Nick Clegg
The Liberal Democrat leader had a warning for small businesses over the direction of the Tories Reuters

The Tories plan to veer sharply to the right after the general election, putting the UK's economic recovery at risk, Nick Clegg has claimed.

The Liberal Democrat leader issued the warning in a bid to win over the British business community as he addressed the Federation of Small Businesses' (FSB) national conference in Birmingham.

The deputy prime minister argued that, above all, companies need stability and a Labour or Tory government would put that factor under threat.

"The very last thing Britain needs is the shock of a lurch to the left or the right. Away from the sensible, balanced approach that has taken us to where we need to be for jobs and growth," he said. "Yet as the election draws closer, in my view, that's exactly what both Labour and the Conservatives are proposing to do – putting the future of businesses and Britain's economy at risk."

Clegg blasted Labour and claimed an Ed Miliband government would "borrow billions more". He said: "Labour has no coherent economic plan. They talk about the need for deficit reduction but then say nothing about how they plan to actually do it."

Labour has no coherent economic plan. They talk about the need for deficit reduction, but then say nothing about how they plan to actually do it
- Nick Clegg

The deputy prime minister then turned his attention to the Tories and alleged David Cameron's party wound unfairly tax millions of the working-age poor. "The Conservatives, despite repeating they will stick to the plan, they are actually planning to veer away sharply from it," he said.

"When it comes to finishing the jobs and balancing the books, they have ruled out asking the very wealthiest to pay even a single penny more to help the ongoing fiscal effort.

"Instead, they plan to take billions from working-age poor – around £1,500 each from eight million low-income families. In our view it is wilfully unfair and would force many of the poorest families in our country further into poverty."

Clegg promised a Liberal Democrat government would "stick broadly" to the economic approach that the coalition government has taken over this parliament.

"We want to stick broadly to the approach we have taken for the last five years, taking a stable, centre-group approach to tax and spending that Britain needs to secure its economic recovery and help more people thrive," he said.

Osborne critical of Labour's economic policies

The comments come after George Osborne addressed the West Midlands based conference. The chancellor said Labour's economic policies present a "clear and present danger" for British firms and amount to financial "madness".

The top Tory made the claims after unveiling his final budget of this parliament to MPs in the House of Commons on 18 March.

George Osborne
Osborne described it as a "radically more flexible ISA" Reuters

The Liberal Democrats attempted to distance themselves from Osborne's economic measures with their own "alternative budget".

Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, unveiled the government's new tax evasion laws in the Commons and posed with a yellow case on 19 March – in the style of the chancellor's red box – outside of the Treasury.

The photo opportunity was widely mocked on social media as Twitter users edited images of the Scottish MP and his briefcase.

Clegg's speech comes just weeks before May's general election, with the Liberal Democrats lagging in the opinion polls and well below its 23% share of the vote in 2010.

The latest poll from Populus, conducted between 18 and 19 March, put Clegg's party on 9%, with Labour on 34%, the Tories on 31% and Ukip on 17%.