UK & World News
Lib Dem Conference: Clegg Makes Rallying Call
Nick Clegg has pleaded with Liberal Democrats to hold their nerve as he insisted the party should stick with the coalition.
The Deputy Prime Minister urged members to accept "vitriol and abuse" as the price of proving they are now a serious party of government.
In his conference speech in Brighton, Mr Clegg warned against the "alluring prospect" of returning to a party of opposition.
And he explicitly tied the party's future to economic recovery, claiming that a return to growth will propel the Lib Dems to become "one of three parties of government".
"Be in no doubt - if we secure our country's future, we will secure our own," he told delegates in what was regarded as a slightly bleak address.
It came after a string of dire opinion polls and rumblings about his leadership, although the conference has revealed no current appetite for a contest.
Mr Clegg, who came into the week after publicly apologising for the tuition fees U-turn, admitted presiding over "some real disappointments".
He also conceded that many Lib Dems would rather quit the coalition than continue, but he insisted this would be the wrong decision.
"Gone would be the difficult choices, the hard decisions, the necessary compromises. And gone, too, would be the vitriol and abuse, from right and left, as we work every day to keep this Government anchored in the centre ground," he said.
"But conference, I tell you this. The choice between the party we were, and the party we are becoming, is a false one. The past is gone and it isn't coming back.
"There's a better, more meaningful future waiting for us. Not as the third party, but as one of three parties of government."
Mr Clegg used the example of Olympic athletes and business owners recovering from last summer's riots to show the value of hard work.
And on tax, he again stressed that the rich would have to pay more as the price for any fresh spending cuts - continuing the theme seen from all senior Lib Dems this week.
He stated categorically that there would be no further cut in the top rate of income tax from 45p in this Parliament.
"All future cuts in personal taxation must pass one clear test: do they help people on low and middle incomes get by and get on? It's as simple as that," he said.
He told Lib Dems to stop speculating about the possibility of a hung parliament again in 2015, insisting that it was up to voters.
But he did announce that Paddy Ashdown, the former party leader, will run the campaign for the general election.
The only policy announcement was a "catch-up premium" worth an extra £500 per child to supplement the pupil premium.
The money, which this year will total just over £50m, is designed to help children who are entering secondary education with deficiencies in basic English and Maths skills.
The address came after two defeats of the leadership in 24 hours as delegates voted against measures on secret justice and controversial planning reforms.