LONDON — Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said on Tuesday morning that there is “no remote possibility” of Labour winning extra seats in Thursday’s general election.
Some polls suggest Labour could reduce the size of Theresa May’s majority or even force a hung parliament. However, the Liberal Democrat MP told an audience of journalists and party members that the collapse of Labour in Scotland means it “simply cannot win” the election and dismissed talk of a possible hung parliament as “froth and nonsense”.
“In my mind, there is no remote possibility of Labour returning more MPs than they had,” he said during a speech in central London.
“There has been lots of excitement about the polls but It’s all froth and nonsense. The collapse of Labour in Scotland means it simply cannot win.”
Clegg delivered a warning about what a hard Brexit would mean for the national economy, and why Prime Minister Theresa May must be blocked from wrenching Britain from the Single Market.
In a scathing attack on May, Clegg said the Tory leader is unfit to take into Brexit negotiations with the European Union, describing her as “unsteady in the limelight, incapable of straight talking, and prone to chaotic U-turns.”
He added: “She just does whatever the editor of the Daily Mail tells her to do, as far as I can see”.
The Liberal Democrats have put Brexit at the front and centre of their campaign and have pledged to give the British public a referendum on the terms of Britain’s proposed departure from the 28-nation bloc if elected to government.
However, the party’s anti-Brexit message has so far failed to trigger a surge in public support, according to opinion polls. The most recent polls suggest significant numbers of former Lib Dem voters are planning to switch to Labour.
Clegg’s speech was hard-hitting and urgent in tone. He described Britain’s imminent departure from the EU as a “crisis” and slammed May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for “colluding” in the destruction of Britain’s economy.
“There has been a pact of silence on Brexit between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. It is one of the most cynical acts of political collusion between the two larger parties in a generation,” Clegg claimed.
“Strip away the contrast in tone and the differences in language and a striking reality emerges: both the Conservative and Labour positions on Brexit are now more or less identical.
“Pull Britain out of the Customs Union and the Single Market. Abruptly bring an end to freedom of movement. Deny the people any chance to decide on the final deal. They are in total agreement.”
He added: “The Treasury figures are an indictment of the central objective of Theresa May’s negotiating strategy – to walk away from Margaret Thatcher’s Single Market.
“This decision alone carries a long-term price tag of £16bn a year. For that money, you could give every hospital in the UK a £12m cash injection, or provide the average school with an extra half a million pounds.”
Clegg mocked the Labour leader’s contribution to the failed Remain campaign in the EU referendum.
“He [Corbyn] was lamentably luke-warm during the referendum campaign. Luke-warm to the point of invisibility.”
The former Liberal Democrat went on to attack the lack of “modesty” displayed by May and Tory ministers like Boris Johnson in dealing with their European counterparts.
“Two of the most powerful leaders in the world visited Europe last week,” Clegg said. “India’s Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Not one of them visited the UK. They didn’t even bother considering it.
“This government says it wants the best for Britain, but it’s pushing Britain to the back of every queue.”
A popular criticism of the Remain campaign — even among some within the campaign — was that it was gloomy, focused too heavily on statistics, and didn’t address the feelings and anxieties of people who eventually voted Leave.
When we asked Clegg whether his speech on Tuesday morning was guilty of the same thing, the MP for Sheffield Hallam said he “wasn’t interested in chasing the populism of Theresa May” and insisted there was “nothing more emotive” than pointing out how Britain’s younger generations will be damaged by a hard Brexit.
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