UK Politics

Clegg explains 'facial expression dilemma' at PMQs

Nick Clegg and David Cameron during Prime Minister's Questions
Image caption Mr Clegg says he doesn't want people to make 'snap shot' judgements about coalition relations

Nick Clegg says he has given up trying to adopt the right facial expression during Prime Minister's Questions.

The deputy prime minister said he had received "contradictory advice" about whether to smile or grimace.

So he told House magazine he had opted to "basically ignore all the advice and just try to sit and listen".

Mr Clegg also talked about his family, his dislike of political biographies, and his decision to ban his three sons from playing computer games on weekdays

In a wide-ranging interview, the deputy PM said people should not look at coalition relations - or relations between himself and David Cameron - "in a snap shot way".

Huhne case

On Prime Minister's questions, he said: "You would not believe the contradictory advice that I get. 'You should sit here, you should sit there. You should look up to the right, you should look to the left'... I have given up trying to work out what people expect me to do.

"So if I smile, some people say, 'You shouldn't smile - you look as if you're enjoying yourself.' If I grimace they say 'You look terribly sad and unhappy.' So then I try and sort of not smile, but smile.

"So I have basically decided to ignore all the advice and just sit and listen. It's only half an hour a week."

Asked about the future of David Laws - the Lib Dem MP who was forced to resign from the cabinet after only days in 2010 over his expenses - he declined to say whether he was likely to return to the government in a future reshuffle.

"I'm not wildly hierarchical and David certainly isn't.

"It's one of the many things which I like so much about David, he's a sort of an unusual combination of being a politician but actually quite a modest character, which you don't find very often in politics. David is not after status.

"What I would like to see David do is to be close to the centre of power in one shape or form with ideally quite a broad view of government policy because I think he's got an ability to see the connections between policies which is quite unusual."

Novels not biographies

On Lib Dems in the House of Lords - and their rebellions against the government - he said: "Let's be blunt: I am asking, day in day out, Liberal Democrat peers to vote on things that they wouldn't do in a month of Sundays if it was a Liberal Democrat government.

"So I don't think people should judge the Lib Dem peers too harshly. I think they should be judged on what is finally decided.

"So, for instance, on the health bill, I frankly am incredibly grateful that people like Shirley Williams dug her heels in on the health bill because it's a whole lot better than it would have been otherwise."

Mr Clegg said he wound down each night reading a novel and his current was Jonathan Freedland's book, Sam Bourne: Pantheon.

"I have, I'm afraid, an unhealthy disinterest in political biographies, especially autobiographies where politicians say 'I was great, I was wot done it'," he said.

Asked for advice on raising three boys, he said: "I have no tips to give because I fail on every single argument [with the children].

"[But] I've got quite disciplinarian about no computer games during the week at all. So I kind of won that battle after months of attrition. But they can watch a bit of telly in the evening before going to bed."