POLITICS

Nick Clegg 'Burned' Over Appearance On Channel 4's Sunday Brunch

20/07/2014 14:29 BST | Updated 21/07/2014 12:59 BST

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has been forced to brush off criticism for appearing on a TV cookery programme during the international crises over Ukraine and Gaza.

Clegg came under fire for his appearance on Channel 4's Sunday Brunch, with one Lib Dem activist quoted in the national press as saying: "As the world burned, Nick Clegg cooked."

But the Liberal Democrat leader said the show - during which he drank tequila - gave him an opportunity to reach out to voters.

Asked about his participation at a regular Whitehall press conference, Mr Clegg said: "It's a show which is watched by lots and lots of people, lots of young people.

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Cooking up a media storm: Nick Clegg on Sunday Brunch yesterday

"We talked about Ukraine, we talked about politics, we talked about Government policies.

"I think it's important for politicians to get through to people who care about what is going on in the world as much as anyone else.

"Is the suggestion that people who watch Sunday Brunch don't care about Ukraine? That's not my experience.

"I think it's right to always reach out to people as best we can."

Clegg used the appearance to condemn the House of Commons for being "stuck in the past", claiming people are put off politics by the "farce" of Prime Minister's Questions.

Clegg insisted his party was right to "step up to the plate" to form the coalition Government in 2010, but admitted he had not been prepared for the "vitriolic" attacks against him since taking office.

He indicated that online voting could be a way to "move politics into the 21st century, because a lot of it is stuck in the 19th century".

The casually-dressed Clegg helped hosts Tim Lovejoy and Simon Rimmer cook an avocado cake. The party hoped to gain a boost from having Clegg take part in a show which is not known for its political guests.

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Nick Clegg on Sunday Brunch

Asked about the weekly sessions of Prime Minister's Questions, Clegg said: "I think the whole thing has become a complete farce."

He added: "It might have had its time once but this is a place where you can't call people by their name, you have to call them 'right honourable blah blah blah' or if they have a legal background you have to say 'right honourable, learned', if they are actually in the Army it's even worse, you have to say 'right honourable, learned, gallant'.

"It's just people... shouting at each other, it's a very concentrated, gladiator, sort of spectacle.

"There are some people who might like it, my own view is most normal people - and most normal people don't follow the ins and outs of politics - find the whole thing totally off-putting.

"This is a place, Westminster, where some of the pomp and ceremony is all right but some of it is just so out of date. This is a place which had a 19th-century shooting gallery but didn't have a creche until quite recently.

"That tells you everything you need to know about a place that is still, by my view, far too stuck in the past."

Defending the decision to form the coalition, he said: "You can, if you want, stand on the sidelines and throw stones and feel completely pure and you never have to take a difficult decision, you never have to face a difficult dilemma.

"I actually think if I had done that, if my party had done that, actually you would think 'are we ever going to step up to the plate or not?'.

"I personally think the history books will look back and realise that back then, back in 2010 after those debates and everything, people had to step up to the plate because we needed to clear stuff up."

Clegg brought in empanadas for the hosts and guests, although he acknowledged his Spanish wife Miriam had done most of the cooking.

"I assisted throughout," he said. "I brushed the thing with egg and chopped and diced."

In one of the more unusual questions he has faced on television, Clegg was asked to reveal his favourite vinegar, with balsamic revealed as his condiment of choice.

Nick Clegg on Sunday Brunch