Nick Clegg puts faith in his MPs' local popularity
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg believes his MPs will be able to successfully defend their Westcountry seats on their record – despite almost unprecedented pressure from the Conservatives at the next election.
In an exclusive interview with the Western Morning News the Deputy Prime Minister said: "I think what people in Cornwall want is, first and foremost, MPs with a track record of standing up for their communities.
"We are second to none on that. I don't think the Conservatives will ever be able to match that commitment to local communities."
Last week, the WMN revealed a quarter of the Tories' 40 targets seats for the 2015 election are in the South West – all of those Lib Dem held. If successful, the plan would mean wipeout in Devon and Cornwall.
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But Mr Clegg is defiant – saying it is the Lib Dems who have ensured "fairness" in the cuts and that the Tories have stopped them doing more.
"It's no surprise people want to target the seats of their rivals. And we will do the same. Our record speaks for itself. We have three of the six Cornish constituencies. We have a long history of serving Cornwall and we've got three absolutely outstanding MPs. We will see today they are very popular and totally rooted in their community. Andrew George (St Ives) – a long-standing Cornish politician and known as a strong independent thinker. In Dan (Rogerson, North Cornwall) and Steve (Gilbert, St Austell and Newquay) you've got two fantastic constituency MPs who are very well respected in Westminster too.
"People in Cornwall want politicians who get the balance right – sorting out the economic mess but doing that as fairly as possible. Frankly, if it wasn't for the Liberal Democrats in Government we wouldn't be doing a lot of the fair things that are benefiting people in Cornwall. We wouldn't be taking low paid people out of paying income tax. We wouldn't be providing the pupil premium. We are the ones in government delivering the huge number of apprenticeships.
"We would like to have gone further. We believe there is a case for a mansion tax – millionaires in Kensington chipping in a bit extra to help people in Cornwall. The Conservatives blocked that. If we were alone in government we would have got tougher on the banks sooner. We are the only party that strikes the balance between tackling the economy and a fairer society."
It also emerged Labour will not target any seats in Cornwall at the next election, despite claiming there are no "no-go areas" for the party anymore. The Camborne, Pool and Redruth seat is a three-way marginal.
Mr Clegg said: "Labour has taken a strategic decision to turn their backs on Cornwall. If you're someone who doesn't feel favourably disposed towards the Conservatives, in effect what Labour is saying is there is only one choice, which is the Liberal Democrats. For those people who are never going to vote Conservative, who is going to stand up for you or your values in Cornwall? It shows how important it is to have a strong Liberal Democrat voice in your area."