The deputy prime minister said he’s "very optimistic" about the Liberal Democrats chances in St Albans in the next general election.

Nick Clegg’s comments came after he visited St Albans this afternoon for a question and answer session with St Albans Chamber of Commerce.

The afternoon was organised by St Albans Liberal Democrats parliamentary candidate Sandy Walkington, who Nick said was "one of the most outstanding parliamentary candidates anywhere in the country".

Regarding the general election, Nick told the Review: "Obviously we have a fight on our hands as Liberal Democrats but I am actually very optimistic about our chances here in the St Albans area.

"In Sandy we have one of the most outstanding parliamentary candidates anywhere in the country for the Liberal Democrats. He knows every blade of grass, every square metre of the area, has swerved the local community tirelessly for many years and perhaps most especially has an infectious optimism and enthusiasm for the local area which really represents St Albans in the best way.

"So it is no wonder in the local elections, despite disappointing results in other parts of the country, Sandy got a high proportion than Conservatives. And I think that can be repeated in the next general election. Sandy would be a brilliant MP in Westminster, I would really look forward to welcoming here."

When asked by the Review if there was more that could be done to protect independent shops in city, Mr Clegg responded: "Of course we can do more. That is why we commissioned the Mary Portas review on the high street and many of those recommendations we’ve implemented.

"That’s why we gave that major concession in the autumn statement to give a deduction of quite a sizable amount to small retail outlets on the high street.

"We’ve rolled over business rate relief, small business rate relief worth £4 million a year. But at the end of the day no Government can tell consumers where to shop and we can’t pretend that we either can or should reverse the trend towards internet shopping so we have done an considerable amount. I want to see a vibrant mixed high street like everybody else. The idea of completely homogenous high streets is not what we want.

"I know how proud Sandy and people of St Albans are of the high streets, it’s a very vibrant community. And I guess my main point would be if you want to keep a vibrant mixed high street, I would encourage everybody to shop in the local high street."

Councillor Walkington added: "Hatfiled road is the new high street of St Albans, it has an incredible variety of new business because the burden of business rate is lower there than St Peter’s Street where such a high business rate means it’s hard for independents to be there."

Topics discussed in the question and answer session at Sopwell House ranged England’s football result last night, the economy, and the education system.