UK & World News
Nick Clegg: 'It Has Been A Massive Setback'
Nick Clegg has insisted he will not stand aside despite an opinion poll suggesting he could lose his Sheffield Hallam seat at the General Election.
The Deputy Prime Minister said he had failed to make his case on Europe and that he accepted the voters' verdict at the ballot box in last week's local and European elections.
However, he refused to pull out of the coalition, refused to step aside and said he would continue to make the case for Britain's role as part of the European Union.
Speaking after his first public event since the elections, Mr Clegg said he would welcome an in-out referendum on Britain's membership of the EU but only if there was a transfer of powers to Brussels.
He said stepping down ahead of the 2015 vote was not the right thing to do and that the Liberal Democrats were about to "be vindicated in terms of delivering the economic recovery that we came into Government to deliver".
He added: "I admit it has been a massive setback for us last week but we were right to stick to our values and right to seek to make that case because no one else was doing it and no one else is doing it in British politics."
The ICM poll, which was commissioned by Lib Dem peer Lord Oakeshott, puts the party behind both Labour (20%) and the Conservatives (16%) on 15% were the General Election to be held tomorrow in Mr Clegg's Sheffield Hallam constituency.
Business Secretary Vince Cable condemned the peer, calling his actions "totally inexcusable and unacceptable".
Mr Cable added: "I have made it very clear repeatedly that he does not speak or act for me.
"Commissioning and publishing polls without the consent of the Member of Parliament, as in the case of Sheffield Hallam, is utterly reprehensible."
It comes as local party activists are meeting in an attempt to try to oust Mr Clegg and trigger a leadership contest - they would need the backing of 75 local parties for this to happen.
David Cameron's spokesman said on Tuesday morning that the Prime Minister backed his deputy. He said: "This is a strong coalition pursuing it's long term economic plan.
"The Prime Minister is committed to the coalition and securing the economic recovery. The Prime Minister is intent on working with coalition and with the Deputy Prime Minister to securing the economy recovery."
Mr Clegg has also won backing and support from the former prime minister Tony Blair.
Mr Blair told the Radio 4 Today Programme on Tuesday morning: "To be fair to Nick Clegg - and I don't want to damage him by saying this - I think over the past few years he has shown quite a lot of leadership and courage."
The poll of four Lib Dem seats suggested the party would also lose Cambridge, Redcar and Wells. It also suggested the party could do better under Mr Cable or Danny Alexander, but neither would offer enough of a boost to save any of the four seats.
A Liberal Democrat spokesman tweeted the poll had "clearly been commissioned and leaked for political purposes."
"It bears no relation to the result on Thursday night. Lib Dems secured 38.7% of the vote across Sheffield Hallam, Lab 23.6%, Tories 10.7%."
Lib Dem MP John Pugh told Sky News he would prefer to see Mr Cable lead the party because he was more popular with voters.
But the Business Secretary pledged his loyalty during a visit to China, saying: "There is no leadership issue. Now is not the time for infighting and introspection. The party must hold its nerve."
More than 300 Lib Dems, including councillors and candidates, have called on Mr Clegg to step down for the sake of his party.