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Clegg to make no more apologies for Lib Dem record

Nick Clegg will try to promote his party's successes at the 2012 conference. Photo: David Jones/PA Wire

He's said it. He even appears to sing it. Nick Clegg's apology over the tuition fees row has certainly set the tone for the Liberal Democrat conference which begins today - even if it's not quite the tone intended.

But sources close to the Lib Dem leader say the big Brighton party will not be about saying sorry. At least that's what they hope. Instead it will focus on the party's achievements in coalition. Against a backdrop of failed Lords reform, a struggling economy, poor polls and leadership questions, Mr Clegg will try to promote the party's successes.

So just look at the conference slogan: Fairer Tax in Tough Times. This, the leadership believes, is their real success story. Increasing the income tax threshold is a Lib Dem promise they're keeping (with a lot of help from the Treasury) and they want to go further. Wealth taxes will also make another appearance - an easy hit with this audience.

Mr Clegg apologised for failing to stick to his manifesto pledge in a video message. Credit: ITV News

And what else? Well, they'll pat themselves on the back for the green investment bank, the pupil premium, watering down the health reforms and other measures most people will have never heard of.

But no-one can ignore the elephant in the room - the party just isn't popular with voters right now. There've been mutterings about whether Nick Clegg is the right man for the top job. But even those who'd rather he stepped down before the next election admit there won't be much appetite for leadership debates at this conference. That will come next year.

Mr Clegg, seen here at last year's conference, has faced questions over his leadership. Credit: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Archive

Yes, there will be uncomfortable questions from party members on a whole host of issues. But the truth is that despite the batterings, and the clear ambitions of some senior Lib Dems, the party appears to be remarkably united.

Of course, tomorrow one word could unite them further - sorry. That's if the spoof musical version of Nick Clegg's apology really does make it into the charts. And when it's the Lib Dems you're talking about, anything's possible.

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