Nick Clegg"s leadership "in trouble", admits his deputy Simon Hughes


Nick Clegg's leadership 'in trouble', admits his deputy as opinion polls show Lib Dems languishing in fourth with just 10% of vote

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UPDATED:

12:07 GMT, 17 December 2012

Nick Clegg’s leadership is ‘in trouble’, his deputy admitted yesterday.

Simon Hughes spoke out as the Deputy Prime Minister prepared to distance
himself from David Cameron with a call to scrap benefits for better off
pensioners.

Mr Hughes acknowledged that there was growing ‘chatter’ within the party
about Mr Clegg’s leadership following months of polls suggesting the
Lib Dems will be wiped out at the next election.

Lib Dem MP Simon Hughes

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

Dire straits: Lib Dem deputy Simon Hughes (left) admitted Nick Clegg's leadership was 'in trouble' as three opinion polls recorded the party languishing in fourth place on less than 10 per cent of the vote

Mr Clegg will mark his fifth anniversary as Lib Dem leader with a major
speech today in which he seeks to defend his party’s record as a
moderating influence, boasting that he headed off 6billion of ‘extreme’
benefit cuts demanded by the Tories.

Three opinion polls yesterday recorded the Lib Dems languishing in
fourth place on less than 10 per cent of the vote.

Mr Hughes, deputy
leader of the party, told LBC Radio that the dire ratings were an
inevitable consequence of the decision to go into government with the
Conservatives to deal with the massive budget deficit left behind by
Labour.

Some Lib Dems have warned privately that Mr Clegg’s personal
unpopularity with the voters is dragging the party down, and there is
mounting speculation that he could be replaced by Business Secretary
Vince Cable before the next election.

Showdown: Mr Hughes spoke out as the Deputy Prime Minister prepared to distance himself from David Cameron with a call to scrap benefits for better off pensioners

Showdown: Mr Hughes spoke out as the Deputy Prime Minister prepared to distance himself from David Cameron with a call to scrap benefits for better off pensioners

Asked whether Mr Clegg’s position as party leader was secure, Mr Hughes
said: ‘There’s a little bit of chatter, but there’s bound to be given
the situation we find ourselves in the opinion polls.

Nick led us into
government for the first time since the Second World War, and whoever
had been leader of the Liberal Democrats would have been in trouble and
criticised for the decision we made.’

A Lib Dem source last night insisted Mr Clegg’s position was secure. ‘He
will lead the party into the next election and beyond,’ the source
said.

His comments came as Mr Clegg prepared to deliver a major speech on
benefits today in which he will call for the welfare state to be
transformed into an ‘enabling state’.

He will also boast that the Lib Dems headed off Tory demands for extra
welfare cuts totalling more than 6billion in George Osborne’s autumn
statement earlier this month.

Mr Clegg claims that he vetoed a proposal from Mr Cameron to end housing
benefit for the under-25s, together with an idea from Work and Pensions
Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to limit child benefit payments to the
first two children. ‘That is the job of the Liberal Democrats – to
anchor reform in the sensible centre ground,’ he will say.