Wanted: Clegg seeks ‘coalition’ of liberals to keep him in power

Nick Clegg took the unexpected step of appealing for votes beyond his party in his closing speech at the Liberal Democrats' spring conference in Brighton.

The Lib Dems are expected to adopt a largely defensive strategy in next year's campaign as they try to minimise the damage of five bruising years in government with the Conservatives.

So some in York could have been surprised by his goal of winning over support from other parties.

"Between now and the election my aim – our aim – is to build a coalition bringing together all of the liberal-minded, liberal-hearted men and women who love the Britain we love – and who want a party prepared to fight for it," he told delegates.

"That's the coalition I care about. A coalition of all the people who want to keep this nation open, tolerant, compassionate and strong.

"So to the people out there who may not have voted for us before: it doesn't matter, that's the past. What matters now is the kind of country you want to live in. The kind of nation you want us to be."

Clegg's remarks were reinforced by his chief ally in government, the chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, who warned his party that they had to be able to produce more than just a list of achievements in government.

The Lib Dem aim is to remain in government after the next general election as a junior party to either the Conservatives or Labour.

That prompted a wave of speculation after the new year that the Tories could attempt to guarantee they will rule out another coalition.

Now Clegg has used his last conference speech before this year's European elections on May 22nd to seek support from centre-left and centre-right supporters alike.

Revealing more of the Lib Dems' potential 'red lines' in a hung parliament scenario, he said the party would seek to raise the personal allowance for income tax to £12,500, continue localism and pledge to continue "playing our part in the fight against climate change".

Commentators were quick to note a lengthy section at the beginning of Clegg's speech in which he explained at length why he is "incredibly proud" of Britain.

He listed 17 reasons why he loves Britain, including the shipping forecast, Private Eye, flip-flops, the Premier League, cups of tea and Conservative prime minister John Major's help in establishing the European single market.

Clegg concluded: "If you have faith in this country, if you believe in Britain's values, if you still want this incredible island of ours to keep punching above our weight and shaping the world so that it is a better place, put the Liberal Democrats back in government again – let us protect the Britain you love."