Nick Clegg’s speech to the Lib Dem spring conference in full

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Clegg SpeechNick Clegg is just about to begin his speech to bring to a close the Lib Dems’ Spring Conference in York. You can read the full text below.

The speech is most striking for its aim to reclaim patriotism. “I love Britain” is the refrain of its opening section (much of which reads a lot like the popular Twitter account, @SoVeryBritish – eg, “I love that we insist on queuing when we go abroad, even when the locals don’t.”), with Nick listing the things that make him proud to be British. Underpinning this section is that Britain, for all its eccentricities, is a force for good in the world. Put simply, we’re at our best when we’re leading and engaged, not withdrawing and isolated.

He contrasts “these great liberal qualities” with the extremism emerging in other European countries as a way of highlighting what’s at stake in the Euro elections: “That’s the real question in May. One party wants out. Another is flirting with exit. The other lot don’t have the courage of their convictions on this – they’re saying nothing at all.” It’s not hard to work out which party is which.

Nick then directly links this patriotism with the purpose of the Lib Dems: “we are the guardians of a modern, open and tolerant Britain”. And the guardians also within national government He doesn’t use the phrase “anchoring this government in the centre ground” – one that grates on many activists who don’t see themselves as centrists but radicals. Instead, the centrist pitch is loftier: “we are the only party who will not ask the British people to choose between a stronger economy and a fairer society. They don’t have to. They can have both if we make our shared mission enabling every single person to get on in life.”

The closing section is the starting pistol for the general election, an explicit/flagrant decision by Nick Clegg to draw a line in the sand on the controversies of the Coalition, from its very formation to the fees U-turn to the controversial NHS reforms: “to the people out there who may not have voted for us before: it doesn’t matter, that’s the past. What matters now is the kind of country you want to live in. The kind of nation you want us to be.”

And the final staccato, verbless conclusion is breathtaking Blairite in its appeal to “drawbridge down” voters: “Open not closed. In not out. Great Britain not little England. Forward not back. Hope not fear. The future not the past.”

Here’s the full text…

Since I became the Deputy Prime Minister I have had the privilege of spending a bit of time representing Britain’s interests in other parts of the world.

I have visited Latin America and Asia to boost exports. I have been to Africa, where we are building better education systems as well as helping fight corruption, poverty and disease. I have travelled to different parts of Europe and the United States to promote British trade.

And while each trip varies from the last, there is a thread which runs through them all: you get to see Britain through other people’s eyes.

Everywhere I have been – every nation around the planet – has its own story about Britain.

On a trade mission to South Korea I paid my respects at a war memorial at the bottom of a hill where, during the Korean War, British soldiers – heavily outnumbered – fought for three solid days to hold back North Korean and Chinese forces.

It is a battle that every single South Korean schoolchild learns about. Had we given up or been defeated, it could have cost their grandparents the war.

For Mexico, Britain is the first European country to have officially recognised their independence following their liberation from colonial rule. That means something to them.

In Colombia Britain is the nation that built their first railways.

Lynne Featherstone and I were in Ethiopia, for whom Britain is now the first member of the G8 to have met the decades-old promise by rich countries to spend 0.7% of our national wealth on aid for the developing world. Something we have long argued for and this Coalition has delivered.

So wherever you go one thing is clear: people don’t listen to our country out of some nostalgic deference to an old power. They listen because of who we are. Because of the things we’ve done. Because of the leadership we continue to show. And that makes me incredibly proud.

I love Britain.

I love it for all its contradictions.

I love that we are as modest as we are proud.

I love the way we can cherish our traditions yet innovate relentlessly, churning out one ingenious invention after the next. The telephone, the steam engine, the jet engine, the world wide web; the same nation that came up with stainless steel is now developing graphene – the strongest material the world has ever seen. Oscar winning visual effects; cutting-edge design; theatre, fashion, music, film – you name it, we do it, and we’re up there with the best.

