'Politicians need to humanise themselves,' says Clegg

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Indy Politics

Nick Clegg vowed to take paternity leave when his third child is born as he warned that politicians had to make greater efforts to "humanise" themselves.

He said: "If I'm given a choice between spending an evening in a Westminster bar with other politicians or reading a book to my children, it's a no-brainer."

The Liberal Democrat leader added: "We are mothers and fathers before we are politicians. We've got a long way to humanise British politics."

His wife, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, is expecting the couple's third child in mid-February. They already have two sons – Antonio, six, and Alberto, four. Mr Clegg took paternity leave after each was born. He said it was very difficult to combine parenthood with Westminster. "It can never be utterly compatible because politics is such a brutally un-family-friendly vocation."

Mr Clegg told a question-and-answer session at the party's conference: "I'm lucky. Miriam works full time and we divide parental chores evenly. Like all young parents you're constantly knackered, constantly slightly guilty because you don't think you have got the balance right."

He told the session, chaired by The Independent's chief political commentator Steve Richards, that the physical demands of leadership were the most surprising aspect of the position he won last December.

"It's a very physical job – you are constantly on the move, constantly on display, performing."

He rejected suggestions that he was presenting "Cameron-lite" policies with a swingeing attack on the Tory leader. He said Mr Cameron had been "infantile" for heading to Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, for a photo-shoot during last month's stand-off with Russia and suggesting UK troops could be sent in.

Mr Clegg said: "David Cameron, despite all the warm words, is an Atlanticist, a neo-Conservative ... He says he cares about families and yet his only tax cut is for the rich. Come the general election, I genuinely believe the British people don't think it is right to hand the keys to Number 10 to someone who doesn't actually say what they will do."