LIBERAL Democrat leader Nick Clegg has described his party's U-turn on university tuition fees as "notorious" and "gory".

The Deputy Prime Minister also appeared to admit that young voters who "dream of a better future" were now unlikely to back the Lib Dems. But he sidestepped questions over whether or not he had offered to resign two weeks ago in the wake of devastating European and English council election results.

Those humiliations were compounded last week when the party received less than 3 per cent of the votes in the Newark by-election.

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But Mr Clegg said that standing aside would not solve his party's problems.

Taking questions after a speech widely seen as marking the start of the Lib Dems 2015 election campaign, Mr Clegg said: "If I thought a year before the general election all the issues that face us could be solved magically and could float off like the morning mist by just changing personnel at the top and spending several months talking to ourselves of course I'd think (about it). But I just think what is sensible for the party."

At the weekend Lord Smith, a Liberal Democrat peer, described Mr Clegg as "dead in the water".

During his speech Mr Clegg distanced himself from the Tories' economic policy and outlined plans to move his party on from austerity politics after the next general election, in a move seen as an overture to Labour. Last week speculation mounted over possible future coalition talks between the two, after it emerged that senior MPs from both parties had been holding meetings.