Clegg's deputy admits there's 'chatter' about boss's future
Nick Clegg will today mount a fierce defence of the Liberal Democrats' record in the Coalition Government amid dismay within the party over its dismal opinion poll ratings.
On the eve of tomorrow's fifth anniversary of Mr Clegg becoming Liberal Democrat leader, his deputy, Simon Hughes, admitted there was "a little bit of chatter" about his future.
Senior party figures are also gloomy over the relentless rise in support for the UK Independence Party, leaving the Liberal Democrats fourth in many recent polls. But in a speech spelling out his party's achievements in office, Mr Clegg will attempt to regain the political initiative – and accelerate the process of "differentiating" it from the Conservatives.
He will claim the party curbed the instincts of Tory right-wingers by resisting "draconian welfare cuts" and argue that fairness has always been at the heart of tough decisions taken by the Coalition.
In a speech in London, he will say the Conservatives originally wanted to drive through £10bn of benefits cuts in this month's Autumn Statement through such measures as only paying child benefit to the first two youngsters in a family and removing housing benefit from the under-25s. But the Liberal Democrats intervened to reduce the cuts to £3.8bn, he will say.
"We rejected the more extreme reforms that had been put on the table. This is the job of the Liberal Democrats: to anchor reform in the sensible centre ground." He will say: "Both the Conservatives and Labour try to occupy the centre ground. Both get pushed off it by their tribal politics, but the Liberal Democrats are not for shifting."
Mr Clegg will declare the Liberal Democrats have "learnt to live with a host of invidious choices" as coalition partners and attack the "Tory right's dreams of a fantasy world", including the belief "we can walk away from the EU, but magically keep our economy strong". He will also hint at welfare policies his party could adopt in their next manifesto, including removing universal benefits from the wealthiest pensioners.
His speech comes at a crucial time for the party which is desperate to see the stirrings of a recovery with voters. However, three weekend polls all showed the Liberal Democrats languishing in fourth place behind Ukip. A ComRes survey for The Independent on Sunday put Labour on 39 per cent (down four points since last month), the Conservatives on 28 (down three), Ukip on 14 (up six) and the Liberal Democrats on nine (down one). The Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, said it was now "crystal clear" that it was the "third party of choice in the public mind".
Mr Hughes told LBC radio Ukip was polling strongly because of the "protest vote" and the "chaos and confusion" in the eurozone. Asked about Mr Clegg's leadership, he replied: "There's a little bit of chatter [about it], but there's bound to be given the situation we find ourselves in the opinion polls.
"Nick led us into government for the first time since the Second World War and whoever had been leader of the Liberal Democrats would have been criticised for the decision we made."
Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'
Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance
Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online
- 1 Nokia no more: Microsoft drops once-ubiquitous mobile name – in favour of its Lumia brand
- 2 Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
- 3 Banksy not arrested: Internet duped by fake report claiming artist's identity revealed
- 4 Australian café owner sparks debate after saying 'No' to having unruly children on premises
- 5 Paralysed man Darek Fidyka walks again after treatment by British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis
Ottawa shooting: Canadian soldier dies after being shot at National War Memorial – with one gunman killed inside parliament
Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
Isis releases first video showing the stoning of woman accused of committing adultery as her father shouts 'don't call me Dad'
Banksy not arrested: Internet duped by fake report claiming artist's identity revealed
Diwali: What is the festival of lights and how is it celebrated around the world?
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
£65000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Intelligence Consultant - C...
£70 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Group: SEN Teaching Assistants needed in...
£21500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...
£20000 - £22000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful and w...