Nick Clegg: Long hard road ahead for Lib Dems

Nick Clegg mugs lined up for sale at the party conference venue in Liverpool. Picture: Getty
Nick Clegg mugs lined up for sale at the party conference venue in Liverpool. Picture: Getty
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LIBERAL Democrats have been warned that they have a “long hard journey” in the next eight weeks as they try to defy the polls in the general election,

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has warned as members gather for the Spring conference in Liverpool.

In what the Lib Dem leadership hopes will be a springboard for a comeback in the general election, Mr Clegg addressed a rally as he appealed for the party to prepare for a fight.

The conference comes with the Lib Dems stuck on single figures in opinion polls across the UK and a mere 3 per cent in Scotland with Mr Clegg and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander under threat of losing their seats according to constituency polls.

Lib Dem members will meet as the party continues to digest a donations scandal which has pulled in Mr Alexander.

The scandal has seen former party fundraiser Ibrahim Taguri stand down as the Lib Dem election candidate in Brent Central after a national newspaper reported he told an undercover reporter posing as a wealthy Indian businessman that he could channel donations via family members and backdate cheques to avoid appearing on public registers.

In a foreword to the conference agenda, Mr Clegg said the meeting was a chance to “set out our vision for the country” but also “celebrate our achievements in coalition”. He said: “The next few days are an opportunity for our party to come together and prepare ourselves for the long, hard campaign ahead.

“It is our chance to further set out our vision for the country and explain to the British people how Liberal Democrats in government can make a positive difference to their everyday lives.”

The latest poll of polls indicated the Liberal Democrats are on 7.4 per cent and face the prospect of losing dozens of MPs. But Mr Clegg hopes the party will once again find itself holding the balance of power after 7 May and he encouraged activists to campaign on the party’s achievements in office.

He said: “We must take this record of delivery to the doorsteps, streets and town halls and campaign on our promise of more.

“No-one else will do it for us, so it is up to us to shout from the rooftops that only with Liberal Democrats in government can we build the stronger economy and fairer society we need to create opportunity for everyone.”

The main business of the conference will begin today, when activists will be asked to back policies to balance the nation’s budget by 2017-18 and a series of environmental measures, including a plan which could see speed limits outside English schools reduced to 10mph.

The Lib Dems have also unveiled a policy of helping people buy their properties through rent which would come into force in England if they can return to government in May and could be on the Scottish party’s manifesto for next year’s Holyrood election.

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