Nick Clegg on the Liberal Democrats’ ‘unique mission’

Nick Clegg York Q&A Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsThis is the full text of the speech given by Nick Clegg today at Bloomberg.

The recent local and European election results were incredibly difficult for the Liberal Democrats. It’s been completely gutting to see good friends, longstanding councillors, outstanding MEPs – people who worked their socks off – lose their seats.

I’ve spent the last two weeks talking to lots of my colleagues in the party, listening to what people say about what we should do next, and I want to take a bit of time today to do three things.

First, I want to deal with some of the specific suggestions people have made about the campaign we fought. Second, I want to address head on the most fundamental allegation levelled at us: that by being in coalition with the Conservatives we’ve lost our identity; lost our soul. Third, I want to start setting out our distinctly liberal vision of the future we see for our country.

There are, of course, lessons we need to learn from the European and local elections, given how disappointing the result was. That’s why I’ve asked James Gurling, the Chair of our Campaigns and Communications Committee, to conduct a review of the campaign. I’ve heard people say that we suffered in the polls because we didn’t do enough to spell out our differences with the Conservatives.

It’s true that at the beginning of this government I didn’t think we should spend all our time telling people about the internal differences in government – we had a bigger task of showing that coalition could work despite all of the predictions it would fail. We had to work with the Conservative party to take some big, early decisions and we had to take the British people with us. But since then, and certainly over the last year or so, there have been plenty of very real differences which people have every right to know about.

So everybody knows, for example, that we said no to Michael Gove’s plans for the return of O’ levels and a two tier education system, as well as profit-making schools. That we said no to new rights for employers to fire workers at will. No to regional pay penalising teachers and nurses in the north. No to inheritance tax cuts for millionaires. And over the coming year we mustn’t hesitate in spelling out that coalition is exactly what is says on the tin – two parties with different priorities and different values, and we should be grown up about that.

The only thing I would say, however, is that I don’t believe people will vote for us next year solely because we have prevented the worst excesses of Conservative nuttiness or nastiness, important though that is, and nor do I think we should blight the success of two party government by picking synthetic fights.

I’ve heard people say that, in the European elections, our campaign as the Party of IN was too blunt: that we allowed our opponents to suggest that we think the status quo in Brussels is just fine. We don’t think its fine. I’ve been a pro-European reformer my whole political life. It’s precisely because I value Britain’s place in Europe that I’ve not only campaigned for reform, but in the ten years I spent in Europe I’ve probably done more to make Brussels less bureaucratic, more open and more in line with Britain’s interests than any other party leader. And I fully accept that, as this debate rumbles on, the Liberal Democrats must campaign as the Party of IN and the party of reform.

But, from all the commentary, if there’s one criticism that I really want to take head on because I think it’s the most pernicious and misleading, as well as the most often repeated, it’s this: That by being in government with the Conservatives, we’ve sold out; lost our soul; become hollowed out and lost our identity as a party of progressive reform. It’s high time we debunk this myth. It’s thrown at us day in, day out by an unholy alliance of left and right. From the moment we entered government – Labour, their supporters in the Trade Unions, their friends in the press – the Conservatives, their financial backers and their powerful friends in press have all sought to caricature the Liberal Democrats as a party that has traded in what we believe for a whiff of power.

And it’s worth remembering why they do this. Because they hate the fact that we’ve got a foot in the door. Because the Liberal Democrats in government is the biggest threat to the establishment in a generation – the cosy stitch up between the red team and the blue team. They shout at us because they know that if we show that plural, coalition politics works – as it does – plural politics will be here to stay.  Because we are fundamentally rewriting the rules of British politics by destroying the myth that things must be done as they have always been done; the assumption that the only people with an inalienable right to run the country are the Conservative and Labour parties, taking it in turns – and there is nothing more reformist, more challenging, more liberal than putting an end to that. And that is why it would be such a devastating setback for what we believe in if we did what some of my critics suggest and pull out of the Coalition altogether.

A few days ago I received text from my good friend, Jan Bjorklund, the leader of the Swedish Liberals, and he said, quite simply, that us liberals must never accept that we can only survive in opposition. He’s dead right. And that is why we must now restate more forcefully than ever before not just what we’ve done, but why we’ve done it. Our motives, our values, the unique mission we bring to British politics.

So don’t let our critics rewrite history. They say that, when the General Election result came in, the Liberal Democrats couldn’t wait to get our clammy hands on the levers of power; that we were prepared to sacrifice anything to have our go at governing in Whitehall. But that’s not the way I remember it, or the way any other Liberal Democrat remembers it. Far from rubbing our hands with glee, we sat together through the night, having anguished conversation after anguished conversation, asking ourselves if governing with the Tories was really something we could do.

After election night Miriam and I travelled down to London on the first train from Sheffield and, if you ask me what I was thinking about, it was the good, hardworking Liberal Democrat MPs who’d lost their seats; it was my old friend Paul Scriven who, despite winning an extra 9000 votes for the Liberal Democrats, had just lost out to Labour in Sheffield Central – the neighbouring constituency to mine.

So our mood was not one of carefree opportunism. Instead the decision we took was a gritty, grown up decision based on what was needed for the country. We didn’t go into government because it was the easy thing to do, we went into government because it was the right thing to do. Because the country was teetering on the edge. The biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Rioters and flames on the streets of Athens. Crisis meetings in Brussels as Europe’s leaders tried desperately to keep the continent afloat.  We knew we would pay a price for working with the Conservatives. We knew we would have to do controversial things to clean up Labour’s mess. We knew we would lose the support of the people who had only ever voted for us to stick two fingers up to the other two. But we did it anyway. This plucky, bold, courageous party, which had never been in power in Westminster before, put the country’s interests before our own interests and we gave Britain a stable government in extraordinarily insecure times. And in providing that stability we’ve helped millions of people keep their jobs. We’ve helped businesses across Britain stay afloat. The country’s shattered economy, now finally back on track.

