Election 2015

Election 2015: Lib Dems will insist on public sector pay rise

Nick Clegg on the Andrew Marr Show Image copyright JEFF OVERS
Image caption Mr Clegg told the BBC his party would not enter coalition with a party that would not back public sector pay rises

Nick Clegg has said his priorities - including raising public sector pay - would come ahead of the question of an EU referendum in any coalition talks.

The Lib Dem leader was pressed on whether he would refuse to deal with the Tories if they stuck to their pledge to hold an in/out referendum.

Mr Clegg told the BBC: "Before I address anybody else's red lines, I would address mine."

The parties are trying to rally support on the final weekend of campaigning.

David Cameron is urging voters to "stop and think" about the "historic choice" facing them on Thursday, while Labour are attempting to put pressure on the other parties over tuition fees.

In other election news on Sunday:

The two largest parties appear to be neck and neck according to most of the opinion polls carried out for the Sunday newspapers.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper claimed, on The Andrew Marr Show the party was within "touching distance of a Labour government".

Asked if she could look the presenter in the eye and say she believed Labour would gain the 100 seats it needs, Ms Cooper said they were seeking every vote they could, adding: "The public will decide on Thursday."

Analysis by David Cowling, Editor, BBC Political Research Unit

We would not be in our present confusion about the outcome of the general election if the three main Westminster parties were popular. All our problems in trying to predict the outcome of 7 May stem from the fact that they are manifestly unpopular. This general election is the mother of all ugly baby contests between the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems.

Read more from David

The polls suggest a hung Parliament is likely, and the Lib Dems have been setting out their "red lines" - with public sector pay joining education spending, a £12,500 personal allowance, £8bn for the NHS and an emergency "stability budget".

But there has been speculation about whether Mr Clegg - who leads the most pro-European of the largest Westminster parties - would veto the Conservatives' plan for an in/out referendum on the UK's EU membership in any post-election coalition negotiations.

Mr Clegg has already said his opposition to an EU referendum - as proposed by the Conservatives and UKIP - would not be a red line.

He has also said he would talk to the largest party first if there was a hung Parliament, and that he would not join a government that relied on support from the SNP or UKIP.

His final policy demand involves public sector pay rising with inflation for two years from 2016, and then by more than inflation once the deficit has been dealt with.

He told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show the Conservatives "constantly flip and flop" on the question of an EU referendum and may yet "buckle again".

"I'm happy to insist on my red lines," he said - how compatible they were with other parties depended in part, on the mandate given to each party. He repeated his pledge that there was "no way the Liberal Democrats are going to enter into any deal, arrangement or pact with the SNP or UKIP".

Public sector pay was frozen for the first two years of the coalition government, followed by 1% rises. Schools have been given the power to award top-performing teachers a rise of up to 2%.

The Conservatives plan to continue "restraining" public sector pay, which was increased by up to 1% in March.

Labour's manifesto says any decisions on public sector pay in the next Parliament must "prioritise those on lower incomes", be evidence-based and respect pay review body recommendations.

'Fair share'

Mr Clegg told the BBC "we've asked a lot" of millions of public sector workers who had seen their take-home pay fall: "I think it's now time to say, we are tantalising close to finishing the job of balancing the budget. We will not ask workers in the public sector to shoulder any more cuts to their take-home pay.

"That's the fair way to balance the books and I think we should now give them reassurance that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that their pay will not be cut any further."

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Media captionDavid Cameron: 'I will not be PM of a government that doesn't deliver referendum'

Mr Cameron, meanwhile, is urging people not to vote tactically for the Lib Dems or back UKIP if they want him to remain in Downing Street.

He told BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson that he would not compromise on his commitment to holding an EU referendum.

Asked if he would rather Labour was in government than be prime minister without an EU referendum, he said: "I will not lead a government that doesn't have that referendum in law and carried out."

In a campaigning speech, he said a vote for UKIP would let in Labour, which would herald a "sharp turn to the left" and that the Lib Dems would also be willing to side with Ed Miliband's party.

"As you spend time with your family and friends, I'd urge all voters to take a moment and stop and think about the decision they have to make in just four days' time," he said.

"It's no exaggeration to say Britain will be making an historic choice."

Labour says Conservative plans for spending cuts suggest a rise in tuition fees up to £11,500 a year. The party said this was based on a £1.5bn cut to the higher education budget by 2018-19. Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna told BBC Radio 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics: "We have already seen tuition fees trebled in this Parliament and of course a big betrayal of the British public by Nick Clegg.

He added: "People are going to be faced with a very clear choice on Thursday. Do you vote to cut tuition fees, saving a young person in your family going to university £9,000 over the course of a three year degree, or do you vote for a continuation of young people being given a lorry load of debt if they want to go to university under the Conservatives."

Mr Clegg dismissed claims by former No 10 adviser James O'Shaughnessy that he had actually been keen for an increase in tuition fees, telling the BBC: "I don't even know who this chap is and he certainly wasn't in the room, I tell you."

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