Our Deputy PM does not seem to enjoy being reminded that when he was younger he was convicted of arson himself.... (at around 5 minutes into the interview)
The following is from a Daily Mail article (I know I don't usually source info from that rag but this time....)
Oh, the cactus,' he says, placing his head in his hands for a moment, then rubbing his face. 'I just behaved very, very badly. I was on an exchange in Germany and I drank far, far, far too much. I was a teenager. I lost it, really.'
Lost it? He does seem genuinely agitated. 'What I mean is I was drunk...' Yes, he said that. What on? 'They had this beer brewed in monasteries near Munich. Kloster Andechs. Unbelievably strong. Which clearly I couldn't take.'
Clegg was 16 years old, a public schoolboy abroad. So what happened? 'Yeah... I, erm, I was at a party and I drifted into a greenhouse with a friend, saw it was full of cacti and lit a match to find our way, as there were no lights on. The flame accidentally touched one of the cacti, which glowed rather beautifully.'
Was it an accident, then? He looks at me. Only at first, it seems. 'We did that to a fair number of the cacti. Not really knowing what we'd done.'
I can't help but laugh, at the story and the look on his face, but he objects. He treated this like a joke when, cleverly, he made it public at a fringe meeting in 2007, before the leadership election. He doesn't think it's so funny now. 'No, it's not... I mean, genuinely.It was the leading collection of cacti in Germany.'
The greenhouse belonged to a professor of botany whose life's work had been to gather and nurture exotic specimens from all over the world. 'He'd been to the jungles of Brazil and stuff to find these cacti.'
The boys weren't arrested, because they ran away. 'We didn't know what we were doing. We were teenagers, we'd drunk too much - frankly, we did behave appallingly, irresponsibly, criminally. Next morning, one of the organisers of the exchange rang me up and said, "We know you did this." I came clean.'