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Clegg quizzed by students
NICK Clegg denied feeling any bitterness towards Chris Huhne during the Lib Dem leadership election race last year.
The Lib Dem leader, speaking during his first visit to Eastleigh this afternoon (January 24) said there was nothing that needed patching up between him and the Eastleigh MP.
During the contest, which Mr Clegg won by a margin of 1.2 per cent of the votes, a row developed after one of Mr Huhne's campaign team dubbed Mr Clegg "Calamity Clegg".
After today's question and answer session with students at Barton Peveril College, Mr Clegg told the Chronicle: "We've known each other for years. In politics you take the rough with the smooth."
During the session with around 400 students packed into a lecture theatre at the sixth form college, the body language between the two men provided little evidence of a Blair-Brown rivalry.
Asked by one student about Lib Dem policies towards young people, the two politicians laughed together when Mr Clegg gave his age as 41, adding: "And Chris is a little bit older."
Mr Clegg said he knew Winchester well because one of his brothers, Paul, lives in Littleton. "It's a picture postcard village."
He hopes to more than double the number of Lib Dem seats in the Commons over the next two elections and, over coffee and a biscuit with our reporter, took a swipe at Gordon Brown. "He's proving to be a very indecisive prime minister."
On the current world financial turmoil, he said Mr Huhne and other leading Lib Dems had been warning for three years that an economic storm was brewing over too much money being lent to people who could not afford to pay it back.
And he slammed the Conservative front bench team: "Some Tories are students in economics, compared to some of the experts we've got."
Questions from Barton Peveril students ranged from drugs to immigration, and from police pay to proportional representation.
One student told Mr Clegg that his father considered politicians to be "slimy".
The Lib Dem leader, who was followed on the visit by a pack of camera crews and reporters, replied that it was a relentless life being a politician. He told the student: "People don't say that about politicians they know. The general image is very negative but the personal experience is more positive."
Asked about the voting age, Mr Clegg agreed it should be lowered to16, though a show of hands suggested large numbers of students wanted it kept at 18, or even raised to 21.
There was no stopping the party leader when one student asked what set the Lib Dems apart from the two major parties. Policies on Iraq and global warming showed the Lib Dems were ahead of the pack, he said. "And we're steadfast in protecting, rather than trashing, our civil liberties."
*Were you at the event? What do you think of Mr Clegg? Add your comments below.