18/09/2013 12:05 BST | Updated 18/09/2013 14:11 BST

Nick Clegg Says Coalition Best For Britain, But Public Disagree

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 18: British Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg delivers his key-note speech to delegates at the end of the Liberal Democrat Autumn Party Conference at the SECC, Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre on September 18, 2013 in Glasgow, Scotland. At the end of the five day event, the party leader brought the conference to a close with his keynote speech, rallying his party and insisting that they support the coalition government in

Nick Clegg has set out his hopes that the Liberal Democrats will cling on to power at the next election, no matter which of the two larger parties emerges with the most seats in the Commons.

"The absolute worst thing to do would be to give the keys to Number 10 to a single party government – Labour or the Conservatives," he said. "Left to their own devices, they’ll both get it wrong."

He told Lib Dem activists in Glasgow: "We’re not trying to get back into government to fold into one of the other parties – we want to be there to anchor them to the liberal centre ground, right in the centre, bang in the middle. We’re not here to prop up the two party system: we’re here to bring it down."

However a ComRes poll for ITV published as the deputy prime minister spoke, revealed a majority of the British public (67%) would prefer there to be a single party majority government after the next election. And only 10% would prefer there to be a coalition.

Throughout the conference the words of leading Lib Dems have been examined for hints about whether the party would prefer to join a coalition with Labour or the Conservatives after the next election - should it be given the opportunity.

In their hearts most Lib Dems would prefer to be in government with Labour. A poll carried out by the Liberal Democrat Voice website this week found that 39% of activists favoured a Lib Dem-Labour alliance, compared with just 15% who favour another coalition with the Conservatives.

However the ComRes survey found the country would marginally prefer the current arrangement continued, if a coalition had to happen.

According to the poll, three in ten voters (29%) would prefer the party to go into coalition with the Conservatives, compared to one quarter (26%) who say they would prefer the Lib Dems to go into coalition with Labour.

Clegg left the door open to a deal with Labour by telling the conference that the make-up of the next government would be decided "by the British people" rather than the party.

The Lib Dem leadership is also pinning its hopes that years in power will enable them to convince the public that it was right to create a coalition rather than let the Tories attempt to govern by themselves. Clegg drove the point home by listing a series of Conservative policies he had blocked, including an "inheritance tax cuts for millionaires" and a "two-tier education system".

However nearly half of the public (46%) say that the Lib Dems’ contribution to the current coalition has not been good for Britain, compared to just 24% who believe it has been good.

A third of those asked by ComRes (30%) did agree that the Lib Dems has “reined in the worst excesses” of the Conservatives, while 32% disagreed. The party will hope it is able to convince the 39% who did not know if that was true or not before 2015.

Clegg also inserted a quip about his critic Lord Oakeshott, who has suggested the Lib Dems should oust the leader before the next election.

After talking about his family life, Clegg said: "I know I won't be in politics forever .... Matthew Oakeshott will be relieved. Just three or four more general elections to go."