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The Liberal Democrats would cease to exist as a party if they suddenly started to have principles and brought down the Coalition, Nick Clegg warned his MPs last night.

The Deputy Prime Minister told a private meeting of more than 100 Liberal Democrat MPs and peers that they should not waver in their commitment to sell their souls, their electorate and everything they’ve ever believed in just because of minority interest issues such as the NHS, education and the economy:

We will not give up our chauffer-driven ministerial cars and extremely lucrative expense accounts just for the sake of something unimportant like a few scruples. If there was an election we would be finished as a party so I don’t want to be the last ever leader of the Liberal Democrats by making the mistake of acting honourably and pulling out of the coalition.

The Tory right’s public attacks on Mr Clegg over Europe and other issues had raised questions about the future of the Coalition but the Deputy Prime Minister told his party he would not swerve from his policy of continuing to sacrificing everything he’s ever stood for for a bit of power and allow something as inconsequential as the electorate to get in the way of his ambitions.

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