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Page last updated at 15:19 GMT, Sunday, 11 April 2010 16:19 UK

Clegg warns of unrest over cuts

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg said politicians working together can be a 'good thing'

Britain could be hit by "serious social strife" if Labour or the Tories win the election and introduce severe spending cuts, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg says.

He said there could be "Greek-style unrest", referring to angry protests prompted by austerity measures there.

Mr Clegg told the Observer he was not campaigning for a hung parliament, but said it would be preferable to the Tories winning on a minority of votes.

However, he said politicians working together can be "a good thing".

Highlighting that Labour won the 2005 election with 22% of the electorate voting for them, Mr Clegg said: "Imagine the Conservatives go home and get an absolute majority, on 25% of the eligible vote.

"They then turn around in the next week or two and say we're going to chuck up VAT to 20%, we're going to start cutting teachers, cutting police and the wage bill in the public sector.

"I think if you're not careful in that situation... you'd get Greek-style unrest. And so, my warning to people who think the old politics still works, is be careful what you wish for."

'Slash and burn'

Earlier this year Greece's socialist government introduced cuts to bring the country's debt and deficit under control. Thousands took to the streets over several days of strikes in protest at the measures.

As a potential place of backlash, Mr Clegg used the example of Sheffield - where his constituency is - which has no Conservative MPs or councillors, and a high proportion of public-sector workers.

What happens when a baby arrives in the family is changed out of all recognition from 10, 15, 20 years ago
Nick Clegg

"Suddenly these people will be told by a government that has no legitimacy [in the area] in their eyes that this government is going to slash and burn, having promised them something else," he told the Observer.

Some opinion polls published in Sunday newspapers suggested a hung parliament or a slight Tory majority might be the outcome of the 6 May election.

Asked about the prospect of no single party having overall control of the Commons, Mr Clegg told the newspaper: "Do I think politicians working together can be a good thing? Of course it can."

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Clegg said his party would be "very, very clear" about where cuts needed to be made.

He added: "Clearly money is tight, so clearly all political parties, if they're going to be credible and trusted by the British people in the run-up to the election, have got to make promises which are always fully costed."

In response to reports that Labour's manifesto - due to be published on Monday - will include a commitment to doubling paternity leave from two to four weeks, Mr Clegg said his party wanted to go further and allow mothers and fathers to share 12 months' parental leave.

"What happens when a baby arrives in the family is changed out of all recognition from 10, 15, 20 years ago," he said.

"There are now mothers and fathers who maybe find themselves in a situation where the mum wants to go back to work before the dad does."

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