Beleaguered Nick Clegg has insisted he is ‘confident but not complacent’ about winning his Sheffield Hallam seat at the next general election.
The Deputy PM spoke to The Star after a week of intense speculation on his Liberal Democrat leadership after the local and EU polls.
In his first newspaper interview since, he confessed it had been a ‘very tough week’ and admitted the party losing all but one of its MEPs was a ‘very bad result’.
But, asked if he thought he would win again next year, he told The Star: “Yes. I am confident but not complacent. I will work my socks off for the support. It has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to serve in south west Sheffield. You are elected to serve the community you represent and that’s what I will always do to the best of my ability.”
The Lib Dems lost their EU representative in Yorkshire and Humberside, and six council seats in Sheffield in the local elections.
But Mr Clegg vowed he would not quit, and the party will not leave the coalition.
“A lot of people want to have a go,” he said. “But I don’t think when the critics are putting the boot in, that’s the time to bow to their demands. Then they would be the only people who win.”
Mr Clegg, speaking to The Star by telephone from London, also accused other parties of ‘talking down’ the country - and Sheffield.
He said: “There are more people with jobs in Sheffield than ever before, more apprenticeships, and fewer youngsters not in employment, education or training.
“We’ve got a long way to go, we’ve still got a lot to do, and a lot of people are still feeling the pinch. But I just think constantly talking our city down, which is what Labour do - I don’t back it.
“I am incredibly optimistic about our country and the future of Sheffield.”
Pointing to the local election results, Mr Clegg said the Lib Dems had increased their majority in several wards. And nationally he pledged to ‘fight back’ by uniting the party, highlighting how it had helped the economic recovery and asked ‘searching’ questions.
See www.thestar.co.uk for more from the interview.