Clegg accused of shrugging off domestic violence over Nigella snaps
NICK Clegg was accused of dismissing violence against women yesterday after he failed to condemn Charles Saatchi's assault on Nigella Lawson.
Mr Saatchi accepted a police caution for assault after photographs showed him with his hand around the throat of Ms Lawson, his wife, as they dined at Scott's in Mayfair.
Britain's deputy prime minister faced heavy criticism after he said he was unable to comment on the pictures because he did not know "whether that was just a fleeting thing".
Speaking during his weekly phone-in programme on LBC Radio, Mr Clegg was asked what his reaction would have been if he had witnessed the incident.
He said: "I just don't know. There was this one photograph, I don't know whether that was just a fleeting thing . . . or . . . I'm at a loss to be able to put myself into that position without knowing exactly . . . "
Mr Clegg said he had not seen all the images of the assault. He added: "You're asking me to comment on photographs that everyone has seen in the papers . . . I don't know whether that was a fleeting moment so I'd rather not comment . . .
"If you're asking me a more general question, if you're sitting next to people in a restaurant who start, particularly if someone is much stronger, let's say, not always, but let's say if a man is much stronger than the woman, is physically threatening a woman, then I hope everyone's instincts would be . . . to try and protect the weaker person."
His comments were immediately seized upon by campaigners and MPs. David Cameron's official spokesman said "domestic violence should be condemned in the strongest terms".
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said Mr Clegg's comments showed "how little he understands violence against women".
Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat president, said that "all of us have got to be careful with our language".
Mr Clegg issued a statement later to clarify his views. He said: "I completely condemn all forms of domestic violence."
Ms Lawson (53) was in tears after her husband held her by the neck during the row at Scott's, where they went on June 9 to celebrate Mr Saatchi's 70th birthday.
Mr Saatchi, an advertising mogul, later accepted a police caution for assault.
On Wednesday Ms Lawson was seen sitting alone at a cafe without her wedding ring. (© Daily Telegraph, London)