I'm human, not a punchbag, pleads Clegg

The strain of 11 months in government is starting to show on Nick Clegg, who has pleaded that he is a "human being", not a "punchbag".

In an interview with his old friend Jemina Khan, the Liberal Democrat leader gave away more of his true feelings than was probably wise for a Deputy Prime Minister. "I'm a human being, I'm not a punchbag – I've got feelings," he said. "I increasingly see these images of me, cardboard cutouts that get ever more outlandish. If you wake up every morning worrying about what's in the press, you would go completely and utterly potty."

Mr Clegg also expressed concern about the effect his unpopularity was having on his family. He said: "What I am doing in my work impacts on them emotionally, because my nine-year-old is starting to sense things and I'm having to explain things. Like he asks, 'Why are the students angry with you, Papa?'."

In the interview for The New Statesman, Mr Clegg denied he had become "mates" with David Cameron. When asked about the Prime Minister's socialising with the head of News International, Rebekah Brooks, he added: "I don't know anything about Oxfordshire dinner parties. I'm assuming that they weren't sitting there talking about News International issues. Look, you're putting me in a very awkward spot. If you've got an issue with it, speak to Dave. I don't hang out in Oxfordshire at dinner parties. It's not my world. It's never going to be my world."

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