Lib Dem spring conference: We are an 'affront to the business models' of Tories and Labour, says Nick Clegg

Deputy PM says rival parties are 'equally vituperative ideologically' about Lib Dems

Nick Clegg has described the Liberal Democrats as an "affront to the business models" of the Conservative and Labour parties.

At a question and answer session with delegates at the Liberal Democrat Spring conference, the deputy prime minister acknowledged the tribalistic hatred that Labour and the Tories share. MPs from both parties dismissively describe them as "Liberals" rather than use the party's full title or 'Lib Dems'.

Mr Clegg said Labour and the Tories are "equally vituperative ideologically about us".

The Lib Dems are pro-EU but Mr Clegg dismissed proposals for a European army. European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker wants to pool the military resources of member states, but Mr Clegg said: "No, no, no! Honestly, it's a barmy army idea."

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The deputy PM noted that the pro-European audience almost uniquely applauded a comment that involved not granting EU greater powers.

One delegate took to the microphone to thank Mr Clegg for his wedding day - gay marriage was introduced by the coalition. The delegate then apologised as the wedding day was the reason he missed the party's Autumn conference last October.

"That's an excellent reason," joked Mr Clegg. "It's about the only excuse. Don't let it happen again."

On the party's loss if support - the Lib Dems are regularly down to the single figures in the opinion polls - Mr Clegg said: "Of course we have lost the support of people who don't like any party that has been a part of government."

Mr Clegg effectively called time on the coalition, more than two weeks before the dissolution of Parliament, saying that Wednesday's Budget was largely finalised yesterday. "The last act of significant decision-making of this Parliament has been taken."

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