A relative unknown until a few weeks ago, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has made his mark on the UK’s political landscape.
Aged just 43, the telegenic, multi-lingual father-of-three is the youngest of the three main candidates for the prime minister’s job. Clegg’s pugnacious performances during televised debates with his two rivals gave him the lead in many opinion polls.
If Clegg can convert that public support into votes the Lib-Dems could emerge as parliamentary kingmakers. Even if an outright victory is beyond his reach Clegg has already rattled the country’s political equilibrium.
All the evidence points to Clegg benefitting from the MPs expenses scandal which has tainted both the government and the Tory opposition.
Clegg promotes himself as a thoroughly modern politician unafraid to talk about his sex life or to admit that he is not an “active believer” in God.
The son of a half Russian father and a Dutch mother, he is a former journalist, who switched to politics and took up a post in the European Commission, working on aid programmes.
He was elected an MEP in 1999 and co-founded the Campaign for Parliamentary Reform, which led calls for a clampdown on expenses and transparency and accountability in the European Parliament.
Those values count for something with Westminster still reeling from sleaze allegations.
Clegg became a member of the UK parliament for Sheffield Hallam in 2005 and has been a thorn in the side of the government ever since.
Clegg’s glamorous wife Miriam is an independent woman, a high-flying lawyer whose presence on the campaign trail can only improve his chances of breaking through to the political big-time.
As Nick Clegg’s star continues to rise, the odds on the Liberal Democrats winning an unlikely “overall majority” continue to shorten.