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Party goes on the offensive over Europe

THE last thing Nick Clegg needed at the end of the conference were questions about his leadership - because leadership is exactly what he and his party hope to show in the next few months.

Gone, at least temporarily, are the hair shirts and the apologies for decisions such as tuition fees.

Instead the party has decided to go on the offensive over an issue close to its heart, if not the hearts of every voter - Europe.

In this they believe they have been offered an opportunity by most of their opponents and by history.

For the first time in a long time this summer's European elections coincide with an intense public interest in the issue of Europe.

In Scotland this has been helped by the independence referendum - in which Europe and continued European Union membership has emerged as a major question in the debate.

The public profile of Ukip has also put the issue squarely on the agenda. With the opinion polls still low, the LibDems have decided they have nothing to lose by trying to come through the middle. They have taken on Ukip and secured two national debates.

There is potentially much at stake. The LibDems hope to look strong and consistent on an issue they have always been passionate about. And they hope they can avoid complete humiliation in the euro elections while convincing many people to vote for them again or for the first time.

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