Liberal Democrats: Hard work ahead for 'hate figure' Clegg to reunite divided party

LIBERAL Democrat leader Nick Clegg faces a battle to unite his fractured party as he appealed to his MPs to "move forward" after the damaging split over tuition fees.

Rebel Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland has warned the Deputy Prime Minister – who has been the central hate figure for protesters after abandoning a pre-election pledge to oppose any fees increase – he must now deliver positive policies for the party if unity is to be restored.

Mr Clegg, the MP for Sheffield Hallam, will meet his parliamentary party in Westminster next week ahead of the Christmas break with mounting scrutiny over his handling of the fees issue – which prompted two of his MPs to quit as Ministerial aides – and the tensions within his party.

Mr Mulholland, who is one of 21 Lib Dems to defy the leadership and oppose raising the cap on fees to 9,000, said: "I don't think we should have been asked to support the policy but it's gone through now and it's time to move on.

"Nick Clegg and (Business Secretary] Vince Cable need to show that they can bring the parliamentary party back together and get the Lib Dems once again focused on the positive Lib Dem policies in the coalition. We want to hear when as many as possible will be implemented so we have some positive stories to tell."

Yesterday Mr Clegg insisted there was no "rancour" among his MPs after more than a third of them rebelled, but many are particularly angry that the issue was forced through so quickly without giving more time for debate.

"We, internally within the Liberal Democrats, knew we wouldn't be able to get complete unanimity between the Liberal Democrats," he said.

"Clearly we did not, it's no surprise to anyone that this was going to be a difficult issue for us. But we've talked to each other and the party has discussed this in a calm and respectful manner which I think will now allow us to move forward without rancour and in a united way, not least in the coalition Government so that we can deliver the liberal, fair things we want for Britain as a whole."