Press ignored me, says Nick Clegg

Herald Series: Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg arrives at the Leveson Inquiry into press standards at the Royal Courts of Justice in London Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg arrives at the Leveson Inquiry into press standards at the Royal Courts of Justice in London

Nick Clegg has described how the press "ignored or derided" him and the Liberal Democrats before they entered Government.

The Deputy Prime Minister said that at one dinner party with Rupert Murdoch and News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks in 2009, he had been put at the "very end of the table where the children sit". He also said most of his meetings with editors and proprietors were "fairly humdrum".

The comments came as Mr Clegg gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry.

He said when he became leader of the party in 2008 many senior figures did not "know me from Adam".

Talking about the dinner on December 16, 2009 that he attended with Mr Murdoch, Mrs Brooks and Sunday Times editor John Witherow, Mr Clegg said he was little more than "an observer". "I was at the very end of the table, where the children sit, so to speak," he added.

The following March he had lunch with Sun editor Dominic Mohan, and a "brief" meeting with Mrs Brooks and Mr Murdoch lasting a maximum of 10 minutes.

Mr Clegg also revealed he knew News Corporation lobbyist Fred Michel - whose close contacts with Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt's office sparked controversy - because their children attended the same school.

The Lib Dem leader said his strong performance in the first televised general election leader's debate had sparked a major shift in attitudes towards him and his party. He said newspapers had gone from being "indifferent at best" to "lashing out" after his ratings spiked in the polls.

"If that is what you are used to in the press it must come as a bit of a shock, I guess, when you suddenly have these people who you have been either ignoring or deriding suddenly doing well in a general election, you start lashing out a bit and that is what happened," Mr Clegg said.

Mr Clegg said his contacts with journalists and media executives were more formal since entering Government, partly because he was based in Whitehall rather than Parliament. Discussing his meetings with editors and proprietors, he said he often could not remember what they talked about.

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