I love that a country capable of extraordinary pomp and ceremony can still retain a spiky irreverence towards its establishment. A country where we line the streets waving our Union Jacks wildly to welcome the arrival of Prince George, and the next moment we’re chuckling at Private Eye’s front page: ‘Woman Has Baby’.

I love that we insist on queuing when we go abroad, even when the locals don’t.

I love that the BBC and NHS are known and respected across the planet.

I love that our cities are home to every race, religion, colour and language in existence.

I love Miriam telling me that the feeling of freedom you get in Britain simply doesn’t exist anywhere else.

I love that the shipping forecast is listened to by insomniacs of all ages, right across the country, miles from the sea.

I love how excited we get at the glimpse of any sun, insisting on staying out in our t-shirts and flip-flops – even when it’s obviously still cold.

I love living in a country synonymous with human rights and the rule of law.

I love that it was British lawyers who drafted the European Convention on Human Rights and a British Prime Minister who helped launch the Single Market. And I enjoy reminding my Coalition partners that it was a Prime Minister from their party at that.

I love that we do respond – the cliché is true – to every problem no matter how big or small with the same thing: a cup of tea.

I love that, wherever you go in the world, you’ll find football fans obsessed with the Premier League.

I love that we are a family of four different countries, each with their own characters, traditions and good-natured rivalries. And that’s why I want to see – we all want to see – Scotland stay in our family of nations later this year.

I look at what’s happening in places like Russia, where the government is effectively criminalising homosexuality, and I love that Britain is a place where you can be gay and proud – and now you can get married too.

Above all I love that, while we may be an island, we have always looked beyond our shores. Throughout our history, when we have seen trouble in the world we haven’t just looked the other way; we haven’t just crossed to the other side of the street; Britain doesn’t peer out at the rest of the world and shrug its shoulders. We are always at our best when we play our part.

This summer marks the centenary of the First World War. One hundred years ago hundreds of thousands of British troops headed into a conflict from which many of them would never return. When it ended my grandfather, not long out of school, climbed onto the roof of Westminster Abbey and watched the survivors come home – bloody, bruised and broken by the things they had seen. He told me that, in spite of everything, he was desperately upset that he hadn’t been called up to the front: because he passionately believed that to be a British soldier, defending our values of liberty and peace, was the most noble thing you could be.

Years later he married a woman who had herself come here to avoid conflict and revolution: my grandmother. She escaped Russia during the revolution, crossing Europe with her family and eventually settling in London. For her Britain offered a place of stability and safety. At a moment of great upheaval, this country welcomed her in and let her call it home.

There are few nations as open-minded and warm-hearted as ours. Smart, funny, compassionate Britain. Always changing, always evolving Britain. Humble enough to understand that we must work with others. Confident enough to lead.

For me it is these qualities that make this nation great – these great liberal qualities. Not some sepia-tinted memory of Empire. Not some stuffy parochialism dressed up as patriotism.

In the 21st Century, in a highly competitive, fluid and fast-moving world we hold our own because of our ability to embrace the future rather than cling to the past. It is our ability to look forward and outward and our capacity for reinvention – in other words our liberalism – that ensures this small island remains a giant on the world stage.

The question – one of the biggest questions of our time – is how we protect the liberal values of this nation.

Six years ago we suffered an unprecedented cardiac arrest in our banks.

This wasn’t just a recession. It was a shattering collapse of the basic assumptions by which successive governments had run our economy since the Big Bang.

This wasn’t just a downturn. We were a nation plunged into uncertainty as the thumping heart of our economy ground to a halt.

And you have to remember: even before this happened a quiet crisis of confidence was already creeping over developed economies like ours. Global power, money and influence have been shifting from West to East and from North to South for years. The previously fashionable view that the world would automatically slide towards greater freedom and democracy now feels presumptuous and naïve. Within our lifetimes America will no longer be the world’s biggest economy. It will be China: an authoritarian state.

Taken together, in societies across the Western world, these experiences have created an entirely understandable but dangerous urge to turn inwards. An urge to reject the new or unfamiliar and to shun the outside world.

