Lib Dem conference: Talk about Clegg's future must end, says Campbell

Sir Menzies Campbell Sir Menzies said he understood the pressure his successor was under

Speculation over Nick Clegg's future as Liberal Democrat leader must end immediately, his predecessor Sir Menzies Campbell has said.

MPs and peers should offer Mr Clegg "unequivocal support", he told a meeting at the party's conference.

Mr Clegg was the "best qualified" person to lead the party, he said, urging an end to "gossip".

Poor poll ratings and the failure of policies such as Lords reform have led to questions over Mr Clegg's future.

Ahead of the annual conference in Brighton, the deputy prime minister issued a public apology for his party's failure to honour its pledge to oppose any rise in student tuition fees in England.

'Scuttlebutt'

Although there has been little dissent among Lib Dem MPs, several peers - including former Treasury spokesman Lord Oakeshott - have urged Mr Clegg to stand down before the next election in 2015 to help the party regain support.

And Mr Clegg's former director of strategy, Richard Reeves, suggested before the conference that the event would revolve around whether the party would rally round Mr Clegg's leadership or not.

Sir Menzies told the fringe meeting organised by the Centre Forum and Fabian Society think tanks that he was familiar with the pressure leaders came under at such times.

His last conference as leader in 2007 had been dominated by speculation about his own future, he added.

And he strongly endorsed Mr Clegg as the right man to fight for the party's principles in government but also to govern in the national interest in tough times.

"This scuttlebutt, this gossip has to be put to rest once and for all," he said. "The person best qualified to take our party forward is Nick Clegg.

"I am unequivocal in my support for him and so we should all be and so should all our MPs and peers in Parliament."

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