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Lib Dem leader praises 'celeb MPs'

PUBLISHED: 16:12 04 June 2009 | UPDATED: 16:14 07 September 2010

Susanna Wilkey LIBERAL Democrat leader Nick Clegg has praised independents Esther Rantzen and Martin Bell for wanting to change politics by running for parliament but says they won t be able to achieve much alone. The MP visited Kingsgate Community Centre

Susanna Wilkey

LIBERAL Democrat leader Nick Clegg has praised independents Esther Rantzen and Martin Bell for wanting to change politics by running for parliament but says they won't be able to achieve much alone.

The MP visited Kingsgate Community Centre in Kilburn on Tuesday to meet parents and toddlers ahead of today's European elections.

He said: "I think it is great that anyone wants to change politics and I have campaigned all my life to open up politics and make sure it is not a stitch up.

"I welcome any new voices although I am not bluntly sure that independents could do very much by turning up on their own."

Hampstead resident Esther Rantzen is still deciding on whether she will stand as an MP for Luton South.

She planned to run against disgraced Margaret Moran but Ms Moran's resignation means the That's Life presenter is thinking again.

However, she isn't the only Hampstead resident calling for reform amid the political scandal.

Mr Clegg put forward his support for a group of dignitaries, including Richard Wilson, Susie Orbach and Jonathan Pryce, who last week called for a complete overhaul of our electoral system because of the scandal.

"I welcome anyone who comes together to call for a change in the electoral system," Mr Clegg said.

"It is something we have been calling for for several years and the reason is very simple. Under the current system you have hundreds of Labour and Conservative MPs who can take people for granted, who can ignore people and know they will get re-elected.

"They all have jobs for life but they are supposed to be accountable. The current system breeds arrogance and corruption and we need to fix expenses and clear up this murky business."

His comments come as news emerged that former Camden councillor Lord Clarke of Hampstead, 77, had claimed expenses to which he was not entitled.

The peer and former chairman of the Labour party, who lives in St Albans, admitted claiming £18,000 a year for staying overnight in London when he either stayed with friends or went home.

He has promised to try to make amends and said the system is in need of serious reform.

Mr Clegg continued: "We need to take this moment to clear up politics from top to bottom. We need to stop the golden goodbyes, reform the House of Lords and give people the right to sack their MPs.

"We also need to stop MPs from taking a great big summer holiday. They should stay in Westminster and knuckle down to some work starting with clearing up politics. A few different faces around the cabinet table do not change anything. We need a completely different set of rules not just new faces."

Mr Clegg's visit comes as a prominent Lib Dem councillor called for reform of the Town Hall in this week's Ham&High. Eco-champion Cllr Alexis Rowell says procedures need to be improved to help the council in the fight against climate change and also criticised his own party leader for not being clear about their direction on the policy.

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