So don’t let our critics rewrite history. We went into government for good, decent, honourable reasons and no one should be allowed to take that away from us. And then there’s the way those same critics from left and right try to airbrush out our role in the coalition as well. They claim that we’re merely passengers in this government. That we’ve failed to stand up for ourselves or see through policies we believe in. Again this is a myth we cannot allow to stand. We may be the smaller party, but we have all the biggest ideas.

  • Ground-breaking pensions reform – Steve Webb.
  • Putting infrastructure front and centre of the Coalition’s economic strategy – Danny Alexander.
  • Dragging maternity and paternity leave into the 21st Century – Jo Swinson and Jenny Willott.
  • Getting our schools motivated to stop the poorest children from falling behind – David Laws.
  • Equal Marriage – Lynne Featherstone.
  • The world’s first ever bank devoted to green investment – Vince Cable.
  • The biggest ever investment in renewable energy – Ed Davey.
  • An £800 tax cut for millions of ordinary people – every Liberal Democrat who ever campaigned for it.

So don’t let our critics rewrite history about the reasons we went in to government. Don’t let them airbrush out our role and what we’ve done in government. And don’t let them present us as a party prepared to sign up to any set of policies just to get into government again. The Liberal Democrats are not and will never be a split-the-difference-party. Did we split the difference when we stood alone in parliament and fought for democracy in the House of Lords? Did we split the difference when we blocked the Snoopers’ Charter that had both Tory and Labour support? Did we split the difference by being the only party to stand up for an open, engaged Britain in Europe in the recent elections? Are we splitting the difference as the only party that still makes the environment a priority, or the only party determined to reverse decades of centralisation? Are we splitting the difference as the only party to resist populist sentencing measures supported by Labour and the Conservatives, which will only see repeat crime go up? I have never been interested in power for power’s sake. I have never been interested in coalition at any cost. What I am interested in is Liberal Democrats in government to build a more liberal Britain.

I am interested in giving people this. We’ve talked a lot about building a stronger economy. We’ve talked a lot about creating a fairer society. But maybe we haven’t talked enough about why those things matter. They matter because they are the only way we can enable everyone to get on in life – or as I’m calling it today, quite simply, Opportunity for Everyone. And that comes from something which is unique to us Liberal Democrats: an innate optimism about people. Ultimately we believe that the job of government, above all else, is to enable people to realise their own potential. Because we believe there are talents and aspirations to be nurtured and cherished in every single person. No matter what your background, your race, your colour, your gender, no matter where you came from or who you are: we believe in you. We don’t write off anyone and we don’t think that politicians and governments know best. It’s in the DNA of all liberals.

You don’t get that with the other parties. Labour think that good things are done to people, not by people. They believe we’re only ever really safe when we’re in the hands of politicians and the state. As for the Conservatives – the clue’s in the name. They basically believe in conserving the pecking order as it is. Where you find yourself in the order of things is just where you’re meant to be. And UKIP? Pessimism on stilts – denigrating everything that is great about modern Britain: our diversity, our tolerance, our extraordinary ingenuity. They don’t believe in any of that. They want to turn back the clock to some bygone Britain, not the open and generous Britain we can be.

The Liberal Democrats just see the world differently. Why, in opposition, did this party campaign for a penny on income tax for education? Why, in government, have I made improving social mobility – so breaking the link between people’s backgrounds and their life chances – the Government’s overriding social priority? Why, at a time when money is extremely tight, have I insisted on spending billions on our Pupil Premium? Why have we been adamant about delivering free school meals, and all the health and learning benefits they bring, for little children? Because the Liberal Democrats believe that every boy and girl has something to offer, someone just needs to give them a chance to shine. Because we never fail to be amazed by the things that people are capable of when they’re given half a chance.

And I can tell you today that the manifesto we present to the British people for the General Election next year – a manifesto which will set out our own distinct ambitions for Britain – will have education right at its heart. We are and always will be the party of education and I’ll be saying more about that in the near future. And it is time we now talk more about the future. We’ve spent four years justifying and explaining the decisions we’ve made and we have every reason to be immensely proud of what we’ve done for the country and what we do in government.

But I’m under no illusion that no one is going to vote for us in 2015 out of gratitude for what we did in 2010, in exactly the same way that no one will vote for us just because we’ve stuck it out, through thick and thin. In short, people will vote for us next year not only because of our record of delivery, but also because of our promise of more. And the way I see it is like this: if this five year parliament was about rescuing the British economy, the next will be about renewing it. If this parliament was about reviving the economy, the next will be about rewiring the economy so that it embodies the values of fairness and opportunity, making Britain a place where every person really can get ahead. And having played our part in the rescue, if we want to play our part in the renewal, we need an answer to the most central question in next year’s election. Simply put: who can be relied upon to balance the books, look after people’s money, avoiding the mistakes of past, while still investing in the things people need to succeed? And unless you have a good answer to that, no one should or will listen to a word you say.

So let me tell you how we’d do it. Before anything else, we need to finish the job we’ve started. In Coalition we have set out a plan to get the current structural deficit in balance by 2017/18. That basically means we’ll have finished dealing with the deficit three years into the next parliament – and we’ll stick to that. But, while we’ll stick to the timetable set by the Coalition, we’ll get there in a fundamentally different way to the Conservatives.

The Tories have now ruled out asking the very wealthy to pay even just a bit more in tax to help the ongoing fiscal effort. Instead, they’ve said they’ll take billions more from the welfare budget.

Just to be clear, to make that work – based on estimates from the Institute of Fiscal Studies of the total amount needed if you don’t raise taxes or cut departmental budgets at a faster rate – you have to take £12bn out of welfare. Specifically, once you look at the kinds of things they want to cut, that’s £12bn from the working age poor. That means that when the Conservatives looked across society and thought ‘who should bear a bit more of the burden?’ they didn’t choose the best off. They settled on people scraping by on the minimum wage, the jobseekers who’ve found themselves temporarily down on their luck, the men and women trying to earn their way out of poverty, often working more than one job.