If anyone doesn’t believe it, just glance across the Channel at our European neighbours, where a number of extremist parties are on the rise.

In Greece’s last parliamentary election the Golden Dawn Party secured 18 MPs. They ran on an anti-immigration platform. Their slogan? ‘So we can rid the land of this filth’.

Hungary’s Jobbik Party now has 43 MPs, one of whom has called for a register of Jews who he claims ‘pose a national security risk’.

In Bulgaria, Ataka makes up 10% of the National Assembly. One of their MPs has reviled Syrian refugees as ‘terrible, despicable primates’.

In the Netherlands Geert Wilder’s PVV party is polling at around 18%. They have called for the Koran to be banned, comparing it to Mein Kampf.

Front National. Around 21%. Their leader, Marine Le Pen, has compared Muslims praying in the streets to the Nazi occupation of France.

These are not far flung places. This is our backyard. The forces of chauvinism, protectionism and xenophobia have been emboldened. And there is no doubt about it: the fight is now on for the future direction of our continent.

We are lucky. Thankfully we do not have the same extremism here in the UK. But that’s not to say the fight isn’t on for the future of our country too.

An ungenerous, backwards looking politics has emerged in Britain. The politics of blame has found an acceptable face: it wears a big smile and looks like someone you could have a pint with down the pub. So I’m drawing a line in the sand. I am going to defend the tolerant and modern Britain we love, and I am going to start by showing people what’s at stake at the upcoming European elections: do you want Britain in Europe, or out?

That’s the real question in May. One party wants out. Another is flirting with exit. The other lot don’t have the courage of their convictions on this – they’re saying nothing at all.

The Liberal Democrats are now Britain’s only party of IN. The only party out there explaining the clear benefits of Britain’s place in Europe. The only party giving people the facts.

IN because Europe is our biggest export market and vital to British jobs. Because pulling up the drawbridge is the surest way to wreck our economic recovery.

IN because in the fight against climate change, and in a world where some of the biggest players are also the biggest polluters, Europe’s nations can only make a difference if we work together.

IN because cooperation between our police forces is essential for catching the criminals who cross our borders. Crime crosses borders, so must we.

IN because Britain stands tallest in the world when we stand tall in Brussels, Paris and Berlin.

This isn’t about some starry eyed affection for the EU – of course it needs reform. But you can’t change it with one foot out the door. You change it by taking your place at the table – which is where you protect Britain’s national interest and promote our values too.

How else would we, right now, be making our presence felt against Vladimir Putin’s Cold War aggression in the Ukraine?

The EU is a global economic superpower. By standing shoulder to shoulder with our European partners we have the clout to defend not just our own interests, but the interests of our continent as a whole.

So, for all these reasons, I’m IN.

Forget the lazy assumption that, in the court of public opinion, the eurosceptics will automatically win. There is nothing automatic about election results. A few months ago, when I asked people to take to Twitter to tell me why they’re IN, they did so in their thousands. It was our most successful online campaign ever.

There are plenty of people out there who don’t want anger. They don’t want bile. They want jobs. They want our country to have influence. They want opportunities. Ultimately they want hope.

And that, Liberal Democrats, is what it all comes down to. Hope. It’s the oldest dividing line in politics – hope versus fear – and it’s back.

We talk a lot about reducing the deficit, fiscal consolidation, bringing down public sector debt, increasing GDP, creating private sector jobs. But in the end what we’re really talking about is giving the British people the confidence to once again look to their futures with hope.

That’s how you lead a nation through difficult times. That’s how you hold a country together when its citizens are feeling the pressure. And that’s what the last four years in government have been about.

There is still a long way to go and many people are still feeling the squeeze. But after a period of grave uncertainty, the British people can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I hope that makes each and every one of you feel proud: there would be no recovery without the Liberal Democrats.

No recovery if we hadn’t decided to enter into coalition in order to provide the country with strong government.

