Nick Clegg admits being ‘drowned out’ by the Tories

The Liberal Democrats allowed themselves to be drowned out by the Conservatives in the first year of the coalition government, Nick Clegg admitted last night.

Asked whether he had got become too "friendly" with his coalition partners, Clegg admitted that he probably hadn't spoken up enough.

"Liberal Democrats, myself included, lost our voice in that first year," he told BBC Newsnight.

However, he said that his main concern had been to show that the coalition government could work together.

"I certainly felt a very strong sense of pressure, duty to show that coalition government could work.

"Because I think people forget quite how hysterical the predictions were, that locusts would descend from the sky, the sun would be blotted out the earth would stop spinning on its axis if there was a hung parliament," he added.

Clegg's admission follows comments by Liberal Democrat minister Lynne Featherstone earlier this week, attacking the coalition deal secured by Clegg and his team.

She told a conference fringe event that the leadership 'should have been shot' for agreeing to raise tuition fees as part of the coalition deal.

Despite Featherstone's comments, there has been very little dissent against the leadership on the conference floor so far this year.

Cable, whose speeches usually expose deep rifts between the two wings of the party was warmly received by the leadership yesterday.

The party have also avoided any contentious motions being passed by activists.

A debate yesterday on whether the Lib Dems should promise to ban selection by faith in state schools, was easily defeated after interventions from two cabinet ministers.

Simon Hughes and Vince Cable both stood up to oppose the motion brought by left-wingers Evan Harris and Julian Huppert, with Cable suggesting that the policy would cause the party to lose large numbers of their voters.

Despite this unanimity, a survey of party members and activists found that there is still a large amount of dissatisfaction with Clegg's leadership.

A poll by Liberal Democrat Voice last week found that almost half of the party's members and activists were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with Clegg's leadership with just 50% remaining satisfied.

A Comres poll of Liberal Democrat prospective candidates last week found that Tim Farron is the current clear favourite to replace Clegg, with 41% of candidates.

Danny Alexander and Jo Swinson were the next most popular choice with 6% of candidates.