Clegg vows to stay on as party leader

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
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LIBERAL Democrat leader Nick Clegg has insisted he intends to stay in power ‘well beyond one term’, dismissing reports his wife had struck a deal with him to step down in 2015 as ‘drivel’.

The Sheffield Hallam MP was reported as having agreed with wife Miriam he would serve just one term as Lib Dem leader, according to a book about his rise to high office by journalist Jasper Gerard.

But Mr Clegg has denied the report, saying: “I am in this because I believe it is the right thing to do. Miriam supports me fully in this.

“And I want to see us succeed in the coalition Government and beyond.

He added: “I intend to serve well beyond one term.”

The news came as Mr Clegg and other high-ranking Lib Dems set out to convince grassroots party activists they had forged a separate identity to their Conservative allies in government.

Speaking at the Lib Dem party conference in Birmingham, Mr Clegg described the Tories as ‘political enemies’ who needed to be controlled.

And party president Tim Farron told activists the party’s ministers were reining in the Conservatives – who would be an ‘absolute nightmare’ if they were governing unleashed.

In a crowd-pleasing address, which received 20 rounds of applause and ended with a 37-second standing ovation, Mr Farron indulged in a round of Tory-bashing that targeted Education Secretary Michael Gove and mocked Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin.

Amid rumours Mr Farron wants to take the party’s top job, he repeatedly praised leader Nick Clegg, describing him as ‘warm hearted and quick witted’.

“He leads the Lib Dems, runs the country and runs rings around the Tories,” he said.

“If you listen to Tory MP Nadine Dorries, the Conservative Home website and the Daily Mail, then Nick Clegg is leading the government – but when it comes to the NHS, the bankers and fair taxation, Nick seems to be leading the opposition too.”

Mr Farron pledged to ‘sell the undiluted Liberal Democrat standpoint, not to be an apologist for everything the coalition does’.