Nick Clegg orders ministers: 'Mingle with the troops at conference'

Nick Clegg has told his ministers to "mingle" at the Liberal Democrat conference next week, to avoid the impression that being in government has gone to their heads.

On Friday, the Deputy Prime Minister hosted a meeting of all Lib Dem members of government at Chevening, his official residence. Mr Clegg cautioned his colleagues against being seen as "too distant" since moving seamlessly into government. For some of the grass roots, working with the Tories has been a little too seamless, some complaining that the party has sold out.

Senior party figures are upbeat about being in government, despite their share of the vote apparently having stalled at 12 per cent in recent polls. "I have never heard before that the party should abandon government to improve its poll ratings. It's ludicrous," said one minister.

Mr Clegg believes that the conference must be a "celebration" of the return of liberals to government for the first time for 65 years. However, party managers expect some delegates to use the conference to pressurise senior figures to put more of a Liberal Democrat stamp on policy.

The attending press pack – which has swelled by 60 per cent – will seize on motions condemning coalition policy on "free schools", NHS reorganisation and nuclear power.

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