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Coalition government 'way forward'
Liberal Democrats will fight the 2015 election on a message that only a Government including the third party can be trusted to deliver a recovery that is fair and sustainable, Nick Clegg has said.
A return to single-party government after five years of coalition would mean "squandering" the sacrifices made in the period of austerity, he said. A majority Labour government would "wreck" the recovery, while a Conservative-only administration would deliver "the wrong kind of recovery" by allowing the proceeds of growth to go to the rich.
The Lib Dem manifesto for the 2015 poll will be explicitly written with post-election negotiations in mind - identifying the policies which they are ready to "die in the trenches" for, as well as others which are open to compromise in coalition talks - said Mr Clegg. And he challenged the other parties to do the same.
One red line for any negotiations is almost certain to be measures to take anyone earning the minimum wage out of income tax by raising thresholds to around £12,500, which Mr Clegg said would be a "signature tune" of the Lib Dem campaign. He hinted that the Lib Dems' cherished "mansion tax" on residential properties worth over £2 million was also like to feature, though he insisted final decisions will not be taken until nearer the election.
Despite going into the Lib Dem annual conference in Glasgow with his party trailing at 9% in recent opinion polls, Mr Clegg was bullish about the prospects of retaining a share of power in a hung Parliament after the general election.
"Our message to the British people in 2015 will be essentially this: We will say 'We've done very good things in Government - let us finish the job, but finish the job fairly'," Mr Clegg told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show.
"It is my genuine belief that if we go back to the bad old days - not of coalition or balanced politics, but of either the left or the right dominating government on their own - you will get a recovery which is neither fair nor sustainable. I think Labour would wreck the recovery, and under the Conservatives - who don't have the same commitment to fairness which we do - you would get the wrong kind of recovery."
Coalition was "much better than either the left or the right messing things up on their own all over again", he said.
Mr Clegg said there had been no discussions with Tories about continuing their coalition, insisting that talks with either major party must wait until the electorate has had its say.
He appeared to indicate that - as in 2010 - he would speak to the largest party first, telling interviewer Andrew Marr that whoever gained the "clearest mandate, the most votes and the most seats" in a hung Parliament had the democratic right to attempt to form a government.