Clegg childcare reform opposition ‘to fend off coup’

Nick Clegg. Picture: PA
Nick Clegg. Picture: PA
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NICK Clegg’s opposition to childcare reforms in England is part of an effort to fight off internal efforts to oust him as Liberal Democrat leader, Education Secretary Michael Gove said.

In an extraordinary attack on his coalition Cabinet colleague, Mr Gove said the Deputy Prime Minister “has to show a bit of leg” amid reports of efforts to undermine his position.

Mr Clegg has signalled he does not support loosening staff-to-child ratios in nurseries – part of a package of reforms championed by Tory education minister Liz Truss that emerged after months of wrangling between the parties.

Ms Truss has argued that the changes would lower childcare costs and allow professionals in the sector to be paid higher salaries.

But Mr Clegg questioned claims that the policy would result in cheaper costs for parents. Mr Gove said the reforms were “absolutely right”, but that he was prepared to look at “an adjustment here or there” to meet concerns.

Asked about Mr Clegg’s position, he said: “I don’t think we can understand Nick Clegg’s position without also appreciating the position he is in because of internal Lib Dem politics.

“There is a campaign being led by Matthew Oakeshott, this Liberal Democrat in the Lords, to try to destabilise Nick Clegg because Matthew Oakeshott wants Vince Cable to succeed him. Nick needs to show Lib Dems that he is fighting hard.”