I cannot accept that at all. Yes, we’ll finish the job, of course we will – but we’ll finish it in a way that is fair. So not just through further spending cuts, but also by asking those with the broadest shoulders to make some additional contributions too, including for instance through our  banded Mansion Tax – extending new tax bands to higher value properties, as Danny Alexander has explained.

The question then is what you do after you’ve finished the job. First and foremost we have to lighten the burden of debt on our children and grandchildren. There is nothing remotely liberal or fair in handing on sky high debt levels to future generations. All you’ll end up doing is asking those generations to pay billions in interest payments as they service our debts instead of investing in their needs. A lot of people assume that we’re already paying off our debts. We’re not. The truth is that so long as we have a deficit the total debt pile still goes up. Next year Britain will owe around £1.4tr in debt. Paying the interest alone will be the government’s third biggest item of spending, after social security and the NHS. For that money you could build around 6,000 new schools. You could increase the NHS’s budget by more than a half.

And that is why, because of the liberal belief in giving future generations every chance to succeed, we will abide by a new debt rule in which we will significantly reduce national debt as a percentage of GDP, year on year, when growth is positive, so that it reaches sustainable levels around the middle of the next decade.

In other words: so long as the economy is in a good state, we’ll get debt down to safe levels, at a sensible rate.

Second, once we’ve dealt with the deficit in 2017/18, we’ll balance the overall budget but we’ll do it in a way which still allows us to invest in the things we and future generations need. So a second, balanced budget rule, in which we run a cyclically adjusted balanced total budget, excluding capital spending that enhances economic growth or financial stability. What does that mean? It means future governments will have to live within their means and the money we spend on public services will grow roughly in line with the growth of the economy as whole. But we will allow for one significant exception: government will be able to borrow in order to fix our creaking national infrastructure. Because no one looking at Britain’s prospects for the future can overlook the fact that we are relying on roads,  railways, an energy network and a housing supply which simply will not be able to support the aspirations and ambitions of future generations. Our railways are a throwback to the 1970s. We rely on water and waste networks from the 19th Century. We have some of the most congested roads in Europe.  And if we are to meet our generation’s challenge to decarbonise our economy and prevent a climate crisis, almost all of this – from our energy networks to our homes – needs to be replaced or renewed with the newest technologies.

The Coalition Government has made a good start in this parliament but it will take a very long period of sustained effort and investment to get the quality of infrastructure we need. That’s why I’ve said the next parliament must move us from rescue to renewal. And we cannot build a stronger economy and a fairer society where there are opportunities for everyone unless we are prepared to put our shoulders to the wheel and use the muscle of the state – if necessary through borrowing – to rewire and revamp our infrastructure. Nowhere is the problem more acute than housing.

How can we give people real opportunities if we can’t even give them a home of their own? Just as I feel that it is a betrayal of our children to saddle them with crippling debt, it’s a betrayal to deprive them of the homes they need. Right now Britain needs between 250,000 – 300,000 new homes every year to meet demand. We’re not building anywhere near that. Again, we’ve done some good things in this government, but we have to be honest: we need to go so much further. Last month we heard Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, warn that the biggest threat to our economy and future growth is our lack of homes, because it drives up prices and that’s how you get housing bubbles. Christine Lagarde, the Head of the IMF, echoed the same warning last week. And yet the Conservatives show no sign at all of understanding the enormity of the problem and the radicalism of the solution needed. It’s time to put our money where our mouth is. We have to give people the homes they need and protect the country from another crisis – and if that means borrowing a bit when times are good and debt is falling, so be it.

We are not the Tories. We don’t believe in an ever-shrinking state. We are not so ideological about making cuts that we’ll deny the country what it needs to prosper. We’re not so dogmatic about borrowing that we’ll jeopardise Britain’s economic health. Responsibility, yes, austerity forever, no.

We’re not Labour either. Gordon Brown used to slap the words ‘capital spending’ on anything and everything just so he could get away with borrowing to pay for it. That can never be allowed to happen again. Sound investment yes, reckless borrowing, no.

You can be fair but responsible with it. You can be credible without being cruel. You can free our children from our debts while investing in their futures too. And I’ve come here today to set this out so that the British people know that every other commitment they’ll hear us make over the coming months is built on that solid foundation. I want people to see that we have a plan for their future. And I want people to know that we have our own distinct vision, based on our own distinct values – a liberal belief in opportunities; a liberal faith in people’s talents and ambitions.

So yes we have a record of delivery to be proud of, but now’s the time for people to know about our promise for the future too. Say what you like about the Liberal Democrats, but we are proud of the things we’ve achieved and we cannot wait for all the things we are yet to do.  Say what you like about the Liberal Democrats, but we played our part in rescuing our economy and we are up to the task of economic renewal that comes next. Say what you like about the Liberal Democrats, but we are proud to be a party of optimism while parties of pessimism are all around. Say what you like about the Liberal Democrats, but we hold our heads high as a party of hope at a time when the politics of fear is on the rise.

Whoever you are, whatever you do – this party believes in you, and we will fight every day, with every breath we have to give every single person their chance to shine.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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68 Comments

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Jun '14 - 1:53pm

    Nick Clegg

    An £800 tax cut for millions of ordinary people – every Liberal Democrat who ever campaigned for it

    Not in my name, Clegg, not in my name.

    I did NOT campaign in 2010 for a “tax cut”, I campaigned for taxes to be shifted from income to elsewhere. THAT was what was in our manifesto, and every time you use words as you do here that claim otherwise, you tell a disgraceful untruth. You also undermine all the arguments we have made for “tough action” against the deficit, because if the sort of nastiness we have seen that forms part of that tough action is needed, tax cuts like these should NOT have been a priority.

  • Tony Dawson 9th Jun '14 - 1:59pm

    A speech from the ‘unique missionary’ position? 😉

    “I want to address head on the most fundamental allegation levelled at us: that by being in coalition with the Conservatives we’ve lost our identity;”

    Er no. We haven’t lost our identity through being in Coalition, and i don’t know anyone really who puts that as a serious argument.. Our Leader, through the manner in which he has portrayed and conducted himself in the coalition has.

