Nick Clegg today insisted he is determined to remain Deputy Prime Minister up to the next general election and to lead the Liberal Democrats into the contest.
He dismissed as "nonsense" Westminster rumours that he might move on to a job in Europe or be unseated by his party as the 2015 poll approaches, leaving the Lib Dems free to fight under a leader less associated with the coalition Government.
Mr Clegg said he was "pretty relaxed" about recent speeches by David Cameron on Europe and welfare, which have widely been seen as an attempt by the Prime Minister to set out a distinctive post-election agenda for the Conservatives.
Speaking to the Evening Standard, the DPM said: "He's entirely entitled as Conservative Party leader to tell his party about the kind of things they might want to do after the next election. There are a whole bunch of things that I would have done in government if I was prime minister that I can't because I'm in a coalition.
"We would have been, frankly, much tougher on the bankers much earlier right at the outset of this Government We would probably have been more radical on a fairer tax system. But that's the nature of the beast. You can't do everything you want."
Asked if he expected to lead the Lib Dems into the election, Mr Clegg said: "Yes of course, absolutely I'm determined to lead us through the next election and beyond. There would be no point fighting an election and quit the following morning.
"I want to see this through. For me this is not just about Liberal Democrats having a one-off spell in government and then retreating back to a corner of important opposition. I think we are more progressive than the Conservatives, more credible on the economy than Labour. It's a huge space there for us to appeal to a new set of voters.
"There are some people who basically just don't like the coalition, who almost feel sometimes ashamed that the Liberal Democrats are in government, who think we have to airbrush ourselves out of the equation and somehow present ourselves as virgins, innocents, unsullied by the experience of being in coalition government. I think it insults the intelligence of British voters."
Mr Clegg said that having a Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister campaigning for different parties would put UK politics in "uncharted territory", adding: "How the machinery of government continues through that, we will have to work out."
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