Gordon Brown's nemesis turns fire on Clegg in full view of media

Yesterday was supposed to be a "good news" day for Nick Clegg as he announced the Government's £450m regional growth fund to safeguard 100,000 jobs.

Surely that would provide a welcome break from his battles to win concessions from David Cameron on health reforms and to head off a No verdict in next month's referendum.

Alas, the Deputy Prime Minister had reckoned without the formidable Gillian Duffy, the Rochdale pensioner who destabilised Labour's general election a year ago after Gordon Brown was caught on a microphone branding her a "bigoted woman".

Mrs Duffy demanded an audience with Mr Clegg when he visited Rochdale. She got one – in full view of the television cameras. The lifelong Labour voter wanted to know why the Liberal Democrats "went in" with the Conservatives rather than Labour.

A firm but polite Mr Clegg told her: "Because you may remember, no one won the election at all... I think it is important you have a government that can do things because we have to sort out a lot of mess we inherited from the previous lot."

She asked Mr Clegg to "look me in the eye and tell me" he was happy with the Government's spending cuts. In reply, Mr Clegg explained the record peacetime fiscal deficit was the equivalent of his family "maxing" out their credit cards. Unimpressed, Mrs Duffy said he was making "just the same speech" she heard him give an hour earlier on the radio.

Later Mrs Duffy said Mr Clegg failed to convince her about the Coalition's merits. "Let's face it, it's all gone wrong," she said.

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