Coalition 'is practical agreement'

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes has reached out to anxious party members ahead of next month's local elections, insisting that the coalition is a "practical business relationship" rather than a "meeting of minds".







Mr Hughes said the Lib Dems and Conservatives would be locked in government together for five years because "to do otherwise would be irresponsible".



And he admitted that it took his party "some time" after the General Election to "get our act together and make the most of the opportunities of being in government".



Mr Hughes' comments came as Business Secretary Vince Cable laid bare simmering tensions over immigration policy, warning Prime Minister David Cameron that "talk of mass immigration" risked "inflaming" extremism.



Several Lib Dem MPs have also voiced concerns over controversial plans to reform the NHS, which have now been placed on hold as ministers conduct a "listening exercise".



In a speech to party members in Bradford, Mr Hughes said: "The coalition agreement is not a love affair, or a marriage, or even a meeting of minds.



"It is a practical business relationship. It is an agreement for five years, because we need five years to deal with the deficit, to rebuild our economy and make Britain a fairer place.



"It is an agreement for actions we have started, and so we'll finish. To do otherwise would be irresponsible."



He said the Lib Dems were "proud" to be in government and "confident" that Britain would become a "more fair, more just and more successful place".



He went on: "To be honest it took us some time after May to get our act together and make the most of the opportunities of being in government.



"But now we have done that and the public are hearing more and more about the differences Liberal Democrats are making in government, and seeing more and more the differences between a coalition government with Liberal Democrats fully participating and the only realistic alternative last year, which was a minority Conservative government - which could have become a majority Conservative government at any time."



Mr Hughes said the UK was in the midst of a "national economic and financial crisis" that required urgent action.



But he promised: "Public services are by their nature publicly funded. Driving the state to bankruptcy does nothing to support them.



"The Government necessarily has had to make cuts, but it will not make any more cuts than necessary."







Mr Hughes, MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, issued a rallying call to party members ahead of local elections on May 5.



He predicted that Lib Dems would "hold many seats and win many seats" because people knew the value of having local representatives who "fight for local services rather than cut local services".



He also urged people to support the alternative vote (AV), in which candidates are ranked in order of preference, in the referendum to change the Westminster voting system.



"I do not believe that it is an accident that we have seen Labour MPs in Barnsley Central and Bury and Scunthorpe commit criminal acts when they thought they had jobs for life," he said.



"Nor was it an accident that at the last election we saw many Conservative MPs stand down after committing some of the most scandalous abuses of their parliamentary expenses from safe Conservative seats.



"AV is a simple change which will make a big difference. It will allow people to express a preference, vote for the MP who they want and not who they think has the best chance of winning, and it will mean that all MPs are elected with the majority of the support of their voting constituents."

Sport
Premier League Live
footballLIVE Follow all the Premier League action as it happens
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + echSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
James Argent from Towie is missing, police say
peopleTV star had been reported missing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, Linux, Shell, Bash)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone