Clegg told to reassure 'hurting' Lib Dems

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A Liberal Democrat MP has warned Nick Clegg that he needs to convince his party that he remains the right person to be leader.

In an open attack on Mr Clegg, Greg Mulholland, a former schools spokesman for the party, who voted against raising tuition fees on Thursday, questioned the wisdom of the party being in the Coalition. And he warned Mr Clegg that the party was "hurting".

"It is very important that Nick gets out to the wider party and reassures people that the Coalition is not only doing a good job for the country but also that it is the right thing for the Liberal Democrats as a party," he told the BBC's The World This Weekend programme.

"He has done a very good job as Deputy Prime Minister but he also needs to show that he remains the right person to get out and communicate with our members."

It emerged that Labour is to step up its efforts to woo the 26 Liberal Democrat MPs who refused to support Mr Clegg on tuition fees.

"I want to make a clear offer to them that I want to work with them," said Labour leader Ed Miliband.

The shadow Business Secretary, John Denham, added the party was determined not to be seen as "tribal" in attempting to attract Liberal Democrat voters and members.

In another difficult day for the Liberal Democrats, a former director of policy, Richard Grayson, suggested most members had more in common with Labour and the Greens than their own leadership.

Meanwhile, two polls showed the electoral cost of backing the rise in fees. Research by Ipsos MORI for the News of the World showed 29 per cent of those who previously voted for the party said they were much less likely to do so in future, while 17 per cent said they were somewhat less likely.

A separate poll in The Sunday Telegraph suggested that just 54 per cent of those who voted Liberal Democrat in May planned to back the party at the next general election.

The Liberal Democrat deputy leader, Simon Hughes, yesterday admitted that he would have liked to have voted against tuition fee rises. "I hope and believe there won't be any resignations but there is considerable anger that we've got ourselves in this position," he said.

"The anger is much more directed about the policy as presented and the way we have managed it."

Asked whether Mr Clegg would lead the Liberal Democrats at the next election, Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary, backed the Deputy Prime Minister and said he had predicted "a period of immense unpopularity".