Coalition all in mire together
Both coalition partners were left reeling last night as they were embroiled in fresh woes ahead of this week's crucial Eastleigh by-election.
Nick Clegg admitted in a statement that he did in fact know of concerns about alleged harassment of women by a senior Liberal Democrat colleague. The Deputy Prime Minister said his office had heard of "indirect and non-specific" claims about Lord Rennard's conduct in 2008, and "acted to deal with them".
The allegations about Lord Rennard – which he categorically denies – have come at the worst possible time for the Liberal Democrats as they seek to defend the Eastleigh seat, vacated when the disgraced Chris Huhne resigned earlier this month.
However the Conservatives, who need to win seats like Eastleigh in the South of England from the Lib Dems to have any chance of forming an overall majority at the next election were also in disarray. The loss of Britain's prized AAA credit rating has left Chancellor George Osborne facing renewed demands from the Tory rank-and-file for tax and spending cuts.
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Conservative backbenchers warned that next month's Budget was the "last chance saloon", demanding cuts to corporation tax and capital gains to revive the economy.