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Clegg: We'll keep UK on right path
Nick Clegg will stake the Liberal Democrats' claim on a place in government after the next general election, insisting that only a coalition including his party will "keep the country on the right path".
In a keynote speech concluding the Lib Dems' annual conference in Glasgow, Mr Clegg will warn that the "absolute worst" outcome of the poll scheduled for 2015 would be outright victory for Labour or the Conservatives.
Casting himself in the same role of kingmaker that he played after the inconclusive 2010 election, the Lib Dem leader will make clear that he is ready to do a coalition deal with either of the two big parties.
And he will warn that the sacrifices made by voters during the years of austerity would be "for nothing" if the country returned to single-party rule, telling delegates: "Labour would wreck the recovery, the Conservatives would give us the wrong kind of recovery. Only the Liberal Democrats can finish the job and finish it in a way that is fair."
In the most deeply personal speech of his career, the Deputy Prime Minister will describe how his belief in social mobility and educational opportunity is driven by the example of his Dutch mother, who spent much of her childhood in a prisoner-of-war camp, and his half-Russian father, whose family came to England after losing everything in the Revolution. Despite his "privileged" upbringing, he will say his parents taught him that "everyone deserves a chance".
He will cite Tuesday's announcement of free school meals for all infant school children as an example of his determination to "use the muscle of the state to create a level playing field when it counts most - when boys and girls are still forming their views, their characters, their hopes and their fears".
Mr Clegg will say that the £600 million school dinner offer - due to begin in England from September 2014, and likely to be taken up by devolved administrations in other parts of the UK - was a Liberal Democrat policy which the party hopes to extend to all primary children after the election. And he will say it stands in stark contrast to Conservative plans for marriage tax allowances.
"Their priority is to help some families over others, with a tax break for married couples," he will say. "That tells you everything you need to know about their values. We, however, will help all families in these tough times, not just the kind we like best, by helping their young children get the best possible start in life - and that tells you everything about ours."
Mr Clegg will tell Lib Dem activists that they should feel "proud" of their party's record in power. And he will declare that the question marks over whether Lib Dems could handle the transition from opposition to power have now been swept away. Mr Clegg will say that Lib Dems do not want to go back into opposition because "we aren't done yet". And he will insist that neither of the big parties can be trusted to govern alone, warning: "Left to their own devices, they'll both get it wrong."
Mr Clegg will dismiss suggestions that his choice of coalition partner will depend on his personal relations with David Cameron and Ed Miliband. "Whether or not we have another coalition is determined by the British people - not me, not you, the people," he will say. "And if that happens, only their votes can tell us which combination of parties carries the greatest legitimacy."