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Clegg: Right-wing lurch by Tories


Nick Clegg has denied Norman Baker's departure meant the coalition Government had "broken down"

Nick Clegg has denied Norman Baker's departure meant the coalition Government had "broken down"

Nick Clegg has denied Norman Baker's departure meant the coalition Government had "broken down"

A "right-wing lurch" by the Conservatives has created "tension" within the coalition Government, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said.

The Liberal Democrat leader was speaking days after his party's Norman Baker quit as a Home Office minister, complaining he was treated like "a cuckoo in the nest" by Home Secretary Theresa May, who he accused of behaving as if she was part of a Conservative-only administration.

Mr Clegg denied that Mr Baker's departure - which was brushed off by senior Tories including David Cameron, who said the Government would "cope without him" - meant the coalition Government had "broken down".

The DPM told BBC1's Breakfast: " Of course it hasn't broken down. Of course the Government will continue and the coalition Government will see through its term of office, as we said at the outset, through to May next year."

Mr Clegg said the Tory side of the coalition had changed "over the last several years", while his party had remained consistent.

"If you think back to what the Conservative Party was saying about itself when we went into coalition - they said they cared about the environment - they clearly don't; they said they wouldn't bang on about Europe - it's all they bang on about these days," he said. "There's been this right-wing lurch by one of the parties in the coalition Government, by the Conservatives.

"We, the Liberal Democrats, remain anchored in the centre ground, but that right-wing lurch by the Conservatives, of course it creates some tension, but it doesn't mean the coalition Government is not going to see through its term of office through to the finishing line in May of next year."

Mr Clegg added: "I think the history books will judge what this coalition Government has done very favourably, given the terrible state of the economy that we found when we came into office in May 2010, and without the stability of a coalition Government and the role of the Liberal Democrats in it, we wouldn't now be seeing more people back in work than ever before."

Mr Clegg said the Conservatives had "reverted to type" and there had been "pinch points" in the coalition.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Of course, if you have got a party in a coalition which is quite different to what it was when we set out, of course that creates pinch points within Government, but I don't think one should over-dramatise that.

"This coalition Government, whatever the changes the Conservative Party has embarked upon as they chase Ukip to the right, whatever they decide to do, we will anchor this Government in the centre ground and we will see the parliament through till May of next year."

Mr Clegg admitted that the way the inquiry into historical child sex abuse, which has been left without a head following the resignation of two chairwomen, has been handled was "not great".

Asked if mandatory reporting of suspicions of abuse of children in care was the answer, he told LBC: "I think it might well be. I have become increasingly persuaded that it might well be."