Clegg in vow over Lib Dem 'soul'
Published 13/03/2011 | 13:32
Nick Clegg has promised to protect the "soul" of the Liberal Democrats after activists vented their anger over key coalition policies.
The Deputy Prime Minister admitted that the alliance with the Tories meant the party was being forced to back "decisions which aren't exactly the ones we would make on our own".
But he attempted to soothe anxious rank-and-file by insisting the party was not losing its identity in government - adding: "I haven't changed one bit."
Mr Clegg delivered the impassioned defence of his leadership in a 40-minute speech closing the Lib Dems' spring conference.
The gathering in Sheffield has overwhelmingly condemned radical plans for shaking up the NHS and reforming bank regulation. There has also been heavy criticism of the decision to U-turn on tuition fee hikes.
But despite the difficulties, Mr Clegg said it would have been wrong for the Lib Dems to cling to the "comfort blanket of opposition" - stressing achievements in securing tax cuts for the poorest, stronger civil liberties, and a referendum on the Alternative Vote.
Referring to reports that a criminal plot against him had led police to throw a £2 million 'ring of steel' around the conference, he joked that David Cameron had not "kidnapped me".
"My life may have changed a fair bit since the last election. But I haven't changed one bit," he said.
"We all know that we did not take the easy path last May. But we did take the right path.
"Yes, being in government with the problems we inherited is hard. And being in coalition with another party is not always easy either."