Clegg shrugs off miserable poll showing

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DEPUTY Prime Minister Nick Clegg has defended the Liberal Democrats’ role in the UK coalition, despite his party’s disastrous performance in last week’s city council by-election.

The Lib Dems finished last out of six in the vote in the City Centre ward, seeing their vote slump from 20 per cent to just seven.

On a visit to Kirkliston, Mr Clegg accepted the party’s partnership with the Tories in the UK Government was costing it support. He told the Evening News: “Of course that was a very bad result for us. Does it mean we were wrong to enter into coalition? No. I still passionately believe we are doing the right thing for the long-term interests of the country.

“I wish I could somehow wave a magic wand and say there are no difficult decisions to be taken, we’ve got pots of gold to spend on whatever we want and there isn’t an economic crisis, but I’m afraid we are in the world we find ourselves in.”

He insisted voters’ attitudes could change. He said: “I believe the difficult decisions we are taking in the early stages of the government – and let’s remember this is the early stages of a five-year parliament – will prove the test of time.

“Over time people will come to recognise we have taken difficult decisions in the national interest, not playing party politics, because we are in a critical condition as a country and we need to provide stability.”

He dismissed forecasts that the Lib Dems were facing a wipe-out at the next general election.

He said: “Anyone who predicts what elections will be like in three-and-a-half years’ time is a charlatan or a fool.

“Politics changes very quickly indeed, sentiment changes very quickly indeed. Yes, we are taking controversial and in some cases downright unpopular decisions, I’m acutely aware of that, but I’m afraid whoever was in government at the moment would have to take difficult decisions.

Mr Clegg also took a swipe at the SNP, saying its new majority status in Scotland meant that it had to accept more responsibility.

He said: “The SNP have had it very easy for a very long time. They can blame everything on London, they turn their nose up at any good news, they don’t take any responsibility. That is going to have to change.”

iswanson@edinburghnews.com

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