Clegg gets boost on coalition
THE coalition deal which gave Liberal Democrats a share of power in the UK for the first time in the party's history won the "overwhelming" approval of activists at a special conference yesterday.
Party sources said that no more than a dozen of the 2,000 delegates opposed the deal in a show of hands at the gathering in Birmingham.
The conference came as Prime Minister David Cameron reaffirmed his faith in the Lib Dems, promising Nick Clegg would be part of his "inner core" in a government he described as a "progressive alliance".
Identifying himself as a "liberal Conservative", Mr Cameron indicated he will give Mr Clegg a role in ministerial appointments and sackings and said that Chancellor George Osborne and Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable will work together on banking reform. Stirrings of discontent among Lib Dem ranks came into the open yesterday when former party leader Charles Kennedy said he could not support the coalition.
Mr Kennedy, who abstained in a vote on the deal last Tuesday, said it had driven a "coach and horses" through long-cherished hopes for realignment of the centre-left.
Polls suggested that Lib Dems had dropped three points to 21pc since the election. And one survey found that around one-third of people who backed Lib Dems last week thought the party had sold out and should have forged a pact with Labour.
But Mr Clegg was given a warm reception from grassroots supporters at Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre yesterday, and the motion endorsing the coalition agreement was passed comfortably.
Although a handful of non-party members had gathered outside the conference centre to protest at the coalition, few of those attending the event expressed any anger.
Nigel Howells, a Liberal Democrat councillor from Cardiff, said just one member had since left his local party branch, while around 40 had expressed interest in joining.
A coalition with Labour had not been an option because "the numbers didn't stack up and at the end of the day the people voted the Labour government out," he said.