    Too little. Too late.

  • “You can be fair but responsible with it. You can be credible without being cruel.”

    Then why has this government penalised those on the lowest incomes almost as much as those on the highest?

  • Peter Chegwyn 9th Jun '14 - 2:21pm

    Pity Nick’s Office couldn’t even get their soundbite tweets right:

    http://order-order.com/2014/06/09/pledge-breaking-libdem-tweet-of-the-day/

    Sloppy!

  • See: the more you persecute someone, the more their messiah complex comes out…

  • Frank Booth 9th Jun '14 - 2:40pm

    I don’t want to change the subject but why are we hearing nothing from the Lib Dems on the Trojan Horse issue? It’s been a major political story for a week and yet nothing from the Lib Dems. What’s that about? I don’t know anymore than anyone else on it and even with this Ofsted report I’m still scratching my head. Is Gove being heavy handed in tackling ‘extremism’? Have we turned a blind eye to a religious fundamentalist takeover of our education system? I don’t know. Do the Lib Dems have a view?

  • I would have thought Nick would have kept his mouth shut diplomatically while the party looks carefully at outcomes from May 22nd (and, I hope, comparisons with the previous 3 sets of elections) through the Gurling review. He must know that many leavers, and many still in the party believe strongly against his strongest message here, ie “we have sold out… as a party of progressive reform”. By trying to paint these criticisms as being merely from other parties, he tries to deflect the blame. This should have been your apology, Nick, not merely for Tuition Fees, but for going against the whole spirit of the Lib Dems previously.

  • Frank Booth 9th Jun '14 - 3:09pm

    ‘And over the coming year we mustn’t hesitate in spelling out that coalition is exactly what is says on the tin – two parties with different priorities and different values, and we should be grown up about that.’

    Isn’t this part of the problem? It’s the same when people talk about the Lib Dem half of the coalition. The Lib Dems aren’t half of the coalition and everyone knows it. Clegg should talk about what the Liberal Democrats have done and have stopped in government in spite of Tory dominance. And if Clegg is largely satisfied with the agenda of an 80% Tory government is it surprising that people think he’s a bit of a Tory? What would be the radical difference between a Clegg led government and the Cameron lead coalition? He’s tried to sketch out some territory on things like the EU, but, well, that seems a bit of an electoral cul de sac.

    As for the red and blue establishment, or establishments (can you have more than one?) I think he’ll find plenty of the blue press is happy enough with the coalition. And much of the red press (to the extent it exists!) would content itself with a lib/lad deal even if they might not endorse Nick as deputy. Not because they are ‘establishment’, just so they reflect their readers’ views.

  • Tim
    Talking of persecuting people —- do you remember? who said —

    “They’re so desperate to protect their own jobs, they can’t be bothered to protect other people’s.
    They’re the living dead, no heart, no mind, no soul.
    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.”

    In case you do not remember this gem — it was Nick Clegg in a speech in September 2008.
    The trouble with speeches is that sometimes they just come back to haunt you.

    Not that anyone would suggest that Clegg and his coterie are “…. .. so desperate to protect their own jobs, they can’t be bothered to protect other people’s.”.
    That would not describe the last two weeks of election results, would it ?
    That would not describe a targeting strategy at the general election that protects Sheffield Hallam and a couple of dozen other seats. Would it?

    And as for — “. Stumbling around with no idea what to do.”.
    Nobody would use such a phrase to describe the almost empty Queen’s Speech, last week. Would they ?

  • Jonathan Pile 9th Jun '14 - 3:24pm

    Nick Clegg
    Good speech for a broom cupboard – nobody’s listening to you !- the public have decided that YOU are the problem. They have their fingers in their ears. Complex arguments about BEING this while BEING that, don’t wash. Constantly telling the public they have it wrong about you .Emoting constantly didn’t work then and doesn’t work now. If you really cared about the lost councillors and MEPs you would get out of the way. Move aside and let someone carry the banner before we are trampled into the dust.

  • The party’s future, now set to see
    A leaders call to be, let be
    Challengers frit to raise their head
    As the poisoned chalice sits in view
    For they know they who touch it,
    Shall be stained with its brew.

  • Frank Booth

    Nick Clegg’s Centrist answer to the Trojan Horse issue is half way between the Conservative answer and the Labour answer. Do keep up at the back of the class.

    Mind you the Kids’s Guide to Greek mythology seems to indicate that this business in Birmingham (if there is anything in it at all other than another bout of media induced Islamophobia) is ridiculously mis-named. But I suppose Gove has never read the story because it is not by a British author. Here is a snippet. —

    Odysseus, a Greek general, had an idea. His plan was to build a horse, a huge wooden horse, and leave it outside the gate. Then, the entire Greek army would pretend to leave, as if they had finally admitted defeat. But the horse would be hollow. Thirty men would be hiding inside. That’s what they did. 

    As the Greek warriors sailed away, the people of Troy rushed outside, cheering. They found the horse. Instead, they dragged the horse inside the city gates to keep it on display. 

    That night, while the Trojan people were sleeping, the men hiding inside the wooden horse climbed out and opened the gates. The waiting Greek army entered Troy. That was the end of Troy. 

  • Frank Booth
    ” Have we turned a blind eye to a religious fundamentalist takeover of our education system? ”
    Probably because there isn’t a religious Salafi fundamentalist takeover of our education system.There is an alleged plot to take some schools out of local authority control but I expect it will turn out to be some kind of hoax.The Salifis are a small minority.
    Mind you a good dose of Calvinism might do you some good.

  • I’m with Cicero on this one – ‘negativity and bickering is for losers’.

  • Bit like Custer’s last stand, nobody listening and worse still nobody interested,
    Who is advising him?.
    If Lansley is not going to Brussels could we convince Cameron to offer Nickyboy. It would certainly solve our major problem, however the Conservatives must be reckoning keeping Cleggie as leader of the Lib Dems is great for them electorally.

