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by RAY FLEMING

NICK Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, can be said to have had a successful Spring Conference at the weekend. He emphasized the basic need for a strong Lib Dem presence in the next House of Commons but did not shy away from the possibility that this might also be important in the event of a hung Parliament. Although he measures his words carefully the impression they give is that he leans more to co-operation with Labour than to the Conservatives.

Against this background the defection to the Lib Dems at the weekend of the Conservative MEP Edward McMillan Scott is not without importance. He was leader of Conservative MEPs in the European Parliament until David Cameron and William Hague decided that the party should quit the large centre-right European People's Party and start a new group with some Eastern European MEPs under the name European Conservatives and Reformists (surely a contradiction in terms?). The chairman of this group is the Polish politician Michel Kaminski; with Mr Cameron's support he was named for election as Vice President of the European Parliament but Mr Scott also stood for the post -- and won.

In his letter of resignation Scott accuses Cameron of being “thuggish” in his attitude to him , offers the thought that “eurosceptism is in the hearts of most Conservatives” and says “You say one thing in public and do another in private.”