How the Cleggs are making a fortune from Brexit: He makes £7k an hour for public speaking. She's paid £500k to advise on EU trade
Nick Clegg, pictured with wife Miriam, has made more than £120,000 from speaking engagements over the past few months
At a private gathering for key Goldman Sachs personnel, the millionaire bankers listened in rapt attention as a leading politician held forth.
Mobile phones were for once switched to silent and no one tapped away at their emails as the financiers drank in every word they were hearing.
But who was this political titan? Barack Obama, maybe, or Xi Jinping, the president of China? Perhaps it was Tony Blair?
Not quite. The man so effortlessly commanding the room was none other than Nick Clegg, erstwhile leader of the Lib Dems and deputy prime minister.
For improbable as it may seem, he has been cashing in on the lucrative City speaking circuit – little wonder George Osborne is so keen to join the gravy train too.
Financiers are prepared to pay handsomely to listen to Clegg, despite the fact he has been catastrophically wrong about everything from Brexit to electoral reform.
Ironically, the fervently pro-EU politician and his equally Europhile Spanish wife – who has just snagged a well-paid post on the board of Swiss bank UBS – are in line to reap enormous personal profits from Brexit.
Although his political career has slithered downwards, Clegg has made more than £120,000 from speaking engagements over the past few months.
It took him just 16 hours and 15 minutes in total – that's the equivalent of two standard eight-hour working days – to pocket the six-figure sum.
Few voters in his Sheffield Hallam constituency would make £120,000 in a year, let alone in a matter of hours.
As well as speechifying, Clegg has turned his hand to writing.
He spent 480 hours, or 60 working days, writing his memoirs Politics: Between The Extremes, which bagged him a £41,000 advance.
Chicken feed compared with Tony Blair's £4.6million, maybe, but still considerably more than the average annual wage in the UK of around £26,500.
Since losing the Lib Dem leadership, he has taken up a role as a commissioner with an organisation called the Global Commission On Drugs Policy, alongside former UN chief Kofi Annan and Sir Richard Branson.
The job is unpaid but perks include all-expenses-paid trips.
These have included a four-day jaunt to New York at an estimated cost of more than £6,500, to participate in a session on drugs policy at the UN.
Waffle: Financiers are prepared to pay handsomely to listen to Clegg, despite the fact he has been catastrophically wrong about everything from Brexit to electoral reform
Clegg also found time to watch the FA Cup Final, courtesy of the Football Association.
Nice work if you can get it. But has this frenetic activity perhaps distracted Clegg from his political duties?
Since the last election, he has only taken part in 28 per cent of Commons votes, one of the worst records of any MP.
He refuses to supply details of exactly how many visits he has made to his Sheffield hinterland, where he has a £700-a-month rented flat.
Expenses records – which only show train fares so would not include trips where he had gone by car – suggest he was there 32 times in the year since the election.
A spokesman claimed that Clegg is 'an assiduous MP' who is in his constituency 'most weeks' but declined to say how many surgeries he had conducted over that time.
C RITICS – and there are many – might say it is a mercy that Clegg keeps his political activities to a minimum, considering the damage he has inflicted on his party.
As one of the most fervent pro-Europeans in Parliament, he called the Brexit debate spectacularly wrong.
It echoed his humiliation in 2011 when the country voted overwhelmingly against his cherished proposals to ditch the first-past-the-post electoral system.
A life of globe-trotting, memoir-writing and lecturing wealthy bankers is, of course, far more glamorous than listening to ordinary people's problems in the Sheffield suburb of Hallam.
As deputy PM he was paid more than £134,000 a year plus expenses – so tumbling down to a backbench MP's salary of just under £75,000 must have hurt the ego and pocket.
But Clegg, recently appointed his party's Brexit spokesman, has been cushioned by the £102,000 he has drawn from a special fund, normally reserved for former prime ministers who leave high office but remain in public life.
Supporters say that his role in the coalition meant he was not a conventional Number Two but was involved in 'collaborative' decision-making.
Not everyone is convinced. Jonathan Isaby, of the TaxPayers' Alliance, criticised the award to Clegg, saying the allowance was meant to help former PMs carry out their public duties, 'not to subsidise a lavish lifestyle for other one-time Cabinet ministers.'
After the election, Clegg signed up with News Presenters Ltd, an agency that represents 'talent', including breakfast TV presenter Susanna Reid and political pundit Andrew Marr.
Some detect a whiff of hypocrisy here, because his speaking payments include £36,660 from Barclays and £22,500 from investment bank Goldman Sachs.
Clegg is on record as having said the public was 'seething' with rage at some banks' misdeeds and wanted to see rule-breakers – which include Barclays and Goldman – brought to book.
But one reason he has been in demand at the banks is his pro-Brussels background.
His £36,660 from Barclays was for speaking on the EU referendum. The engagement, in February, lasted for five and a quarter hours, meaning he earned more than £115 per minute, or nearly £7,000 an hour.
The Goldman gig a few months earlier, where he made a speech and moderated a debate, was more rewarding. Clegg spent two and a half hours with the investment bankers, netting £9,000 per hour.
Next aboard? George Osborne is keen to join the gravy train
He was paid £10,560 for a 30-minute speech and a questions-and-answers session in February with the law firm King and Wood Mallesons.
And there was £22,000 for two hours speaking at an event for the US drinks giant PepsiCo and £30,000 plus flights and accommodation from Frederik Paulsen, a Swedish pharmaceuticals tycoon, for a speech and joining a debate in Geneva.
All these fat fees rolled in prior to the Brexit vote but it is perfectly possible he will continue to be in demand as banks and businesses scramble to formulate new strategies, having wrongly expected the electorate to vote Remain.
In any event, he is not even the main breadwinner Casa Clegg.
That honour goes to his Spanish-born wife Miriam, 48, who prefers to be known professionally by her maiden name of Gonzalez Durantez.
Her earnings from City law firm Dechert, where she is on a reputed £500,000 salary, comfortably outstrip her husband's.
S HE'S also just been appointed a non-executive director of UBS's London arm, and chairman of its audit committee, a part-time post that is likely to pay around £100,000 a year.
Like her husband, she has somehow been able to combine a demanding job with authorship – in her case, a cookery book which was published in the summer.
And as the co-chairman of Dechert's international trade and government regulation practice, Miriam will be dispensing advice to clients on Brexit, likely to cost them £500 an hour upwards. Her earnings ought to keep the Cleggs in paella for the foreseeable future.
Clegg has been genuinely and profoundly shocked by Brexit and bruised by his time as the lesser partner in the Coalition.
Regardless of his dire warnings about Brexit, there is no reason to suppose it will harm his and Miriam's gilded lives one iota.
The Tory Enoch Powell once remarked that all political careers end in failure. Maybe so, but from a financial perspective, Nick Clegg must be one of the most successful failures ever seen in British politics.
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