  • Just to be clear, to make that work – based on estimates from the Institute of Fiscal Studies of the total amount needed if you don’t raise taxes or cut departmental budgets at a faster rate – you have to take £12bn out of welfare. Specifically, once you look at the kinds of things they want to cut, that’s £12bn from the working age poor.

    I cannot accept that at all. Yes, we’ll finish the job, of course we will – but we’ll finish it in a way that is fair. So not just through further spending cuts, but also by asking those with the broadest shoulders to make some additional contributions too, including for instance through our banded Mansion Tax …

    The party’s own estimate of how much a mansion tax would raise is £1.7bn.

    Am I missing something, or does that imply that Clegg is proposing taking £10.3bn – instead of the Tories’ £12bn – from “the working age poor”?

  • Jonathan
    “nobody’s listening to you ” You are it seems.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Jun '14 - 4:16pm

    Frank Booth

    I don’t want to change the subject but why are we hearing nothing from the Lib Dems on the Trojan Horse issue? It’s been a major political story for a week and yet nothing from the Lib Dems.

    Perhaps it is better to wait until we know a bit more about it – there have been competing claims, some of which sound like things done seriously wrong in the schools, but others which suggest these claims are gross exaggerations.

    One thing this does do, however, is knock down the argument for “free schools”. We are told these “free schools” with all the extra money spent on them are needed because otherwise there is no variety in local schools due to them being all under LEA control. However, as we see here, LEA schools actually have quite a lot of freedom to do internally what they want. It is not the LEA that dictates what happens in schools, it is their head and governing body. So what it is claimed “free schools” with all their extra money are needed for can just as well be done by those wanting to contribute to a different sort of school volunteering to become governors of LEA schools.

  • theakes
    More like Roundaway Down.

  • In a blistering speech to himself Nick Clegg outlined something or other.

  • Shaun Cunningham 9th Jun '14 - 4:28pm

    Speech which offers nothing other than more of the same. Words. The argument used to rebut criticism of his leadership is dismissed by the very people who gave us a good kicking in the local elections, the European Elections and of course the latest by-election.

    The central point which is not addressed, this party is now a rump of its former self, in 4 years we have gone from having a local government base which we could all be proud of to one now having the lowest level in local government since 1980. We have lost over 1700 Councillors, we have lost all but one of our EMP, we have lost 43% of our membership and the answer coming from the leadership is one of, it was and is a sacrifice worth paying because this party will be seen to have done the right thing for the country.

    The problem of course the country does not see it that way which is why they refuse to support us anymore, support ebbing away at a horrendous rate confirmed by our appalling polling statistics of 6%. The truth of the matter the public are not listening to us which is why we have become a party of the fringe groups. The greens now poll higher than us, we are no longer the third force in British politics we have retired to the back benches of the political arena and we are told this is something to be proud of.

    Instead of reaching out to new terrain and expand our influence we are a party shoring up what is left, a party not on the offensive but on the defensive. It’s a disaster. The message is clear, local government can become a waste land for us if that means this party can sit at the top table and a few can enjoy the fruits of government. It’s unbelievable and so sad those at the top seem to have lost all reality in their pursuit for political power.

  • paul barker 9th Jun '14 - 4:36pm

    Another comments thread swamped by the noisy Anti-Coalition minority. Clegg is the target because its a lot easier to hate a person than an idea but lets be honest here most of the Anti-Clegg minority were against the whole idea of Coalition with The Tories from the start. In their eyes the only acceptable Coalition Partners would be Labour or The Greens.
    I am truly sorry this comes across as so bad-tempered but it hurts me to see members repeating our enemies lies.

  • Steve Griffiths 9th Jun '14 - 4:38pm

    Manfarang

    Surely that should be Naseby?

  • People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

    I’m afraid Clegg has lost the ear of the people, because he has not listened or taken on board any of the concerns people have expressed.

  • Shaun Cunningham 9th Jun '14 - 4:43pm

    @paul baker

    How do you defend a 6% poll rating less than 12 months to a general election?

  • Jonathan Pile 9th Jun '14 - 4:44pm

    I am not anti-coalition – not my first choice but necessary for the UK , however Nick has allowed the Tories too much room for manoeuvre.

  • Steve
    Nope .At Roundaway Down there was no Parliamentarian counter-charge.

  • Paul Barker. I have been very pro coalition from its inception and actually feel the government has done a pretty good job. However it is the party that is on the point of destruction and has to be rescued from its leader.
    He should go NOW.

  • paul barker 9th Jun '14 - 5:03pm

    @Shaun Cunningham, hope I got your name right,
    theres an interesting new Poll from Lord Ashcroft suggesting that the effect of The European Elections Might be wearing off with us up 2% on the week & Greens, UKIP & Labour all down. Its covered on Political Betting.
    Update. Theres also a Populus Poll showing us unchanged on 9%.

  • “And UKIP? Pessimism on stilts – denigrating everything that is great about modern Britain: our diversity, our tolerance, our extraordinary ingenuity. They don’t believe in any of that. They want to turn back the clock to some bygone Britain, not the open and generous Britain we can be.”

    Like most UKIP voters I go up and down the country denigrating British tolerance and ingenuity. Tolerance? Pshaw! Ingenuity, just not the British way!

    As for open and generous is that code for unlimited immigration, which of course has been and continues to be Lib Dem policy? Nick Clegg is the sort of chap who when your home is full to bursting, there is nowhere to sleep and everyone is lying on the floor in sleeping bags because he has invited lots of strangers in to stay for ever without asking you (along with his Tory and Labour friends) says:

    “You want to turn the clock back to a bygone age! We need more people from outside coming in, that is the open and generous spirit! ”

    I think I speak for all other parties in saying I do do hope you keep your Dear Leader. He adds hundreds of thousands to the non Lib Dem vote every time he opens his mouth.

  • Steve Griffiths 9th Jun '14 - 5:12pm

    Manfarang

    Good point, but at Naseby the King was utterly routed, never to make a comeback.

  • Shaun Cunningham 9th Jun '14 - 5:13pm

    Hello Paul

    Ok defend the 8%. The big question we are now a party in the political fringe. Would you agree next May will be yet another calamity.

