Page last updated at 14:47 GMT, Monday, 14 April 2008 15:47 UK

Lib Dems 'are the national party'

Nick Clegg
Mr Clegg said he expected an improved showing from his party

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has claimed that his is "very much the national party" in next month's local elections in England and Wales.

He said the Lib Dems were the "only opposition" to the Conservatives in the "rural and suburban" South and to Labour in the "urban" North.

Mr Clegg added that he expects his party to go "from strength to strength" in the 1 May elections.

These are his first test at the ballot box since becoming leader last year.

'Very proud'

Mr Clegg said the Lib Dems were "fighting very hard" for the local elections, which affect 149 councils.

He said: "I am very proud of the fact that, unlike any of the other political parties, we - the Liberal Democrats - are the only opposition to Labour in their urban strongholds in the North and the only opposition to the Conservatives in their rural and suburban strongholds in the South.

"We are very much the national party, if you like, in these local elections and I very much expect and hope to see us go from strength to strength."

He said concerns such as wanting to live in a more environmentally sustainable and safer communities were shared across the country.

He added that everybody wanted to see the money spent by their councils "used well".

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Clegg also defended Lib Dem London mayoral contender Brian Paddick from claims that he had been overshadowed by Labour's Ken Livingstone and Conservative Boris Johnson.

He said Mr Paddick, a former senior Metropolitan Police officer, was an "absolutely first-class candidate".

The London mayoral and London assembly elections also take place on 1 May.

Local Council elections in England
09 Apr 08 |  UK Politics
Local council elections in Wales
09 Apr 08 |  UK Politics

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