Clegg vows to break two-party politics

The frontrunner in the Liberal Democrat leadership race has vowed to make the party a viable electoral force within the next two or three elections.

Nick Clegg said he would work as leader to “break the stifling mould of two-party politics within the next decade”.

Speaking to ITV’s Sunday Edition the frontbench MP said: “What I seek to do is draw a line under two years of what has been, frankly, a rather introverted somewhat inward-looking phase in a party’s history.”

Mr Clegg, who has been eager to avoid direct comparisons with David Cameron, said he would not rule out a coalition with the Conservatives.

Instead, Mr Clegg said he would work with whichever party has the most seats in a hung parliament – an increasingly likely prospect after the next election.

He told the programme he wouldn’t play a “sort of eenie meanie miney moe about which party I prefer” and instead look at which party had a mandate from the electorate.

Mr Clegg, who is currently home affairs spokesman, is the frontrunner in the race for the Liberal Democrat leadership.

He has support from at least 28 MPs, nearly three times as many as his rival Chris Huhne.

Mr Clegg also has support from former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown.

Mr Huhne found his own high profile backer over the weekend, when former leader David Steel said he would back him over his “boldness” over Trident.

The environment spokesman told the Observer yesterday he would scrap the Trident missile defence system, in a departure from the party’s current policy to defer a decision until 2014.

Mr Huhne told the newspaper it would be “ridiculous” to spend £15 million updating a Cold War relic when the UK’s greatest threats now come from terrorists and rogue states.

He said: “It would be ridiculous to replace the system with something of equivalent power, strength and lack of vulnerability.

“It will also make us dependent for decades to come on the US for maintenance.”

Instead Mr Huhne promised to place Europe at the heart of his campaign and said support for the EU would become a “dividing line” between the Lib Dems and their rivals.

Mr Clegg refused to match his opponent’s pledge, saying he would not scrap Trident “on a whim”.

He told Sunday Edition he is a nuclear disarmer but also a committed multilateralist.

Mr Clegg said: “I do not believe that, just on a whim in a leadership contest, one should abandon the idea that Britain should play a role not only in disarming itself but disarming the world.”