Clegg speech to 2013 Spring Conference (from The Guardian.)
"The longer you stand side by side with your opponents, the easier your differences are to see," said Clegg. "We don't lose our identity by governing with the Conservatives. The comparison helps the British people understand who we are."
Party managers admitted the conference – against the backdrop of sex allegations against the party's chief executive Lord Rennard and a grim trial involving former cabinet minister Chris Huhne – could have been a disaster if Huhne's old Eastleigh seat had been lost in the byelection.
A poll of UK-wide marginals, commissioned by Lord Ashcroft and published on Saturday, showed the party losing 40 of its 57 seats. Officials said that, but for Eastleigh, the poll would have generated stories of a Clegg-led wipeout.
Instead, a confident Clegg was able to use his speech to attack his coalition partners, saying the Tory leadership knows it needs to stay on the centre ground to have any chance of speaking to ordinary people's concerns.
He said the leadership "just can't manage it, no matter how hard they try. They're like a kind of broken shopping trolley. Every time you try and push them straight ahead they veer off to the right-hand side."
He warned Theresa May, the home secretary, that as long as he remained around the cabinet table, he would not allow the proposal of British withdrawal from the European convention on human rights.