Liberal Democrats the only party for a fairer Britain – Clegg

September 17, 2008 12:24 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats are now the only party that can deliver social justice, and the only choice for anyone who wants a fairer Britain, Nick Clegg said today in his conference speech.

In his keynote conference speech, the Liberal Democrat leader also set out the party's Fairer Future economic recovery plan - four steps to a better economic future.

Nick began his speech by focusing on the current economic difficulties, which he described as 'a firestorm', "raging through our financial system, ignited by reckless bankers and fuelled by complacent politicians."

He turned his fire on both the Government and the Conservatives.

Labour, he said, had nothing further to offer the country -

"Stumbling around with no idea what to do.

"They are a Zombie government.

"A cross between Shaun of the Dead and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue."

Labour cannot help people, said Nick, and the Conservatives will not bother -

"Cameron's only aim was to make the Conservatives inoffensive.

"Problem is, once you strip out the offensive parts of the Conservative party, there isn't much left.

"Cameron's hope is to become the Andrex puppy of British politics. A cuddly symbol, perhaps. But fundamentally irrelevant to the product he's promoting."

He accused the Conservatives of avoiding any tough policy decisions -

"When it's all "blue skies thinking" - you can say everything, no matter how contradictory.

"You can say you want fairer taxes - but propose to spend billions cutting inheritance tax for the very richest in the land.

"You can call for the European Union to be stronger against the Russians - while still plotting to break it in two.

"You can say you'll protect civil liberties - and then call for extra surveillance powers

"You can cycle to work - and have your driver follow behind.

"They are a say everything, do nothing party."

Nick said the Liberal Democrats were the party with the ideas that can get Britain out of this mess. He set out the party's Fairer Future economic recovery plan - four steps to a better economic future.

"One. Action to stop unjust repossessions before tens of thousands of families find themselves on the streets."

"Two. The free-wheeling, bonus-driven, short termism of the City must come to an end. We must stop the amoral culture that sees speculators betting on banks to fail, knowing the taxpayer will pay out in the end. And the madness of bonuses awarded no matter what.

"We need a wholly new approach to regulation: limiting, not encouraging, the excesses of the market. And when reckless bankers come with gold-plated begging bowls to ask for shareholders to be bailed out. Our answer should be a resounding No.

"Three. We will put in place the building blocks for future economic stability. Interest rates that take house price changes into account. And independent monitoring of our fiscal rules.

"And finally - but most importantly. Tax cuts for families who are struggling. To help them make ends meet. And keep the wheels of the economy turning."

He reminded party members of how they had pledged this week to deepen the party's proposals for fair tax cuts, to make them fairer still -

"That means doing the most for those who have the least. It means making sure the richest pay more. And so aiming to make nine out of ten taxpayers better off.

"I want this to be the most progressive - most redistributive - tax plan ever put forward by a British political party. Using just a little of the money the government wastes every day. To help people in their everyday lives.

"That doesn't mean cutting help for the poorest, of course. It doesn't mean stopping vital investment in hospitals and schools. It just means taking a cold, hard look at all government spending and asking a basic question: Is it working?"

Liberal Democrats, said Nick, "believe ministers should spend money as carefully as if they'd borrowed it from a friend.

"We believe that tax is a means to an end and government should not take a penny more than it needs. We believe returning money to people who need it is fair, liberal, and right."

Nick identified some of the areas where the government is wasting money, before turning to his aim of making Britain the first truly green economy in the world.

"I want to see public transport expanded, with investment funded through charges on road haulage.

"I want to see homes and businesses become energy efficient - saving money in the process.

"And I want a huge expansion of renewable energy - meeting and exceeding the commitments Labour has given up on."

Nick spoke of the importance of achieving energy independence within the EU -

"Independence because our position on the international stage is weakened by the West's desperate hunger for fuel.

"We cower in the shadow of countries we want to stand up to. Because we're afraid they might turn off our lights. Just look at where we stand with Russia. And in the Middle East.

"Dependence on fossil fuels undermines the fight for human rights. It halts the onward march of democracy. It's got to end."

On domestic policy, Nick set out his aim of making government 'people shaped', with benefits shaped around the needs of people and families, not bureaucrats.

Patients, he said, should have far more control over the care they get. So people with long term conditions get to be part of designing the care they need.

And children struggling, or falling behind, should be helped with extra support - one-to-one tuition or catch up classes, funded by the Liberal Democrat "pupil premium" which targets extra cash at deprived children.

He made clear he is also ambitious for his party, repeating his target of doubling the party's number of MPs, and promising that at the next general election the party would take a giant leap towards that goal.

"We can do it because we are the vanguard of British politics.

"We have been at the forefront of a revolution in ideas.

"The first to fight for women's rights, gay rights, human rights. The first to understand the problem of climate change. The first to see the economic crisis on the horizon. The first to see the vital role of liberal interventionism in international affairs. And the first to see its limits - and oppose the illegal invasion of Iraq."

"We are a powerful party. We are getting stronger. And our ideas are the right ones to get Britain back on track."

He encouraged those people who had been drawn to Labour in the 1990s, because they believed in a better future, to turn to the Liberal Democrats as the only people who could now make it happen.

"Labour is finished. It's over.

"The Liberal Democrats are now the only party that can deliver social justice.

"The only choice for anyone who wants a fairer Britain.

"A party that will put money back in the pockets of ordinary families.

"A party that will build a stable, green economy for each and every one of us.

"A party that will change politics so that every person counts.

"The Liberal Democrats.

"Join us, and make it happen."

Click here to read the speech in full