European elections 2014: Nick Clegg rejects calls from inside Lib Dems for him to resign
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Monday 26 May 2014
Nick Clegg admitted the Liberal Democrats’ rout in the Euro elections was a “huge setback” but rejected growing calls from his own party for him to resign as its leader.
Looking tired and chastened, the Deputy Prime Minister said resignation had not crossed his mind even though there were rumours in Lib Dem circles on Monday that he and his closest advisers were considering his position.
After 11 of his 12 MEPs lost their seats and the Lib Dems came fifth behind the Greens, Mr Clegg described the results as “gutting” and “heartbreaking.” He admitted his decision to take on Ukip by fighting the elections as “the party of in” had not worked but insisted: “It was right that we stood up for the values we believe in.”
Rejecting claims by his Lib Dem critics that he had a bunker mentality, he told the BBC: “I'm not going to put myself ahead of the Lib Dems, in the same way we as a party will never put ourselves ahead of the interests of the country. If I thought that anything would be really solved, any of our real dilemmas would be addressed, by changing leadership, changing strategies, changing approaches, bailing out now, changing direction, then I wouldn't hesitate advocating it.”
Mr Clegg argued that, after entering the Coalition, his party must now “finish the job.” He said: “The easiest thing in politics just as in life, is that when the going gets tough is to just walk away, to wash your hands of it. But I'm not going to do that and my party is not going to do that. Just at the point when our big decisions, our big judgements, are being vindicated, we're not going to buckle, we're not going to lose our nerve, we're not going to walk away.”
The Lib Dem leader said no one else was making the case for an open-minded, generous hearted, internationalist Britain. “We didn't win the argument, but we've got to continue to stick to the values that brought me…and so many other Lib Dems into politics,” he said.
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