Clegg brushes off polls
Nick Clegg has brushed off speculation about his future as leader of the Liberal Democrats, despite a double blow in the polls today after his personal rating fell to -2% among Liberal Democrats, while the party's own rating has dropped below Ukip.
A poll of party members conducted by the Lib Dem Voice website showed a rapid drop in confidence in Mr Clegg since August, when his rating was 13%.
But speaking to the BBC this morning, Mr Clegg insisted he would not “flinch” as the party was “only halfway through the journey” of the Coalition.
A separate poll for the Sunday Telegraph found Vince Cable was preferred as leader of the Lib Dems, and Mr Clegg was further embarrassed by comments from his former director of strategy, Richard Reeves, who has criticised the Coalition's economic policy.
Senior Liberal Democrats have today come out in support of their leader, with both Sir Menzies Campbell and Jo Swinson backing Mr Clegg at a fringe event at the conference.
Ms Swinson accused the media of trying to "harass" Lib Dem MPs to find dissent in the ranks, while Sir Menzies said: "I think this scuttlebutt, this gossip should be put to rest once and for all. If you are serious about the kind of things we’ve been discussing today, then the person who is best qualified to take us forward is Nick Clegg."
Mr Clegg’s deputy, Simon Hughes, this morning also played down the importance of the party’s poor poll ratings, arguing they were part of a normal pattern.
He told BBC Breakfast: “In the middle of every Parliament, whenever I’ve been in Parliament, when we were in opposition we struggled, and as the general election came nearer and people we were confronted with real choices, our poll rating went up... if things do turn around I believe we’ll get the reward for that in the polls at the next election.”