Clegg unveils local election battle plan

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NICK Clegg has predicted ‘the mother of all battles’ against Labour in Sheffield as the Liberal Democrats fight to hang on to power at the Town Hall.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader outlined his party’s battle plan for seeing off a resurgent Labour between now and the local elections in May.

The Lib Dems are hanging on to power in Sheffield by the most slender of margins. The party lost its majority in May and only retains control of the Town Hall with the support of the independent and Green councillors. A combination of deep public spending cuts and increased tuition fees has hit the Lib Dems’ popularity hard.

Responding to a question from The Star, Mr Clegg said the local elections will be a ‘close contest’ in Sheffield but insisted he was relishing ‘setting the record straight’.

He said: “Clearly it’s been very tough. There is the mother of all battles brewing between the Liberal Democrats and Labour and at the moment it is very easy for Labour to score points, spread fear, perpetuate myths and misinformation.

“I’m actually quite excited about the opportunity in the local elections of setting the record straight.”

And in a sign of the soaring political temperatures in South Yorkshire, he accused Labour of discouraging high achieving children from poor backgrounds from going to university by spreading a ‘deceit’ about the impact of the tuition fee hike.

The Hallam MP plans to counter Labour’s ‘misinformation’ by visiting every school in his constituency to persuade parents, teachers and pupils that the coalition’s plans for reforming university funding are fair.

“I’m going to spell this out to teachers and parents and youngsters,” he said.

“I think Labour have been so cynical on this that they are actually discouraging bright people from disadvantaged backgrounds from going to university when the truth is, under our scheme, it will be cheaper for them to do it than it was under Labour.”

Mr Clegg stressed tuition fees would also have increased if he had decided to take the Lib Dems into coalition with Labour, and admitted his party had possibly been ‘insufficiently skilled’ at explaining ‘in most respects what graduates will repay’.