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Clegg faces questions on coalition

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Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat party leader Nick Clegg arrives at the NEC, Birmingham, for a special party conference

Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat party leader Nick Clegg arrives at the NEC, Birmingham, for a special party conference

Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat party leader Nick Clegg arrives at the NEC, Birmingham, for a special party conference

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is facing questions from grassroots party members over his decision to go into coalition with Conservatives.

There was speculation ahead of the special conference in Birmingham that Mr Clegg could get a hostile reaction from activists, as former leader Charles Kennedy revealed he had not signed up to the coalition deal and polls showed voters switching from Lib Dems to Labour.

But the Deputy Prime Minister was greeted with warm applause as he arrived at Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre, saying he was looking forward to spending time with "colleagues and friends".

Speaking briefly to reporters before the behind-closed-doors event, Mr Clegg said: "It's the first time we have got together since the General Election.

"We are a very democratic party and of course the creation of the coalition Government was a real big moment in British politics. It's absolutely right that we are now going to debate it together."

Although a handful of non-party members had gathered outside the conference centre to protest at the Tory-Lib Dem coalition, few of those attending the event expressed any anger at events since the election.

While many of those attending the special conference said they would have preferred to see a power-sharing deal with Labour, none said they believed it would have been a realistic option given the outcome of the election.

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Some of those making their way into the NEC's Hall 3 also claimed that the extent of anger at the deal with the Conservatives within Liberal Democrat ranks had been exaggerated.

Nigel Howells, a Liberal Democrat councillor from Cardiff, said just one member had left his local party branch in the wake of the coalition deal and around 40 had expressed interest in joining it.

Ben Wright, a Lib Dem member from London, said he believed the party had been pragmatic in light of the results on May 6.


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