Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

The truth about those smears against Nick Clegg

Claim: Liberal Democrat donors paid up to £250 a month into Nick Clegg's personal bank account (The Daily Telegraph, yesterday).

Truth: Despite the front page headline Mr Clegg did not break any parliamentary rules, and the cash – which the party said helped pay for a researcher in Mr Clegg's office – was declared in the Commons register of members' interests. The Daily Telegraph says he made separate claims under his office allowances budget to cover staffing. The Liberal Democrats say the story is "wrong in fact" and have produced paperwork to back up their assertion.



Claim: Clegg lobbied for "lax" EU bank laws (The Daily Telegraph, yesterday).



Truth: Before becoming an MP, Mr Clegg had a brief spell as a lobbyist for GPlus. Its clients included the Royal Bank of Scotland, which was attempting to amend EU directives. Mr Clegg did work on the RBS account, but did not lobby "externally" on its behalf. GPlus said last night that Mr Clegg worked for it two days a week for about eight and a half months.



Claim: Clegg made a "Nazi slur on Britain" and said the British have a "more insidious cross to bear" than Germans over the Second World War (Daily Mail, yesterday).



Truth: The comments were made in a newspaper article by Mr Clegg in 2002 when he was a Euro MP. Written after two Germans working in a call centre in Swindon went to an industrial tribunal to protest about the abuse they suffered, it argued the British still laboured from "anti-German mania". He concluded: "All nations have a cross to bear, and none more so than Germany with its memories of Nazism. But the British cross is more insidious still. A misplaced sense of superiority, sustained by delusions of grandeur and a tenacious obsession with the last war, is much harder to shake off."



Claim: "Clegg refused to return a £2.4m donation to the party from convicted fraudster Michael Brown" (The Sun, Tuesday).



Truth: Brown's donations in 2004 – the biggest in the party's history – have hung over the Liberal Democrats for years. First, there were questions whether Brown's company, 5th Avenue Partners, was a genuine UK business. Then in 2008 Brown was charged with fraud and money-laundering and fled bail. He was convicted in his absence and sentenced to seven years in jail. Despite the conviction, the Electoral Commission has concluded the donations were permissible because the firm "was carrying on business in the UK" at the time and the Liberal Democrats had no need to return the money.



Claim: The Liberal Democrats have "flip-flopped shamelessly" on Afghanistan (The Sun, yesterday).



Truth: This is based on a party conference motion last year which said ministers should focus on "concluding the Afghanistan mission" and called on the UK to end the "military first" approach to the country. However, motions passed at party conferences are not binding and the party's foreign affairs spokesman, Ed Davey, told delegates the party supported the war. Its manifesto stops short of setting a timetable for withdrawal and says the Liberal Democrats will be "critical supporters of the Afghanistan mission".



Claim: Britain's security would be risked by Liberal Democrat policy to scrap our Trident nuclear defence (The Sun, yesterday).



Truth: The Liberal Democrats' manifesto does say they would "rule out the like-for-like replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system" to save £100m. However, they also say they are multilateralist, not unilateralist. Former leader Sir Menzies Campbell favours replacing Trident with cheaper, nuclear-tipped cruise missiles which could be stationed on smaller Astute-class subs. This would mean Britain would remain a nuclear power with a seat at the UN Security Council.



Claim: Liberal Democrats' "crazy" immigration policy would give jobs to asylum seekers (Daily Express, yesterday).



Truth: The Liberal Democrats propose an amnesty for failed asylum seekers and illegal immigrants who have been here for 10 years and not committed any crimes. This is controversial because of fears it could encourage illegal immigrants to try their luck in Britain in the hope of triggering a further amnesty in the future. The Liberal Democrats would also introduce a regional points-based system to allow migrants to work only where they are needed. It would be backed up by "rigorous checks on businesses and a crackdown on rogue employers who profit from illegal labour".



Claim: The Liberal Democrats would free 60,000 convicts (Daily Mail, Wednesday).



Truth: The Liberal Democrat manifesto does promise to "introduce a presumption against short-term sentences of less than six months – replaced by rigorously enforced community sentences which evidence shows are better at cutting reoffending". The Daily Mail claimed that in 2008 "no fewer than 58,076 people were sentenced to a prison term of six months or less". The Ministry of Justice said the real figure was 55,333. The Liberal Democrat policy would spare offenders from going into prison; it would not "free" prisoners.



Claim: Clegg is posh (The Sun yesterday).



Truth: His half-Russian banker father sent him to one of Britain's smartest prep schools, Caldicott; he went on to Westminster School and Cambridge. A friend is quoted as saying: "His father was an incredibly wealthy banker with loads of houses – in London, in the Chilterns, a French chateau, a ski chalet in Switzerland... I think." So true – but then so is David Cameron.

Independent



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