    Paul please don’t run off with idea I take pride in my criticism of the leadership because I don’t. However someone should be taking responsibility for these disastrous defeats. Do you agree or not?

    http://www1.politicalbetting.com/index.php/archives/2014/06/09/the-coalition-parties-make-progress-in-this-weeks-ashcroft-phone-poll-lab-ukip-grn-all-down/

  • Iain Clarke-Coast 9th Jun '14 - 5:16pm

    TBF it is a good speech, showing the leadership is listening, (e.g. setting out what more we want to do)
    But is anyone listening to Mr Clegg?

  • Shaun
    In the next few months we need to get back the footsoldiers. Things have been difficult “Awake, arise or be for ever fall’n.”

  • Shaun Cunningham 9th Jun '14 - 5:45pm

    Hello Manfarang

    Well yes I am in for foot soldiering. Just completed 11 months of walking the pavements. I do know what the doorstep is saying. Boy……..do I. Did work hard and resorted to what we all do well and listen those all important local issues. Nationally we are dead on the doorstep, which is why there must be change.

    Would like the party to step back and may I say listen to the public instead of making excuses for why the party are right and the public are wrong. Without the public willing to place an X against the liberal democrat candidate on a ballot paper we are sunk. You can door knock 24/7, I have no plans to do so by the way, it will make no difference without change .

  • Alex: you are not alone in missing it, I reckon 99.99% of the great UK public have, They have already judged him.
    Shame perhaps but there it is. He cannot come back.

  • Tony Dawson 9th Jun '14 - 7:01pm

    @Frank Booth :

    ” why are we hearing nothing from the Lib Dems on the Trojan Horse issue? ”

    David Laws has been locked inside the Trojan Horse? 😉

  • Tony Dawson 9th Jun '14 - 7:04pm

    @paul barker

    ” lets be honest here most of the Anti-Clegg minority were against the whole idea of Coalition with The Tories from the start.”

    Since that is not true (and most of ‘them’ are STILL pro-Coalition’ !) your call to yourself to start being honest is well-made.

  • Eddie Sammon 9th Jun '14 - 7:39pm

    Clegg has been talking about the economy today and references Mark Carney and Christine Lagarde. It is very important not to listen to these people. This isn’t a left versus right issue, but a banking lobby versus the rest of society issue. Things should become clear in a few years when people wonder how such well educated people could be so wrong. We should listen to other voices, including Vince, but monetarists too.

  • Robson Brown 9th Jun '14 - 7:42pm

    A dire speech from the heart of cloud cuckoo land, that would raise eyebrows even if its orator wasn’t Nick Clegg.

    My goodness – “we are not the Tories” “we are not Labour” – what an incredible insight there. I bet that has ex-members rushing to rejoin when he can offer such hope and inspiration.

    Rather than speak about an increasingly fantastical and credulous view of what could happen after 2015, Nick or someone else need to spell out why Lib Dems deserve peoples’ votes again, urgently: a clear and self-supporting case that doesn’t rely on empty platitudes or feigned equidistance.

  • Ray Cobbett 9th Jun '14 - 8:08pm

    I view this speech with utter despair. It seems like the wagons have circled with the old guard determined to brazen it out waiting for the dawn of a new day that will never come before the next election. Nick as one of our old slogans said the ‘Time has Come’

  • Eddie Sammon 9th Jun '14 - 8:32pm

    Just read the speech and watched the clip emailed to everyone. It is very good and passionate too.

  • Eddie: it is irrelevant to the public, might be nice for the heart of a few in the party, but out there where it matters it is irrelevant, the public have already made their verdict, and like in the gladitorial arena , it is thumbs down..

  • So Nick says he believes that it is the job of government to enable everyone to get on in life, I thought he thought it was just to give them the opportunity and then let them sink or swim. So he wants people to realise their full potential, he wants to nurture and cherish them. He doesn’t think he knows best! He thinks he is improving social mobility! There it is – he thinks everyone should be given one chance to shine! He thinks education will solve everything!

    How can everyone get ahead? If there are some ahead there must be some behind. He still wants to balance the books! He only wants to invest in those things that help someone succeed! He still believes there is a structural deficit! He still thinks the most important thing is to reduce the deficit not manage the economy to help people! He wants to stick to the Coalition timetable for deficit reduction!

    He is ignorant about the history of the British national debt so he wants to reduce it as an end in itself. Something we have never done in the past. I will post what I posted a few days ago, just in case Nick Clegg will read the comments here.

    This country has had a National Debt since 1692 (I think from when the Bank of England was created) and since then it has never been reduced to zero. In fact I could not see many years where its monetary value had decreased (1999, 2000, 2001). (http://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/spending_chart_1692_2015UKm_13c1li011tcn_G0t)

    For over 100 years its value was greater than GDP between 1748 and 1859 and again between 1918 and 1961. (http://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/spending_chart_1692_2015UKp_XXc1li111tcn_G0t)
    Now we need to remember that the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions were taking place during the first hundred years and so that level of debt (which is much higher than our current level and even that forecast for 2018) didn’t stop the economy growing. Then between 1945 and 1961 there was full employment; again not a time that lacked economic growth.

    Oh MY GOD! – “we will abide by a new debt rule in which we will significantly reduce national debt as a percentage of GDP, year on year, when growth is positive, so that it reaches sustainable levels around the middle of the next decade.” When did we agree this at conference?

    This means that when the economy has slowed down but is still growing just a little instead of stimulating the economy to help people stay in work Nick wants to reduce the deficit. This means saying it is fine if over 2 million people are unemployed, we need to reduce the deficit not help some of them into work. He rejects investment as a means of stimulating the economy to get people back into work.

    It is fine that he wants to build between 250 and 300,000 new homes. I find it strange he doesn’t agree with party policy, but then he often doesn’t! But when does he want to build them – it is really after 2017-18?

    And the sadist thing is he believes his message is a message of optimism, but it reality it is far too pessimist for me.

