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Nick Clegg throws a wrench in Britain's prime minister race

The leader of the minor-party Liberal Democrats has soared in popularity after recent televised debates. A traditionally two-horse race is suddenly unpredictable.

April 27, 2010|By Henry Chu | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

And despite criticizing both Labor and Conservative governments for their obsequious cultivation of the "special relationship" between London and Washington, Clegg speaks enthusiastically about the time he spent as a graduate student at the University of Minnesota. In a recent questionnaire, he even described his ideal place to live as "by a lake, somewhere in northwest America," while Brown and Cameron dutifully chose Scotland and England, respectively. Clegg's party has benefited from its stance against the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The Liberal Democrats have also come off the least badly of the three main parties in a scandal over the abuse of expense accounts by members of Parliament. But now that Clegg's star is on the rise, Britain's tabloid wolfhounds have begun braying.

A statement he allegedly made about British "delusions of grandeur" over having helped defeat the Nazis was an "astonishing attack on our national pride," the chauvinistic Daily Mail wrote.

The Sun published some debate-prep notes left in a taxi by one of Clegg's aides, who advised his boss to follow Cameron's example of talking "in the language of values" and to characterize Brown as "weird."

The final debate will focus on the economy, which voters have identified as the most important issue facing the nation. Many of the viewers will tune in to watch the man whose candidacy has made this the most unpredictable race in years. "The country is unaccustomed to elections like this," columnist Philip Stephens declared in the Financial Times. "No one knows what is going to happen next."

henry.chu@latimes.com

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