THE Tories and Labour offer “a dismal choice” as coalition partners after the next election, Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has claimed.
Speaking in Glasgow, at his party’s final conference before the election, Mr Clegg accused his Conservative coalition partners of abandoning the progressive ideas they had when the two parties went into government together in 2010, but warned activists that Labour does not offer a better choice.
With the polls suggesting that there will be a hung parliament again after the election in May next year, Mr Clegg is under pressure to say what he would do if he finds himself as kingmaker again with many in his party pushing for him to rule out another coalition with the Tories.
However, with the Lib Dems currently polling seven per cent well behind Ukip on 14 per cent, Mr Clegg also admitted that he has much to do to win over the British public again.
But he claimed his party will fair better than the polls suggest.
He said: “I think, to be blunt, these national poll ratings don’t tell you very much any more because the country has become so varied.”
And in an interview on BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Clegg lashed out at his Tory coalition partners furiously denouncing their announcements last week that they would freeze all benefits for two years, introduce a welfare cap of £23,000 instead of £26,000 and scrap the Human Rights Act.
Mr Clegg said he would not lead his party into coalition with the Tories if they insisted on pressing forward with these policies.
He said: “Of course the Lib Dems are not going to enter into government with an economic agenda which would only penalise the working-age poor. It is anathema to everything we believe in.”
On Prime Minister David Cameron’s change of tack to a more right wing agenda, he added: “When I first went into coalition with David Cameron in May 2010, he said, the Conservatives said they cared about the environment.
“They self-evidently don’t. That they are not going to bang on about Europe; they only bang on about Europe.
“That they are going to protect civil liberties and human rights. They now want to trash them. And, most important, they said they were compassionate Conservatives, but George Osborne confirmed last week that they are now burying compassionate Conservatism.”
But he also made it clear he was not convinced by Labour’s message a fortnight ago at its conference in Manchester.
He said: “What they are presenting to the British people is a dismal choice between a broken economy at the hands of Labour and a divided society at the hands of the Conservatives.”