Nick Clegg reveals how he reacted to Lib Dems' miserable defeat in the general election

'The first thing I do is reach for a cigarette'

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The Independent Online

Nick Clegg had not had a cigarette for almost two-and-half months after finally kicking the habit earlier this year.

That was until the former deputy prime minister oversaw the Liberal Democrats be virtually wiped out in the House of Commons when it lost 49 of a total 57 seats in the general election.

He recalled finding out his party had lost all but eight seats during his first major broadcast interview since stepping down as the leader of the party. 

“The first thing I do is reach for a cigarette, not having one for two-and-a-half months,” Clegg told LBC host Nick Ferrari. “Miriam and I were together in Sheffield and unlike everyone else I was pretty blind-sided by that ex-poll.

"Initially like everyone else I thought 'that just can't be right'. But I thought even if we get twice what that exit poll says it's a much worse night than we could have expected.

"Very quickly of course I knew I should take responsibility, as you should."

He claimed to have swapped cigarettes for e-cigarettes back in March after a number of failed attempts, telling the Mail Online: "I am off the fags and on the vapes."

Clegg also used his interview to insist he has no regrets over going into the coalition. "I don't regret at all, not for one millisecond, doing the right thing for the country," he said.

"I haven't destroyed the party. Liberalism will survive, the Liberal Democrats will bounce back."

He claimed an early departure from the party as leader would have made no difference to the result. “I obviously would have done if I’d felt at the time that it would have helped the party,” he added. “My own view is that changing leader a year before the election wouldn’t have made much difference.”

Clegg was quick to stress that he has since quit smoking after his (understandable) moment of weakness.