James Forsyth

Who is Clegg closer to?

Who is Clegg closer to?
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Nick Clegg’s interview with the New Statesman is well worth reading for an insight into how he sees relations with the two main parties. Clegg describes himself as “an anti-Labour northern MP” and explains why he thinks that the Lib Dems' room for growth comes from taking seats from Labour:

"Something like 85 per cent of our MPs are in former Conservative seats. I want to hold on to those gains and improve on them. Look at the political map of Britain: the places where we are going to win the most seats in the next few years are in the Labour heartlands. One of the reasons I'm keen to be leader is that I think I can lead the charge against Labour."

Yet, Clegg is aware of the dangers of being labelled a closet Tory. So he stresses that he has no plans to do a deal with the Tories if Gordon Brown loses his overall majority:

"It's an unbelievably far-fetched attitude from senior Conservatives that somehow the Liberal Democrats are condemned to do deals with them. It's phooey."

But the essential dilemma for the Lib Dems is that they will only get into government as a minority partner. So, however, robust Clegg is now in his views of Labour and the Conservatives he will have to decide who he wants to do business with at some point.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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