Labour tempts Clegg with prospect of a coalition pact
Labour dangled the prospect of a Lib-Lab coalition government in front of Nick Clegg yesterday as a fresh poll showed that the Liberal Democrat leader's personal ratings have soared.
The Conservatives, alarmed by Mr Clegg's triumph in the first televised leaders' debates last week, issued a stark "vote Clegg, get Brown" warning as they tried to halt the Liberal Democrat bandwagon. The Tories will tell voters that backing the Liberal Democrats could result in a hung parliament with Gordon Brown remaining as prime minister.
A ComRes survey of businessmen for 'The Independent' revealed an improvement in Mr Clegg's standing. The proportion who have confidence in him has doubled from 20pc to 41pc in the past month. Although he still trails David Cameron (65pc), he has surpassed Mr Brown's 28pc.
The number of businessmen who believe the Shadow Chancellor George Osborne "lacks experience" has risen from 78pc to a record 80pc.
The economy will take centre stage this week with the publication of official figures on unemployment, inflation, the public finances and growth. Although the number of jobless has fallen in the past three months, ministers have been warned that Wednesday's figures may show a rise.
Lord Mandelson, who heads Labour's campaign, criticised some Liberal Democrat policies, but made it clear a coalition government would not be a disaster. It is the first time a senior Labour figure has spoken about a Lib-Lab coalition, in which Liberal Democrats would sit in a Brown cabinet.
In a memo to Labour members, Lord Mandelson said: "I am not against coalition government in principle and for Britain, anything would be better than a Cameron-Osborne government."
Mr Brown adopted a two-pronged approach, branding the Liberal Democrats' economic policies "a mistake", but saying he wanted them to join a "progressive consensus".
Interviewed on BBC1's 'The Andrew Marr Show', he tried to head off the "vote Clegg, get Brown" Tory attack by refusing to confirm he would serve a full term in Downing Street.
At a press conference today, Mr Brown will try to shift the spotlight to the economy and away from what has been called "Cleggmania".
Labour insists the public's main concern is securing the recovery and the prime minister will attack over the Tories' decision to halt most of next year's rise in national insurance contributions, arguing that the £6bn (€6.8bn) of cuts it would require would risk a double-dip recession.
The Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman Vince Cable was asked if he would serve as chancellor in the event of a hung parliament. He said he would demand "fundamental economic policies" such as tackling the public deficit and getting banks lending again. (© Independent News Service)