  • Keith Browning 9th Jun '14 - 9:35pm

    When the manager has ‘lost the dressing room’, the end isn’t too far away.

    Nick was stitched up by the Tories in the early days. The Tory policy machine must have known that to persude him to u-turn his university fees pledge would be an irreversible mistake. – and so it has proved.

  • daft ha'p'orth 9th Jun '14 - 9:51pm

    @Keith Browning
    The bit that surprises me more is that Clegg didn’t realise it in time to avoid the trap. I have Jim Hacker’s voice in my head right now, saying, ‘You really must sharpen up your political antennae. Antennae, Nick!’

  • James Thompson 9th Jun '14 - 10:01pm

    “Just as I feel that it is a betrayal of our children to saddle them with crippling debt,”

    He is kidding right. My daughter leaves University in 2 years with £36,000 of debt thanks to him, followed by my son three years later thanks to Clegg and his policies.

    Fortunately I haven’t got a short memory.

  • Stephen Hesketh 9th Jun '14 - 10:02pm

    paul barker 9th Jun ’14 – 4:36pm.
    “Another comments thread swamped by the noisy Anti-Coalition minority. Clegg is the target because its a lot easier to hate a person than an idea but lets be honest here most of the Anti-Clegg minority were against the whole idea of Coalition with The Tories from the start. In their eyes the only acceptable Coalition Partners would be Labour or The Greens.
    I am truly sorry this comes across as so bad-tempered but it hurts me to see members repeating our enemies lies.”

    Paul, firstly I actually resent you saying that we are inspired by a hatred of Nick Clegg. Many of us gave up hours of our time over many years in the cause of Liberalism and a fair, free and open society. Fighting on Liberal and Liberal Democrat principles gradually picked off the Tory councillors and finally won the seat from them. We held the seat once again in 2010. Although it was far from the ideal outcome, the state of the UK and global economy and electoral arithmetic meant the only viable (coalition) option was to form a coalition with the party of self interest whom we had fought since the days of the Whigs. I shed a few private tears but at least we had secured a reasonable coalition agreement on which to move forward.

    Sadly, things turned out far worse than I imagined. Not because of the Tories, as ever, behaved as the party of privilege and short term interest but because our own leader and ministers failed to ensure the Tories kept their side of the bargain. In some of the key positions we held, we even failed to uphold even our own long-held ideals and policies. If this doesn’t reflect on the leader what does!

    Until the recent local and European elections, I had however fully supported seeing through our coalition commitments – indeed I still do (up to a point) and had generally given Clegg middling marks in the LDV surveys.

    I was actually secretly hoping we might see the vintage 2010 Clegg – but it was not to be – so Paul, please do not just dismiss us or assume that we have reached this decision lightly. There is loyalty and there is blind loyalty. I am not prepared to indulge in the latter.

    Our voters have simply stopped listening in huge areas of the country and more of the same will simply reap more of the same.

    We are not “repeating enemies lies”, we are simply repeating our own truths.

  • Stephen Hesketh 9th Jun '14 - 10:11pm

    @Keith Browning 9th Jun ’14 – 9:35pm
    “Nick was stitched up by the Tories in the early days. The Tory policy machine must have known that to pursude him to u-turn his university fees pledge would be an irreversible mistake. – and so it has proved.”

    Absolutely right. NC, and us with him, were doomed from the moment he took that decision.

  • jedibeeftrix 9th Jun '14 - 10:22pm

    and the senior lib-dem leadership that must have okay’ed this decision?

  • “Just as I feel that it is a betrayal of our children to saddle them with crippling debt,”

    He is kidding right.

    I must say I was pretty flabbergasted by that comment by Clegg. Unbelievable that neither he nor any of his advisers spotted such a blindingly obvious pitfall. It ranks with “You should have read the small print”.

  • Keith Browning 9th Jun '14 - 10:40pm

    The euphoria of those first few months was too much for them – red boxes, chauffeur driven cars, and the rest of the trappings of power. Rather like the first days of winning the Euromillions jackpot – no-one was able to think straight and no-one from Camelot there to give them advice on how to spend it.

    I was initially a great supporter of the coalition idea – but it has all ended in tears. What a shame.

  • I think even now, Nick Clegg is so caught up in the power of his DPM position that his job as Leader of the LibDems is much lower down his priority list. We all know people like that in our workplaces, so caught up in ‘busy work’ that they can’t see that it’s time for them to take early retirement. .

  • @Keith Browning 9th Jun ’14 – 9:35pm
    “Nick was stitched up by the Tories in the early days. The Tory policy machine must have known that to pursude him to u-turn his university fees pledge would be an irreversible mistake. – and so it has proved.”

    A shame that so few in the party seem to realise this, when the architect of tuition fees can be rated second-favourite to take over, do so many members really have a death wish?

  • Steve Comer 9th Jun '14 - 11:52pm

    I’m very, but this speech is really too little too late. It also proves Nick Clegg is just not listening to what many loyal party members are saying. When I talk to people who are not particularly interested in politics, they tell me that they’ve stopped listening to Clegg, and are disillusions with us. That’s not what I’m saying its what OUR FORMER VOTERS say. One person I met last week summed it up very well last week when she said to about her vote on the 22nd. “Its where my heart is, but I couldn’t vote Liberal Democrat this time because of what the Tories have done.” This is not from someone who has as big a financial squeeze as some, but as a middle ranking Public Servant she has seen the Coalition as being antagonistic to people like her. For her the Coalition has meant a pay freeze, increased Pension costs, an imposed worsening of terms and conditions of employment, and even a threat to stop her Union subscriptions being deducted from salary. To borrow an old slogan from our local election lexicon, we no longer give the impression we are ‘on her side.’

    After 1997 we were starting to identify groups of people who were likely to support us on a long term basis, that’s why we won seats like Cambridge, Oxford West, Manchester Withington, Cardiff Central, Bristol West, and others. There were a lot of people who were politically centre-left (certainly never Tories) liberal in terms of social attitudes, tolerant and open to change, concerned about the environment, and against foreign wars. They were looking for a better option than the tired old Labour Party, and thought they’d found it in the Liberal Democrats.. Then what did we do? We antagonised them and drove them into the welcoming arms of the Green Party! I believe there are still millions out there who feel Liberalism is “where there heart is,” but we need to show we’ve recognised our errors, and are genuinely promoting a progressive manifesto for 2015.

