LIB DEM CONFERENCE: Norman Lamb will not rule out standing in future Lib Dem leadership battle
- Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC
Political editor Annabelle Dickson reports from the Liberal Democrats' conference in Glasgow
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb will not rule out the Liberal Democrat top job after admitting that he has been sounded out about the role.
While the care minister claimed he 'genuinely did not crave' current leader Nick Clegg's job, praising him as being 'extraordinarily resilient', he admitted that he had been approached.
'Various people have been to see me to talk to me about it in recent times, and so I am not going to rule it out,' he said.
But he added: 'I think he has been extraordinarily resilient and has acted totally in the national interest and actually in time will be recognised for that. Do I find that a really attractive proposition? No I don't.'
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His comments came at the party's final annual conference before the general election in May, at which it announced the earnings threshold for the carers allowance was being lifted to £110 per week,
The opening hours of the gathering in Glasgow was dominated by Liberal Democrat attacks on the their Conservative coalition partners.
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Mr Clegg accused the Tories of being 'economically extreme' as he set out red lines for any future coalition negotiations, saying the Liberal Democrats would raise taxes to help fill the black hole in public finances while the Conservatives would try to balance the books by 'beating up on the poor'.
But at a fringe meeting about the future prospects of a coalition government, Mr Lamb was also highly critical of Labour leader Ed Miliband, warning of the political consequences of a future coalition.
He said: 'I'm afraid I don't see Ed Miliband as a prime minister. I think the idea of us being latched into a Labour government with a low percentage of the vote, led by Ed Miliband, and what's gone on in France under [president Francois] Hollande, I think it could be enormously damaging for our party to be in that sort of relationship.
'It doesn't mean it shouldn't happen if it's the right thing to do for the country. The political implications I think are enormous of that.'
However, he said later his party had to be 'scrupulously neutral' over a coalition with the Tories or Labour and promote its case for why the Liberal Democrats should be in government. The MP, who was elected in 2001, also said there was a 'buzz' about North Norfolk, despite poor national poll ratings for his party.
'I find the team and number of people involved in North Norfolk incredibly encouraging,' he added. 'We have increased our membership in North Norfolk and we have got people actively involved.
'People feel very positive about what we are doing. I am never going to be apologetic about this coalition. It has been of fundamental importance to get this country through difficult times and I think we have met the test.'
But he admitted that his party had 'learnt tough lessons' over its tuition fees U-turn, but defended the policy which he claimed had proved to be progressive.
He also defended himself against political opponents who criticise his role as a health minister in continued missed ambulance service targets and cuts to mental health.
He said: 'My political opponents like to blame me for everything.
'It goes with the territory, you have to put up with it, but there are a lot of people in the mental-health world who are enormously supportive of what I am doing.'
• Do the Liberal Democrats have a chance in the next election? Write (giving full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk