UK Politics

Lib Dems must stay in government after 2015, says Clegg

Nick Clegg
Image caption Nick Clegg said only the Lib Dems married fairness and effective economic policy

Nick Clegg has warned that the formation of a single-party government after the next election is one of the "biggest risks" to the UK's economy.

The deputy prime minister argued that Labour had not "learnt the lessons" of the 2008 crash, and the Conservatives did not focus enough on "fairness".

Mr Clegg said his Liberal Democrats had lost popularity because of coalition "spadework" to improve the economy.

But he added they would remain in government until the 2015 election.

In a wide-ranging interview on BBC One's Andrew Marr Show, Mr Clegg was asked about recent comments by Labour's Ed Balls, in which the shadow chancellor seemed to be suggesting a possible thawing in relations when saying he respected the deputy prime minister's "integrity".

'Chinese-style plan'

Mr Clegg dismissed attempts to look at this as preparing the way for a possible Labour-Lib Dem coalition, should there be a hung parliament in 2015.

But he said his party, which came third at the last election and has been struggling in the opinion polls, deserved to remain in government.

He said: "We are working with the Conservatives effectively and we will do until May 2015 to repair the damage inflicted on the economy in 2008.

"Then you've got to build a fairer society and where I think the Conservatives don't have the same instincts in favour of fairness that we do. We are the only party in politics to marry the two."

Mr Clegg added: "One of the greatest risks to the ongoing economic recovery is is single-party government in 2015 of either only the Labour Party or only the Conservatives.

"The Labour Party hasn't learnt the lessons form the past and risks jeopardising the recovery all over again and the Conservatives want to yank us out of the European Union to make us poorer and risk joblessness in this country."

Mr Clegg described Labour as an "effective campaigning opposition party" but said: "It's no wonder that opposition politics is easy when you have got a government that's having to do unpopular spadework."

He criticised plans laid out by Chancellor George Osborne to cut a further £12bn from welfare spending after the next election as part of an effort to reduce the deficit by £25bn.

'Clearing the decks'

Mr Clegg said it was a "Chinese-style" plan to restrict child benefit to the first two children born to a couple or single parent.

He also said it was "penalising the young" to suggest ending housing benefit for under-25s.

Mr Clegg insisted he was "no slouch" on reforming the benefits system and would "look at" other proposals from his coalition partners, but said: "You can't say, as the Conservatives seem to be saying at the moment, that we are all in it together and the very wealthy won't make an extra sacrifice...

"The Conservatives seem to be saying the working-age poor will be asked to make sacrifices to fill the gap in our finances."

He added: "If you have to balance the books, you mustn't balance the books on the backs of the working-age poor...

"Yes, you need to finish the job of clearing the decks for the next generation... but you've got to finish the job fairly, asking the people with the broadest shoulders to make the biggest contribution."

In a speech last week, Mr Osborne insisted it was essential to continue concentrating on reducing the budget black hole after the next election and looking for savings across government, saying: "There are no easy options here if we're to fix our country's problems and not leave debts to our children.

"It's far too soon to say 'job done'. It's not even half done. That's why 2014 is the year of hard truths."

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