    I’m afraid Nick Clegg’s speech is all self-justification, and it (deliberately?) misinterprets what his critics are saying on this site and elsewhere. This was trailed as something that would ‘relaunch’ our party’s offer. It doesn’t – its just a long winded version of the ‘more of the same mantra. .

    Jeremy Thorpe once said “greater love hath no many than he lay down his friends for his life!” It was a quip about Harold MacMillan. Sadly “Cling-on Clegg” and his cohorts seem hell-bent on doing just that. I’m sure after next years annual cull of Lib Dem Councillors and MPs, they’ll still be telling us they were right all along!

  • Susan Henderson 10th Jun '14 - 12:29am

    Most people aren’t political. Most people know very little history. Reference to battles and generals of old are very clever but they are exclusive and lost on almost everyone. (Have you heard yourselves?) For all that I love Vince Cable he’s not a party leader. For all that I really love Shirley Williams she won’t be wheeled out to save the party. So who is it we can ask to lead the party? Do they have any experience of Government? Are they fluent without sounding revolting like Cameron and Blair? I get bored reading the criticisms in these comments because ironically the comments themselves have no substance and contain no answers. I like Clegg’s belief in Europe and the UK and his general direction with tax. He is fallible but then our leaders are mortal. What did we expect? General direction is about as good as it gets. Being in government is very, very difficult. You can’t do just what you want. I’m lucky, I like Clegg. But if your a critic and you count yourself as a liberal don’t you think you’re in danger of sounding like a starving man who’s just been handed a bag of rice whose only comment is “My preference is for brown rice and yet you give me Basmati”.

  • Stephen Hesketh sums up the thoughts of many of us —
    ” Sadly, things turned out far worse than I imagined. Not because of the Tories, as ever, behaved as the party of privilege and short term interest but because our own leader and ministers failed to ensure the Tories kept their side of the bargain. In some of the key positions we held, we even failed to uphold even our own long-held ideals and policies. If this doesn’t reflect on the leader what does!”

    This is why the leader must be replaced by someone who is not loathed by the voters AND why there must be other changes at the top of the party to ensure that we have more than a dozen or so MPs this time next year.

    The purpose of this party is to work the things we believe in.
    The party is not a machine for keeping a handful of opportunists in government cars and clover.

  • Suppose, in 2007, Nick Clegg had told the truth about where he intended to take the party, and all the members had had the foresight to see where that would lead by 2014 — how much support would he have had?
    Because it seems to me that only those people who would have been happy with that scenario in 2007 should be the ones supporting him now.

  • The Weimar Republic got the blame for all the prior problems that were in fact created by its opponents.
    The de-industrialising of Britain started long before the coalition and to create new industry is no easy task.
    David-1
    The Orange Book.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Jun '14 - 10:30am

    Susan Henderson

    So who is it we can ask to lead the party? Do they have any experience of Government? Are they fluent without sounding revolting like Cameron and Blair? I get bored reading the criticisms in these comments because ironically the comments themselves have no substance and contain no answers.

    Well, perhaps the reason we don’t have other names to put forward is the way the press is biased and has a certain image of what a “leader” looks like and sounds like, and so pushes forward someone who fits into that image rather than anyone else. That is how we ended up with Clegg in the first place. All those public schoolboys who dominate media commentary just naturally assume that the “next leader” of the Liberal Democrats had to be someone from their sort of background, just assumed that because that was Clegg’s background he was more intelligent and able than other Liberal Democrat MPs. So Clegg was pushed and pushed as “the next leader” meaning others didn’t get a look in. And as you say, most people aren’t political, so most people will just assume the only potential contenders are those put forward by the press.

    I think we’d have done much better with someone who had experience of leadership in local government, experience of slowly building up the local party in a place by local campaigning until it has the strength to take control of the borough or district council, experience of knocking and doors and speaking to ordinary people, experience of the balance of power situations that often come about in local government. There are Liberal Democrat MPs with that sort of background. But the press would not name them as “potential leaders” because it isn’t the background their journalists and commentators come from.

  • Brenda Lana Smith 10th Jun '14 - 11:04am

    Like it or not… much to its detriment… as exponentially demonstrated at recent polls… the Liberal Democrat Party in this coalition government is perceived to have sold its stated beliefs down the river…

  • Susan Henderson asked “So who is it we can ask to lead the party? Do they have any experience of Government? ”
    Well there are two answers to the second part of that question:
    1) Those who are, or have been, Ministers have ” experience of Government ”
    2) Every other Lib Dem MP has as much experience as Nick Clegg did when he became leader!
    And if you area really saying Clegg is the only answer, well it must be a daft question.

    And Brenda Lane Smith is absolutely right, I keep saying its not about what WE think, its about what THE VOTERS think (fairly or otherwise). Giving out a message of “more of the same” will not bring the voters we have lost back in 11 months will it?

  • Tony Dawson 10th Jun '14 - 6:43pm

    @Susan Henderson:

    “k you’re in danger of sounding like a starving man who’s just been handed a bag of rice whose only comment is “My preference is for brown rice and yet you give me Basmati”.”

    The analogy would be better “You’ve just been handed a bag of sawdust and. . . .”

  • SIMON BANKS 22nd Jun '14 - 9:54am

    There are some very positive messages here. It’s unfortunate hardly anyone will listen.

    However, we have yet again a caricaturing of opposition: that those who think the party has lost its soul simply think we wanted power at any price. Nothing to do with reneging on a “pledge”, for example, or forgetting about devolution and “localism”.

    Yes, there are very positive things we’ve achieved, but this speech says very little about green issues and nothing whatsoever about a transfer back to localities, communities and individuals of power. So it isn’t surprising people are more confused about what we stand for than for many years.

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