Clegg defends Lib-Con coalition

Clegg and Cameron walk into Number 10 together
Clegg and Cameron walk into Number 10 together

By staff

Nick Clegg has defended the coalition government against criticism, telling those Lib Dems who are uncomfortable working with the Conservatives that it was the only way to respond to the general election result.

The Lib Dem leader admitted it could be a difficult pill for Liberal Democrats to swallow, but insisted there are wide areas of policy overlap.

"It has caused both surprise and with it some offence," he told the Guardian.

"There are those on both the left and right who are united in thinking this should not have happened.

"But the truth is this: there was no other responsible way to play the hand dealt to the political parties by the British people at the election," he added.

"The parliamentary arithmetic made a Lib-Lab coalition unworkable, and it would have been regarded as illegitimate by the British people. Equally, a minority administration would have been too fragile to tackle the political and economic challenges ahead."

Mr Cleg's comments will be seen as a rehearsal for a closed meeting of Liberal Democrat members tomorrow, in which they will vote on whether or not to accept the deal.

"No government - whether it's a coalition of parties, or a coalition of rivalries as in the Blair-Brown governments - is able to survive without a core set of common assumptions and aspirations," Mr Clegg said, in an argument which emphasised the important areas where the Conservatives and Lib Dems are reading off the same hymn sheet.

As if to prove the point, business secretary Vince Cable told the newspaper his place in the coalition would not stop him taking tough action against the banks.

"We are committed to robust action," he said.

"There has been some grossly unacceptable behaviour that the last government tolerated and we've got to do better.

"If the banks are just giving overriding priority to boosting their share prices in the long run then you're not going to get a delivery of lending to businesses. I'm going to have work alongside George Osborne to make sure the banks deliver credit," Mr Cable said.


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