Lib Dem members back the coalition

The Lib-Con coalition is being assessed by Lib Dem members today
The Lib-Con coalition is being assessed by Lib Dem members today

By staff

Members of the Liberal Democrats have "overwhelmingly approved" the party's coalition deal with the Conservatives.

Deputy prime minister fielded questions at a closed-door special conference conference in Birmingham.

The meeting came on the same day that Charlie Kennedy broke ranks and revealed he voted against the Lib Dem - Conservative coalition, leading to speculation Mr Clegg could face hostility from the party rank-and-file.

But that worry eased when he was applaused when entering the conference centre.

"It is five days since I accepted the position of deputy prime minister," he said after the vote.

"Just five days, and we now know there will be no ID cards, no third runway at Heathrow, no more fingerprinting in schools without parents' consent, no more child detention.

"Changes Liberal Democrats have spent months, years, campaigning for, are happening."

He continued: "I know the stakes are high - for me personally, as well as the party.

"But I came into politics to change things, and that means taking risks. Real, big change never comes easy."

The vote will come as a welcome end to a day that had seemed potentially problematic for Mr Clegg.

Mr Kennedy, former Lib Dem leader, wrote in this morning's Observer that the coalition wrecked chances of a "realignment of the centre-left".

The comments revealed a simmering anxiety over the coalition, with many Lib Dem members concerned they will be swallowed up by the much larger Conservative party.

"With uncharacteristic understatement Paddy Ashdown described last week's events as 'a rather unexpected moment'," Mr Kennedy wrote.

"Certainly, they drive a strategic coach and horses through the long-nurtured 'realignment of the centre-left' to which leaders in the Liberal tradition, this one included, have all subscribed since the Jo Grimond era.

"It is hardly surprising that, for some of us at least, our political compass currently feels confused."

Mr Kennedy said his concerns were shared by much of the grassroots of the party.

Polling data released today also suggested a large number of Lib Dem voters have switched to Labour since the new government was formed last Tuesday.

A ComRes poll for the Sunday Mirror and the Independent on Sunday suggested a third of Lib Dem voters believed Mr Clegg should have formed a coalition with Labour instead.

An ICM poll for the Sunday Telegraph saw a three point drop in the Lib Dems' support, with approval now standing at 21%.


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