Clegg: I don’t see Sheffield Hallam turning Labour

Nick Clegg campaigning in Cheshire today
Nick Clegg campaigning in Cheshire today
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Nick Clegg will spend the Easter weekend in his constituency as he attempts to see off a Labour bid to oust him from Westminster.

The Liberal Democrat leader insists he is confident he will hold on to his Sheffield Hallam seat despite a poll indicating that Labour are two points ahead.

Mr Clegg, who also unveiled a poster hailing the tax cut delivered by the Lib Dems in government, said another Labour MP was “the last thing” Sheffield needs.

The Deputy Prime Minister said: “There clearly are some folk in Sheffield, as there are across the country, who either are not happy that the Liberal Democrats entered into a coalition or they are not happy about some of the decisions we have had to take - of course I understand that.

“The truth is, I haven’t relished all the decisions we’ve had to take. I didn’t come into politics to introduce cuts and savings, of course I didn’t.”

Speaking at the poster launch in Hyde, Cheshire, before travelling to Sheffield, he said: “Of course I accept that going into government and then presiding over these difficult decisions comes with a political cost, of course it does.”

But he added: “The only alternative was to keep our hands clean, make ourselves feel safer politically, be a permanent party of protest but, much worse than that, I genuinely think - I accept I can’t scientifically prove it to you - but I really do think that if we hadn’t stepped up to the plate and provided political stability, I’m absolutely convinced that more people would be out of work now, interest rates would be higher and people would be struggling to pay their mortgages.

“I really couldn’t have had that on my conscience to think ‘I’m OK, it’s much easier for the Liberal Democrats but it’s worse for the country’.

“I would much rather, in years to come, look back and say I did what was better for the country even though it wasn’t as easy for our party, rather than do what’s easier for the party but much worse for the country.”

The Deputy Prime Minister, who is defending a healthy 15,284 majority in Sheffield Hallam, trails by 27 per cemt to 29 per cent, according to the latest research by Lord Ashcroft.

But he said: “I don’t see Hallam turning Labour. Of course I understand there are people now who are a little bit unsettled by some of the decisions we have had to take. I understand particularly those people working in the public sector who have seen changes to their pensions and restraint on their pay, they have misgivings about what’s been going on.

“But my experience, not all of them, but if I explain what we have had to do and that if we didn’t do what we did more people would have lost their jobs in the public sector, I think people will stick with the Liberal Democrats.

“The last thing that a wonderful city like Sheffield needs is one-party rule. There are Labour MPs as far as the eye can see in South Yorkshire. It’s a good thing that we have got a mix of different parties representing parts of the country.”

Labour candidate Oliver Coppard said: “Five days after the general election campaign started, so far the Queen has visited Sheffield more often than Nick Clegg.

“It’s no surprise he doesn’t understand how badly let down people are in this constituent when he spends so little time actually out on the doorstep, talking to people.

“This is my home, I was born and raised here, and I think people are wanting to put their trust in someone who they know will stand up for this city and this community.

“Nick Clegg has turned his back on the promises he made to the people who live here and despite all the apologies, he’ll do exactly the same thing next time given half a chance.”