Nick Clegg was facing rebellion from his own ranks today after Liverpool Liberal Democrats leader Warren Bradley called on the Deputy Prime Minister to pull out of the coalition government.
Mr Clegg was privately hammered in a lengthy memo from Liverpool City Council’s opposition leader, who told him that his fellow Lib Dem councillors are set to lose next month’s elections “not because of their record, but because of your record and the perception of what we as Liberal Democrats now are.”
The party had “deserted their followers” and needed to “reconsider what and who we are before we disappear into the annals of history,” Mr Bradley warned.
“I hope you take this in the spirit it is meant, liberal principles have to shine through, we have to be independent and we have to sever ties from the coalition. If we fail to do this, we have only our parliamentarians to blame.”
Mr Bradley told reporters he was not part of a “civil war,” but heartland constituencies were being hurt by the coalition’s decisions.
“Unfortunately some of the decisions being taken are against my principles and I know against the principles of a lot of Liberal Democrats in Liverpool,” he said.
But Mr Clegg insisted Mr Bradley was “wrong” and that the Lib Dems needed to stick to the Tories’ plan.
“I think Warren Bradley is making a huge mistake in joining in with all that.
“Let’s leave the criticism to our critics,” he said.
It would not be the first time Mr Clegg’s leadership has angered the party faithful. His decision to vote for higher university tuition fees last December backtracked on an explicit campaign promise which advocated scrapping fees entirely.
Members at the Lib Dem’s spring conference in Cardiff last March piled pressure on the Deputy PM by voting almost unanimously for a revamp of the coalition’s market-based NHS reforms.
And he was caught out in an embarrassing gaffe last month after a public appearance with David Cameron.
The Prime Minister told the audience he hoped for a “better-natured” debate with Mr Clegg in the next general election.
However, unaware that his lapel microphone was still broadcasting, the Lib Dem later joked offstage: “If we keep doing this, we won’t have anything to bloody disagree on in the bloody TV debates.”