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Ex-Lib Dem leader Sir Nick Clegg lands top role with Facebook

Sir Nick Clegg will start at Facebook on Monday. Credit: PA

Former deputy prime minister Sir Nick Clegg has landed a senior job with global social media giant Facebook and will start on Monday.

In a move that took the UK politics world by surprise, the 51-year-old will start work as vice president, global affairs and communications in just three days time.

It is understood that Sir Nick, who lost his Sheffield Hallam seat at last year’s election, will move permanently to the firm’s Menlo Park headquarters in California’s Silicon Valley with his family in January.

It comes as Mark Zuckerberg seeks to repair the company’s reputation in the face of rows over transparency and the role of “fake news” on the platform following the 2016 EU referendum and the 2017 election of Donald Trump as US President.

It is understood that Mr Zuckerberg was personally involved in hiring Sir Nick, who led the Liberal Democrats from 2007 to 2015, including through five years in the coalition government with the Tories.

He replaces Elliot Schrage, who will remain an adviser to the firm.

Mark Zuckerberg is said to have taken a personal role in hiring the former deputy prime minister Credit: PA

Sir Nick is the most senior politician from Europe to work for Facebook and in a statement on his Facebook page he said he was looking forward to "an exciting new adventure".

He added that the firm and its apps, including Whatsapp and Instagram was "at the heart of some of the most complex and difficult questions we face as a society", over individual privacy, democratic integrity, the balance between free speech and prohibition online, artificial intelligence and the well-being of children.

He went on: "I believe that Facebook must continue to play a role in finding answers to those questions - not by acting alone in Silicon Valley, but by working with people, organisations, governments and regulators around the world to ensure that technology is a force for good.

"I am looking forward to being part of this endeavour."

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The timing of the move to the United States may raise eyebrows after Mr Clegg took a prominent role in the campaign for a second "People's Vote" Brexit referendum.

Addressing this he added: "As someone who has spent a lifetime arguing for Britain's wholehearted commitment to Europe, it is of course a wrench to be leaving the public debate at a crucial time in the Brexit process.

"But the key decisions will soon pass to Parliament, of which I am no longer a Member, and once I had decided to take up this unique new challenge at Facebook, I felt it was best to get going sooner rather than later."

The new position involves relocating to California and Mr Clegg’s wife Miriam Gonzalez Fernandez spoke to ITV News recently about how the Brexit vote changed people’s perception of the United Kingdom.

“It was very difficult not to feel that for some people it wasn't just: ”we don't want to be with you“, it was more that ”we are not like you“ or probably even ”we are better than you“.

“For me, and what I really hope - I've lived in London now for 30 years now - I think this city is something else, there is nothing like this in the world, so y'know - London it not yours. We all make London - right - all that diversity and people who come from abroad. So, whatever you do with Brexit, at least preserve what you have in this city.”

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, said Sir Nick was "a thoughtful and gifted leader" who "understands deeply the responsibilities we have to people who use our service around the world".

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In a Facebook post she said: "Every day people use our apps to connect with family and friends and make a difference in their communities.

"If we can honor (sic) the trust they put in us and live up to our responsibilities, we can help more people use technology to do good.

"That's what motivates our teams and from all my conversations with Nick, it's clear that he believes in this as well.

"His experience and ability to work through complex issues will be invaluable in the years to come."

Labour said Sir Nick's appointment was a 'damning indictment of the sorry state of our country's politics;. Credit: PA

Labour's shadow cabinet office minister Jon Trickett said: "It is a damning indictment of the sorry state of our country's politics that, at a time when digital giants such as Facebook are rightly coming under public scrutiny, our former Deputy Prime Minister has been hired to lobby on their behalf.

"Labour is committed to slamming shut the revolving door between politics and big business, which for too long has corroded public trust in politics."