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Nick Clegg defends party in Sir Cyril Smith furore

Rochdale's Liberal MP, Cyril Smith pictured in 1974. Credit: PA Archive

Nick Clegg as sought to distance the Liberal Democrats from the "repugnant" allegations against former MP Sir Cyril Smith, insisting that the party never knew of his actions.

At a Westminster press conference the Lib Dem leader insisted his party was unaware of the "truly horrific" actions carried out by Sir Cyril.

Asked if there should be an independent inquiry into what the party knew he said: "These are incredibly serious revelations, repugnant ones, about Cyril Smith. They stretch back to the 1950s, the 1960s.

"My party, the Liberal Democrats, did not know about these actions. It's up to the police - these are very serious matters which the police may well want to look into and it will be up to the police to conduct those investigations. They are the right people to look into these things."

More: Cable: Allegations of Cyril Smith cover up 'very serious'

Govt 'ready and willing' for radical housing alternatives

Nick Clegg is expected to announce the Government is "ready and willing" to listen to radical alternatives in order to build three garden cities, as the Coalition try to end the housing crisis.

The Deputy Prime Minister will say the Government is open to ideas like "removing barriers to acquiring land or attracting private finance," at his monthly press conference held later today.

I also expect some areas will want to innovate in ways which we have not anticipated, so we are ready and willing to consider any other ways government can support the delivery of garden cities, for example by removing barriers to acquiring land or attracting private finance.

I'm clear that local communities developing new garden cities is an essential part of the solution to providing affordable homes to live in, building a stronger economy and a fairer society, where every person can get on in life.

– Nick Clegg

Read: Clegg to announce funds for 'three new garden cities'

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Nick Clegg: 'We must try to do more on expenses'

The level of public "despair" about MPs' expenses means political leaders "have to try and see" if they can bring in further reforms to the system, Nick Clegg has told ITV News.

The Liberal Democrat leader said he was "always prepared" for cross-party discussions on the issue.

However, he also stressed "the important thing" is that new rules brought in under this government mean MPs' claims are now assessed by an independent body, rather than a committee of fellow MPs.

Ukip and Lib Dems 'fail to gain' in poll despite debate

Televised debates between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage over the EU have failed to boost either of the leaders' parties in the race for next month's European elections, according to a survey carried out by ComRes.

Read: Nigel Farage emerges on top again after second EU debate with Nick Clegg

Labour and the UK Independence Party are neck-and-neck in the race for next month's European Parliament elections, found the ComRes survey for The People.

The debate was moderated by David Dimbleby on BBC Two. Credit: BBC

Ed Miliband's Labour clawed back eurosceptic Ukip's two-point lead from March, leaving the two parties tied on 30% among those saying they are certain to vote.

Read: Nick Clegg vows to step up Europe campaign

Liberal Democrat ratings for the May 22 Euro-elections remained unchanged on 8%, while Conservatives were on 22%, one point up from their position in March.

Wales

Labour and Tories 'missing in action' on EU says Clegg

Nick Clegg is expected to use his speech to the Welsh Liberal Democrats' conference in Newport to attack Labour and the Conservatives as 'missing in action' in the campaign to defend Britain's membership of the European Union. He'll expected to say:

... remaining in Europe is the only way to protect three million British jobs. Because working with our neighbours is how we keep Britain strong – ensuring we can do all of the things we cannot do alone: promoting trade, tackling climate change, fighting cross-border crime. Because in the modern world there is safety in numbers. Because we always stand tall in the world when we stand tall in our own backyard.

– Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister

And he'll accuse the other two UK parties of 'failing to take a stand' on Europe in the face of 'myths and untruths' from UKIP.

Where are the supposedly pro-European Labour party? Or the supposedly moderate Conservative leadership? The country is finally having it out about the single biggest issue facing our future – and where are they?

Absent. Hiding. Missing in action. Paralysed by their own internal divisions. Too scared to speak up for the national interest because it’ll cause them too great a political headache.

It’s party-before-country from leaders who sort of half say they’re IN, but who don’t have the guts to actually come out.

Say what you like about the Liberal Democrats – and people do – but at least we have the courage of our convictions. At least we are willing to stand up and be heard, even when our views are less popular but we believe they are right.

So we will fill the void left by our opponents – make no mistake. Between now and May 22nd we will continue to fight for staying in Europe in order to protect the Britain we love.

– Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister

Clegg: Farage debates are 'just the start'

Following his high-profile TV dust-up with Nigel Farage over Europe, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has vowed to step up his campaign for Britain to stay in the EU.

Nick Clegg has vowed to step up his campaign for Britain to stay in the EU. Credit: PA

In a speech to the Welsh Lib Dem conference today, Mr Clegg is expected to accuse David Cameron and Ed Miliband of putting "party before country" by ducking out of the EU debate, describing them as "absent, hiding, missing in action".

Mr Clegg will acknowledge that he did not defeat Mr Farage's eurosceptic arguments in their TV clashes, but will insist that the Farage debates were "just the start - a curtain-raiser to a campaign that will be the most passionate defence of British interests in Europe for generations".

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ITV News political team's take on Europe debate

ITV News' Political Editor Tom Bradby, Deputy Political Editor Chris Ship and Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen have given tweeted their thoughts on the second debate on Europe between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage:

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I am struggling to think of something sensible to say about that. Nigel did better, but his support of Putin is weird. Nick shouted more.

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I thought Nick edged it last week (against popular opinion among colleagues) This week was Farage's night (more clearly so too)

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The polls give Nigel Farage a bigger win than last week - but will the LDs get more votes out of these debates than they would otherwise?

Snap polls say Farage wins second debate

YouGov poll: 68% thought Farage won EU debate

A YouGov poll for the Sun newspaper found that 68% people thought Nigel Farage won tonight's debate.

Poll for Guardian: 69% think Farage won EU debate

An ICM poll for the Guardian newspaper found that 69% people thought Nigel Farage won tonight's debate.

Guardian news editor Dan Sabbagh tweeted:

The exact question posed was:

Putting aside your own party preference and only basing your answer on what you saw or heard during the debate, as far as you are concerned which one of the two leaders do you think won the debate?

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