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Meet the candidates for prime minister

Nick Clegg, Liberal DemocratNick Clegg, Liberal Democrat

Leader since: 2007
Age: 43
Career before politics: Journalist, aid worker, ski instructor
Family: Miriam Gonzalez Durantez (wife), three sons
Education: Cambridge University, University of Minnesota
Facebook fans: 47,090

Obama-like qualities: Clegg, who flew largely under the radar as observers crowned Cameron “the next prime minister,” delivered a dazzling performance in the campaign’s first televised debate, and has since been catapulted to the front of the field. His rise from relative obscurity to national phenomenon has been compared to that of Obama, as have his youth and telegenic looks. Clegg also has multicultural roots — his father was half-Russian and his mother Dutch — prompting some critics to question his British identity. Past comments denouncing the U.K.’s “misplaced sense of superiority” have also come back to haunt Clegg, further fueling accusations that he is insufficiently patriotic. Like Obama, Clegg has railed against the “tired old politics” of the two-party system and promised “real change” if elected.

Famous gaffe: Upon becoming leader of the Liberal Democrats in 2007, Clegg declared in an interview with the BBC that he did not believe in God, stirring controversy in the British press. He later described himself as “not an active believer,” but said he was raising his three sons as Roman Catholics.

Youthful indiscretion: As if spending his college years as a dashing young ski instructor wasn’t incriminating enough, Clegg has admitted to drunkenly burning down the cactus farm of a college professor as an exchange student in Germany. The stunt earned Clegg a mandatory stint of community service digging gardens. But some critics have now questioned the veracity of Clegg’s account, accusing him of embellishing the story to endear himself to voters. The professor who owned the cacti farm told a British newspaper that Clegg had merely “singed” several plants, rather than burning down the entire greenhouse. Clegg has laughed off the controversy, and it doesn’t seem to have damaged his standing in the polls.

Related story: Why does the world care about the British elections?

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