built up and then absolutely smashed down with this very wild pendulum swing you get in the media.

“One minute you are a hero and the next minute you are a villain.

“The truth, of course, is somewhere in between.”