Clegg defends pact while brothers lead Labour race
Published 16/05/2010 | 05:00
BRITISH Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg yesterday defended his decision to go into power with the Tories, prior to a conference of his party supporters. Meanwhile, former energy secretary Ed Miliband formally declared his intention to stand against his brother David for the leadership of the Labour Party.
Mr Clegg said: "I know the birth of this coalition has caused much surprise, and with it, some offence. But the truth is this: there was no other responsible way to play the hand dealt to the political parties by the British people at the election."
More than three-quarters of the Liberal Democrats' federal executive and parliamentary party have backed the coalition in a vote required by party rules before the agreement could go ahead. But a special conference of members will be held in Birmingham today to consult the rest of the party's membership. While a vote against endorsing the agreement would not prevent the coalition continuing, the lack of support from the wider party would be a blow to Mr Clegg.
Last night former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy revealed that he refused to vote for the coalition deal.
In the vanquished Labour Party, Mr Miliband called for a "fraternal" contest for all candidates who put their names forward.
He said: "My message to the British people is that we will learn from our mistakes, we will be part of your values again, part of your community again and we will work with you to build the kind of country we want to see.
"And my message to our party is this: we have to use this leadership campaign as a first step on the road back to power because that is where we should be as a political party." Mr Miliband said he was "absolutely" ready to serve under his elder brother if he became leader.
The brothers are the only candidates so far to have thrown their hats into the ring for the Labour leadership since Gordon Brown stood down on Tuesday.
Announcing his candidacy on Wednesday, former foreign secretary David Miliband said that he would set out on a "conversation" tour of the UK to find out from voters why they turned away from Labour in their millions.
He will formally launch his campaign in his south Shields constituency tomorrow.
Meanwhile, former children's secretary Ed Balls said that he would consult his local party in Morley and Outwood before deciding whether or not to stand for the leadership.