I first met Nick Clegg 11 years ago when he came to Lib Dem Regional Office in Leicester to be interviewed to be a Lib Dem candidate for the East Midlands. As Region Team Leader at the time I was on the interviewing panel.
I guess it was like some political version of the X Factor, except none of the four of us "judges" behind the table were in any way rich or had the prospect of becoming so. Like Cowell, Walsh et al, we knew a good thing when we saw it, though.
I'm not about to divulge too many secrets of that day, but suffice to say that he completely blew us away. It was very clear to us by the end of the interview that at some point he would lead the party. From the little I knew about his background prior to meeting him, I expected a boring Eurocrat. What I got was someone who spoke with warmth, knowledge and authority about everything we asked him.
Of all the Party leaders, Nick is best placed to talk with authority on matters European. He has a decade of direct experience both as a Member of the European Parliament and, crucially, as someone who was sent to negotiate with the Russians and the Chinese on behalf of the EU. He knows that the EU, representing almost half a billion people, carries a lot of weight when it works together. During his time in the Parliament he consistently argued for reforms which would make the EU more democratic, open and accountable - as well as save it money in stopping the ridiculous Strasbourg sessions.
When he tell us that the Tory ideas to isolate the UK within Europe are dangerous, we can be sure that he knows what he is talking about.
Nick has totally got it right on many issues since he became leader - on Gaza, he spoke out against the Israeli action when others were timid about it, he championed the cause of the Gurkhas to be given equal rights to live here and he's been making the running on MP's expenses. As I pointed out the other day, it's the Lib Dems who have been campaigning for years for greater openness and for major reform of the system.
I think it's clear that the country has liked what it has seen of Nick so far and in the next few weeks, people have the opportunity to get to know him a lot better. That can only be a good thing as far as I'm concerned.