Britain's Clegg pledges 'louder voice' in coalition

8th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg vowed Sunday the Liberal Democrats would have a "louder voice" in the year-old coalition government after his party took a hammering at the polls.

Clegg pledged to be more assertive within the alliance led by Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives, after a grim week in which the Lib Dems lost a referendum on voting reform and did badly in local elections.

"The lesson I've learned listening to people on the doorsteps is that people want a louder Liberal Democrat voice in government," Clegg told the BBC's Andrew Marr show.

"Where we achieve Liberal Democrat policies in government, we've got to tell people about it."

Clegg signalled his new stance by threatening to derail the coalition's planned reforms of Britain's National Health Service unless there were "substantial, significant changes".

He also dismissed a call by the leader of the opposition Labour party, Ed Miliband, for disaffected Lib Dem ministers to jump ship.

"If they are not in favour of these Tory policies they should stand up for what they believe or leave the cabinet," Miliband told Britain's Observer newspaper.

Tempers are frayed in the coalition after more than two-thirds of voters opposed a change to the Alternative Vote system to elect lawmakers, while the Lib Dems had their worst local council results in a quarter of a century.

Clegg had insisted on Thursday's referendum as a condition of joining the coalition in May 2010 after a general election that booted out Labour but failed to provide the centre-right Conservatives with a majority.

The centrist Lib Dems, who were for a long time Britain's third-placed party, have accused Cameron of betrayal after the anti-AV campaign savaged Clegg for "broken promises".

The attacks came even though Clegg broke those election pledges in order to support Conservative-led austerity measures to tackle Britain's record deficit.

© 2011 AFP

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