UK Politics

Nick Clegg: I could work with Miliband if voters wanted

Nick Clegg
Image caption Mr Clegg has faced questions about what he will do if no party got a majority in 2015

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has suggested he could serve alongside Labour's Ed Miliband in a coalition government if that is what the voters wanted.

Mr Clegg said he would be prepared to work with Labour after the election if the circumstances dictated it and if the "details were got right".

Personalities would not come into it, he told the BBC's Nick Robinson.

Asked about Mr Miliband's suitability to be PM, Mr Clegg said he had "no idea" but queried his lack of policies.

With the next election only 20 months away, Mr Clegg is facing questions about what he would do if no party got a majority in 2015.

The Lib Dem leader has always said he would guided by the wishes of the British people, in terms of the electoral arithmetic, in any negotiations should the next election not produce an outright winner.

'No kingmaker'

He said his negotiations with Gordon Brown about a potential Lib-Lab coalition in 2010 had come to nothing, partly because it would not - unlike the arrangement with the Conservatives - have been able to command a majority in Parliament.

Mr Clegg said he would, hypothetically, be willing to serve in a coalition government led by Mr Miliband - an outcome that would depend on Labour being the largest party after the election but not being able to govern on its own.

"It isn't about my personal preference, it isn't about whether this person likes that person more or whether they get on better with this person, it is not about that. It is about following the instruction manual handed to us," he said.

"Of course I would serve in a Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition if that is clearly what the British people want and, of course, if it is possible to assemble a coalition of the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties".

In an interview with the BBC's political editor, the Lib Dem leader said he was not seeking to become the perpetual kingmaker of British politics but believed a coalition was the best guarantor of the economic recovery and that a single-party Conservative or Labour government would "mess things up again".

'On a plate'

Asked about Mr Miliband's prospects, Mr Clegg said people should not be judged "until they have been able to prove themselves".

But he suggested Labour had a lot of work to do on policy before they could be considered credible. "I think there is a bit of a blank at the moment in what the Labour Party thinks.

"I personally think that the Labour Party and Ed Miliband himself... have assumed that somehow the general election is going to be delivered to them on a plate simply by criticising the coalition and the difficult decisions we have had to make - often unpopular decisions to clean up the mess they left behind."

Amid speculation about the coalition's longevity - which has been questioned by Vince Cable among others - Mr Clegg said that there would be no disengagement before the general election.

"We will see this through to 2015. It is a decision for the leader.

"I am the leader of the party and I have made it very clear to demonstrate that coalition government works but also to demonstrate that we are doing the job of clearing up this monumental economic mess left by Labour that we need the full five years to get the job going."

Mr Clegg will make his leader's address to conference on Wednesday.