Clegg urges Lib Dems to reunite after fees split

Nick Clegg today appealed to the Liberal Democrats to move on from their divisions over tuition fees and re-unite to help the party deliver on its priorities in the coalition.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader insisted there was no "rancour" among his MPs after more than a third of them rebelled against the increase in tuition fees.

As he sought to smooth over differences, he said the party could look forward to implementing a "liberal, fair" agenda as part of the Tory-led Government.

Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable also issued a message of unity and claimed the party would emerge "stronger" from the tuition fees vote.

It severely exposed the limits of Mr Clegg's writ within his own party as 21 out of 57 Lib Dem MPs rejected his pleas and voted against the

Government plans to increase fees.

They included two parliamentary aides, who quit their jobs. Another eight did not vote.

But Mr Clegg made clear he wanted to keep the rebel MPs onside and played down the significance for the coalition of the three-way split in his party.

"We, internally within the Liberal Democrats, knew we wouldn't be able to get complete unanimity between the Liberal Democrats," he said.

"Clearly we did not, it's no surprise to anyone that this was going to be a difficult issue for us.

"But we've talked to each other and the party has discussed this in a calm and respectful manner which I think will now allow us to move forward without rancour and in a united way, not least in the coalition Government so that we can deliver the liberal, fair things we want for

Britain as a whole."

Mr Cable also insisted the Lib Dem rebels remained committed to the alliance with the Tories.

He dismissed the prospect of lasting divisions within the party and questions about whether Mr Clegg's job as party leader was safe.

"I'm absolutely confident that his leadership will continue and indeed we will continue as a party within the coalition agreement," Mr Cable told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"It was a very difficult day yesterday; we knew this was coming and we had to face it. But I think actually we are stronger as a result of having been through this experience.

"I've spoken to many of my colleagues who actually voted against this - the abstainers of course were in accordance with the coalition agreement - and we are united.

"We will go forward and I think the coalition will be stronger not weaker for this experience."

Leeds, Sweet street, 28th March 1979'LIGHTING'Mr. Eddie Mullan, a lift engineer at the City of Leeds Public Works Department, Sweet Street, gives a last polish to one of the four old gas lamps that are to be sent to Germany.

Leeds nostalgia: Bits of old Leeds sent to Germany... in 1979