Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Clegg: Lib Dems still formidable

Nick Clegg said the Liberal Democrats will remain a 'formidable political force in the future'

The Liberal Democrats will remain a "formidable political force in the future" despite their humiliation in last week's elections, party leader Nick Clegg has insisted.

The Deputy Prime Minister dismissed predictions that his party faces being marginalised as a result of its participation in coalition government, insisting that it will go into the 2015 general election with a "unique" offer of social fairness and economic credibility which will appeal to millions of voters.

And he signalled a new approach to the partnership with Conservatives as the coalition enters its second year, saying: "We will stand together, but not so closely that we stand in each other's shadow."

Mr Clegg will use a speech in London marking the first anniversary of the creation of the coalition to send a message to activists and supporters not to be disheartened by last week's drubbing in the polls.

He will accept that his party took "a hard knock" on Thursday, but will insist that the Lib Dems have been "punching well above our weight" within the coalition Government and will succeed in making Britain "a more liberal country" by 2015

In the coming months and years, he and fellow ministers will be more assertive and more ready to blow their own trumpets on policy successes, in order to "make the Liberal Democrat imprint and influence more visible", he will say.

But he will say that this will be done without threatening the stability of the Government, making clear he wants to avoid "tit-for-tat government" and the kind of rows that blighted the Blair/Brown administrations.

He will defend the decision to go into coalition, insisting that it has resulted in "a durable, stable Government", in which his party has secured many of its policy goals.

Setting out how the tone of Government can be expected to change, Mr Clegg will say: "In the next phase of the coalition, both partners will be able to be clearer in their identities, but equally clear about the need to support Government and government policy.

"We will stand together, but not so closely that we stand in each other's shadow. You will see a strong liberal identity in a strong coalition government. You might even call it muscular liberalism."