Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has insisted that the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives will fight the next general election as separate parties.
The Lib Dem leader said that the fact that the two parties had entered into a coalition together did not mean that they were “joined at the hip”.
He acknowledged, however, that he and David Cameron would be defending a “shared record” at the polls and that the debate between them would be “more civilised” than normal.
“We will fight the next general election as separate and independent parties,” he told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show.
“Coalition is not a pact, it is not a merger, it doesn’t mean that you become joined at the hip. It means that you retain your separate identities.
“Clearly we will be not only setting out different and separate visions for the future but, yes, we will also be drawing on a shared record of what we sought to achieve during this five-year parliament.
“Clearly on that we will speak about it in terms which will be more temperate and more civilised than would normally be the case. I don’t think that that means we have to paper over our identity during the course of this parliament.”
His comments come amid anger among some Tory MPs at what they saw as a “soft-pedalling” by their party in the recent Oldham East and Saddleworth by election campaign in order to prevent a collapse of the Lib Dem vote.