Exclusive: Nick Clegg stakes his political future on a showdown with party's left wing over economy

Deputy Prime Minister braces for conference confrontation

Political Editor

Nick Clegg has warned his Liberal Democrat critics they would put Britain’s economic recovery at risk and score a huge political own goal if they defeat him in a crunch vote on the economy at his party’s conference starting on Saturday.

In an exclusive interview with The Independent, the Deputy Prime Minister warned his critics they would provide a gift to the Chancellor George Osborne and his Labour shadow Ed Balls if they pass a rebel motion distancing the Lib Dems from the Coalition’s cuts programme.

Mr Clegg will put his authority on the line by closing the key economic debate at the Glasgow conference on Monday, an unusual move for the party leader. He will urge his party to reject calls by the Social Liberal Forum (SLF), a left-wing pressure group, for a change of economic policy.

Clegg allies say the group wants to “tear up” the Government’s fiscal mandate and end the Bank of England’s independence by ordering it to do more to create jobs. Although Mr Clegg expects to win his showdown with his critics, some Lib Dem insiders say the vote could be close and defeat would be a humiliating blow for the party leader.

In his interview, Mr Clegg said the rebels’ proposals  made “no sense” economically or politically. “Just as the economy is turning, it would be a huge risk to start  putting the  stability on which growth is based on ice. It would create uncertainty and confusion in the markets, investors would very quickly become cautious again, employers wouldn’t take on  more people,” he said. “There is nothing that would more inhibit growth at this delicate stage than another bout of uncertainty about what the long term plan is to clear the deficit.”

He added: “Having spent three years explaining to people that we need to clear the decks and make sure future generations are not saddled with our debts, people would be very confused if suddenly we gave Ed Balls a boost by suggesting that somehow his critique was right and allowing George Osborne to take the plaudits for any growth.”

While defending the Coalition’s policy, Mr Clegg will reassure his party that it will fight the 2015 election on a distinctive Lib Dem economic policy – including a plan to free local authorities to build hundreds of thousands of new homes. “We are parting company with the Conservatives, Tory Treasury orthodoxy and Osbornomics by setting out a very distinctive Lib Dem approach how to go further and faster to promote growth,” he said.

But his critics accused Mr Clegg of offering voters “more of the same” in 2015. Writing on The Independent’s website, Prateek Buch, the SLF’s director,  said: “It falls on the Lib Dems to do more than rest on our laurels – in government with Tories content to inflate a housing bubble….we should try to raise investment and median wages up to and after the next election.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
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

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London