THE Liberal Democrats vowed to take back Oxford West and Abingdon yesterday.

At an event held at Albert Park in Abingdon, Deputy Prime Minister and party leader Nick Clegg arrived in a “battle bus” to back prospective parliamentary candidate Layla Moran.

The constituency is a key marginal seat – lost to the Conservatives in 2010 by 176 votes – and party officials hope to snatch it back this year.

Mr Clegg told a crowd of about 60 people at the park: “I’m delighted to be here on the first day of our campaign.

“People have made a lot of sacrifices since the crash of 2008, but the good news is that it is now paying off. Ours is a simple alternative to the Conservatives and Labour; we will cut less than the Tories and borrow less than Labour.”

Afterwards, he told the Oxford Mail that a key issue in Oxfordshire was funding for schools, which his party has pledged not to cut.

His comments came just days after Cherwell School revealed that a lack of capacity and funding had forced it to turn away more than 200 pupils.

Headteacher Paul James blamed Government cuts to spending and a failure to obtain a grant for expansion.

But Ms Moran said: “Heads are worried about further cuts, but we would maintain the education budget in real terms while maintaining a stable economy.”

She added that her party was “confident” it could win back the Oxford West and Abingdon seat.

Party officials are also understood to be pleased at the growing presence of the UK Independence Party in the constituency, which they believe will split the Conservative vote.

Ms Moran said: “It was decided by just 176 votes last time.

“We accept support has slipped in other parts of the country while we have been in Government, but here that has not happened.”