Lib Dems must accept British coalition and move on: Clegg

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British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg urged his Liberal Democrat party Monday to stop "beating ourselves up" about being in government with one-time foes the Tories.

The Lib Dems have had a tough time since joining a coalition led by Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives in May 2010, taking a major hit in local elections this year and losing a referendum on electoral reform by a landslide.

Ministers say the party is stronger since those votes in May, blamed in part on the deeply unpopular decision by the Lib Dems to drop their opposition to raising university tuition fees, but they are currently polling at 11 percent.

Questions about how the Lib Dems should manage their position have dominated the party's annual conference in Birmingham, central England, and several senior figures have used the event to hit out at Tory policies they dislike.

In a question and answer session, Clegg admitted the party had had to take some "agonisingly difficult decisions" but insisted they had also had some successes -- they just needed to advertise these to voters.

"We have got to stop beating ourselves up. A political party that doesn't move forward always ends up going backwards," Clegg said.

He defended the decision to enter a coalition, saying it was necessary to deal with the fallout from the financial crisis, and said that while some Lib Dem voters would never accept it, "we have got to look forward".

"Let's start appealing to those people who maybe never thought about voting for us before but who might in the coming years at least consider doing so," he said.

In the past two days at conference, senior Lib Dems highlighted the raising of the income tax threshold and more funding for disadvantaged school children as evidence of their impact on government.

They also took credit for amending controversial health reforms.

© 2011 AFP

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