Put tribal differences aside for national interest, Nick Clegg urges MPs


Nick Clegg is urging MPs of different political parties to set aside their "tribal differences" and work together in the national interest.

The former deputy prime minister says a range of challenges facing the UK - from the implications of an ageing population to the threat of terrorism - will require cross-party co-operation if they are to be tackled with effectively.

Mr Clegg - who led the Liberal Democrats into coalition with the Conservatives in the last parliament - is launching a new commission on inequality in education set up by the Social Market Foundation think-tank with the support of Tory and Labour MPs.

He will tell a launch event at Westminster that such a consensual approach should be extended into other areas of policy-making.

"We are in a particularly volatile period in British politics right now - perhaps the most turbulent and unpredictable since I was at school myself in the 1970s," he will say.

"In these circumstances it is both easy and tempting for parties to retreat to their comfort zones and indulge themselves in tribalism. It is a temptation that we must resist.

"If we are to compete in the globalised 21st century economy; if we are to build and sustain a health and social care system as more and more of our citizens are living longer lives; if we are to tackle the growing threats of terrorism and climate change and rise to the myriad other challenges we face, then like-minded politicians must learn to put their tribal differences aside and work together in the national interest."

Mr Clegg will also highlight research by the Social Market Foundation showing how children's performance at school depends upon which part of the country they grow up in, with large regional variations across England and Wales.

It found that 70% of 16-year-olds in London gained five good GCSE's compared to 63% in Yorkshire and Humber, with such inequalities persisting - and in some cases worsening - over the past three decades.

Areas such as the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, the West Midlands and the East Midlands are said to have persistently under-performed, while London's performance has surged.

"What is now becoming clear is that inequality in education comes in many shapes and sizes. It is not just the relative wealth of parents that holds large numbers of bright kids back: it is postcode inequality too," Mr Clegg will say.

"We may live on a small island - but which corner of it our children call home makes a huge difference to their life chances too."