NICK Clegg has again insisted he will not quit despite disastrous election results for the Liberal Democrats and polls suggesting he could lose his own seat at the General Election.
The Deputy Prime Minister said he wanted to “finish the job” and dismissed calls to dissolve the coalition or shift the party’s approach to Europe.
He has also received backing from David Cameron, with Downing Street making clear the Prime Minister wanted him to stay on as his deputy.
Mr Clegg’s defiant stance over his position came as Vince Cable condemned a Lib Dem peer for allegedly commissioning and leaking a poll suggesting their party leader will lose his seat in parliament.
In a strongly worded statement, the Business Secretary distanced himself from Lord Oakeshott, a frequent critic of Mr Clegg.
Leaked polls suggested Mr Clegg faced losing his Sheffield Hallam constituency if he failed to step down in an attempt to stem electoral meltdown.
In a statement, Mr Cable said: “Lord Oakeshott’s actions are totally inexcusable and unacceptable. I have made it very clear repeatedly that he does not speak or act for me.
“There are undoubtedly raw feelings in the wake of poor local and European election results. We need to respond in a measured way. Public speculation about the leadership is an unwelcome distraction and as I made absolutely clear yesterday there is no leadership issue as far as I’m concerned.”
Earlier, Lib Dem sources suggested Lord Oakeshott, a friend of Mr Cable, commissioned the Sheffield Hallam polling that was leaked to a London-based newspaper.
Meanwhile, former prime minister Tony Blair said he admired the “leadership and courage” the Lib Dem leader had shown in power.
The backing came with Mr Clegg under intense pressure after his party lost hundreds of councillors and 11 of its 12 MEPs.
He has received public support from senior Lib Dem colleagues, but a number of MPs and activists have broken cover to warn he is “toxic” for voters and must go.
Asked this morning if he was prepared to stand down, Mr Clegg said: “Look, I think if I felt, or indeed if the whole party felt that changing strategy, changing leaders, pulling out of the coalition – which is what a number of these individuals advocate – would deal with the challenge which the party faces, because of course we face challenges – that’s obviously daft to suggest otherwise – then I wouldn’t hesitate to advocate it.
“But I think it’s so important that particularly at a time when our big judgments as a party over the past few years, difficult years they’ve been politically, are now being vindicated in terms of delivering the economic recovery that we came to this government to deliver, delivering all the things that we’ve been campaigning on for years. I think that’s not the time to start turning inwards.”