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Clegg warning on new Tory coalition

Published 02/05/2015

Ed Miliband gives a speech at Gloucestershire Cricket Club in Bristol while on the General Election campaign trail
Ed Miliband gives a speech at Gloucestershire Cricket Club in Bristol while on the General Election campaign trail

Nick Clegg has issued a warning that he is not prepared to tear the Liberal Democrats apart in order to enter into a second coalition with the Conservatives.

The Deputy Prime Minster said it would be a "disaster" if the party split under the pressure to support a Tory government in another hung parliament.

His comments came as another clutch of opinion polls showed the Conservatives and Labour vying almost neck-and-neck with neither likely to be able to form a majority government after the election on Thursday.

In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, Mr Clegg said that in such circumstances there would be a "strong sense of national duty" for his party to act in the interest of the country as a whole.

But he made clear that did not mean joining the Conservatives in a second coalition at any price - even if they were the most obvious option on the table.

"When we're subjected to a great deal of pressure, as I've discovered all parties do going into a coalition - what happened then was that previous Liberal parties split and that's when pressure turned into disaster," he said.

"And every single day of my leadership I have always said the one thing I will never, ever do as a leader is allow my party to split ... I would never have the party go into a coalition government against its own collective will.

"I will not go against the collective will of my party. You can't weather all the pressures, you can't hang tough, you can't stay the course unless you've taken a collective decision.

"At all levels of the party, including the leader, there is wariness, of course there is."

His comments come amid reports of deep misgivings among many Lib Dems over the prospect of a second pact with the Tories - particularly as David Cameron is committed to a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union which they bitterly oppose.

Mr Clegg acknowledged the party had paid a high price for joining the Conservatives in government after the last general election in 2010 but said that did not mean there should be a "fatwa" against future coalitions.

"I'm really proud of what we've done but it's come at some cost. We've lost councillors, dear old friends of mine who've lost their seats through no fault of their own. I'm not some rogue, I'm a human being," he said.

"Of course you are wary, but in the end I would say to you don't under-estimate the strong sense of national duty the Liberal Democrats have to do the right thing for the country if there's no clear majority.

"So wariness, yes, which is a good thing, but we're not going to impose a fatwa against a coalition because we believe in plural politics. It doesn't mean we should always be in coalition, we should never, ever, as a party seek or long for power for our sake, of course not."

In the latest opinion polls, ComRes for The Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror puts Labour and the Conservatives level pegging on 33% with Ukip on 13%, the Lib Dems on 8% and the Greens on 75.

Opinium for The Observer also has the two biggest parties almost neck-and-neck with the Tories on 35% and Labour on 34% with Ukip on 13%, the Lib Dems down on 8% and the on 5%.

In the The Sunday Times, YouGov has the Tories on 34%, Labour on 33%, Ukip on 13%, the Liberal Democrats on 8% and the Greens on 5%.

Survation in The Mail On Sunday has Labour on 34%, three points ahead of the Conservatives on 31% with Ukip on 17%, the Lib Dems 8% and the Greens 4%.

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