Nick Clegg has warned that he is not prepared to tear the Liberal Democrats apart in order to enter into a second coalition with the Conservatives.
Britain’s deputy prime minster said it would be a “disaster” if the party split under the pressure to support a Tory government in another hung parliament.
His comments came as another clutch of opinion polls showed the Conservatives and Labour almost neck and neck, with neither likely to be able to form a majority government after the election on Thursday.
In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, Mr Clegg said that, in such circumstances, there would be a “strong sense of national duty” for his party to act in the interest of the country as a whole.
However, he made clear that did not mean joining the Conservatives in a second coalition at any price, even if they were the most obvious option.
“When we’re subjected to a great deal of pressure, as I’ve discovered all parties do going into a coalition — what happened then was that previous Liberal parties split and that’s when pressure turned into disaster,” he said. “And every single day of my leadership, I have always said the one thing I will never, ever do as a leader is allow my party to split. I would never have the party go into a coalition government against its own collective will.
“You can’t weather all the pressures, you can’t hang tough, you can’t stay the course, unless you’ve taken a collective decision.
“At all levels of the party, including the leader, there is wariness, of course there is.”
His comments come amid reports of deep misgivings among many Lib Dems over the prospect of a second pact with the Tories, particularly as David Cameron is committed to a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, which they bitterly oppose.
Mr Clegg acknowledged the party had paid a high price for joining the Conservatives in government after the 2010 election but said that did not mean there should be a “fatwa” against future coalitions.
“I’m really proud of what we’ve done but it’s come at some cost. We’ve lost councillors, dear old friends of mine who’ve lost their seats through no fault of their own,” he said.
Split in party under pressure to support Conservatives a ‘disaster’
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