David Ward has dismissed the idea that dumping Nick Clegg will make the Liberal Democrats more popular – insisting he has been “very successful”.
The Bradford East MP threw his weight behind the beleaguered Deputy Prime Minister, ahead of a crunch meeting with Lib Dem MPs at Westminster tonight.
Mr Ward argued it was “ridiculous” to suggest Mr Clegg should make way for a new, less controversial face at the top, insisting he knew of no fellow MPs pushing for the switch.
And he said the true measure of success was not how many Lib Dem MPs are re-elected, but how many of his party’s policies had been introduced.
Mr Ward said: “What has Nick done wrong? He and I have had a few run-ins, but he has the most difficult job in politics for generations. Whoever was leader would have got a hammering.”
The MP spoke out a week after senior Lib Dem peer Lord Oakeshott warned his party was “heading for disaster” under Mr Clegg.
The Lib Dem leader will hold talks with his MPs after losing all but one of his Euro-MPs and finishing fifth in those elections on a dismal 6.6 per cent of the vote.
Some polls have suggested the Lib Dems can only survive as a political force under the leadership of either Business Secretary Vince Cable or Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander.
But Mr Ward said: “Those polls might be true for a week, but then people would turn on either Danny or Vince. It is ridiculous to be considering the leadership before the election. It’s a nonsense – a distraction from getting on with things.”
Mr Ward pointed to the lifting of the income tax threshold, the ‘pupil premium’, pensions changes, better childcare and the introduction of free school meals for under-eights.
And he said: “What is success? Is it to have extra MPs, or to have achieved something in Government?
“Huge chunks of our manifesto are now part of the nation. Pound for pound, we have delivered more than the Tories have. In that respect, we have been very successful.”
Asked if Lib Dem MPs in marginal seats such as Bradford East were “worried”, Mr Ward replied: “We have got a good story and I’m confident we can tell it. When I communicate with my constituents, they know what we have done in office.”
And, asked if Mr Clegg will be leader at next year’s general election, he said: “I would be amazed if he wasn’t – I’ve not picked up anything from anyone to suggest otherwise.”