No recovery if we hadn’t held our nerve and stuck to the plan.

No recovery if we had allowed the Coalition’s economic strategy to be solely about cuts. Sorting out the nation’s finances is essential but equally as important is investing in the foundations of lasting growth.

The unprecedented Treasury support that will transform Britain’s roads and rail.

The world’s first Green Investment Bank.

The billions of pounds spent on businesses across the country.

The million more young people who are now qualifying as apprentices.

Don’t let anyone airbrush out our role. Thanks to the heroic efforts and sacrifices of millions of people we have been able to pull this country back from the brink. Under extraordinary pressure we have achieved extraordinary things. And no matter what our critics say, when the history books are written they will say that, most extraordinary of all, the country was put back on the right track by a party which had never been in government before but which had the guts and the courage to do what it took.

And now a different challenge awaits.

We’ve been in emergency mode for the last four years, but that is slowly changing. If this parliament has been about a rescue, the next will be about reconstruction and renewal.

If we are truly ambitious for our country, Britain’s future cannot be like its past.

Successive governments relying on an overheated financial sector; presiding over a wildly imbalanced economy where the gap between rich and poor grew; where the North fell further and further behind the South.

Successive administrations jumping from one set of public service reforms to the next and Whitehall just seemed to carry on regardless as more and more power was sucked up to the centre.

I don’t want us ever to go back there. It cannot be right that the country goes through all of this pain only to end up where we started when it all went wrong.

In this coalition we have begun to turn the page, but the real test will come in the next parliament – when government will have to show whether or not we have really, genuinely, learnt from the mistakes of the past.

And I simply do not believe that our opponents have. I simply do not believe that they are up to this task.

Left to their own devices what are they offering the British people?

Profligacy. Economic incompetence. A bloated and cumbersome state. Politicians who think that all they need to do to prove themselves is posture against business. A leadership desperate but unable to break free from the grip of its Union paymasters. A party that cannot be relied upon to keep the economy safe; that wants us to put them back behind the wheel even though they still won’t admit how badly they got it wrong.

Or how about widening inequality. A remorseless shrinking of our public services. A party that claims we’re all in it together and yet refuses to ask the wealthy to pay even a penny more in tax towards the on-going fiscal effort. A party which will instead single out one group – the working age poor – for especially tough sacrifices. £12bn worth of especially tough sacrifices, from people who are trying to work their way out of poverty and who we should be helping stand on their own two feet.

A weak economy. An unfair society. If it all sounds depressingly familiar it’s because most of us have lived through it all before. Two parties encumbered by the same old prejudices; straitjacketed by the same old ideologies. And whichever way you look at it, left or right, if either of them get into government on their own, they will drag Britain in the same direction: backwards.

No. That’s not my Britain. That’s not the Britain I love. And I am not going to sit back while either of them sweep in and leave this nation diminished and divided because they still don’t understand what makes our country great.

Liberal Democrats think of that when you’re out campaigning in the crucial coming weeks – in your wards, in your communities, in your regions for our hardworking councillors and our excellent team of MEPs.

When I tell you that we need to get back into government again – protecting Britain from one party rule – this is why:

Because we are the guardians of a modern, open and tolerant Britain.

Because we are the only party who will not ask the British people to choose between a stronger economy and a fairer society. They don’t have to. They can have both if we make our shared mission enabling every single person to get on in life.

Because we are the only party with the imagination and ambition needed to ensure Britain draws a line under some of our worst times with our best qualities intact.

In government again the Liberal Democrats will continue rewiring our economy so that our banks are the servant and not the master. So that, instead of fake booms and reckless consumption, we invest in growth that is balanced and sustainable, which stretches across every corner of Britain and which conserves our natural resources too.

That is how we embrace a better future rather than repeat the mistakes of the past.

We’ll finish the job of balancing the books, but continuing to spread the burden fairly, as we have been in this government – giving Britain a stronger economy and a fairer society too.

The future, not the past.

We’ll continue correcting the imbalance in our tax system, so that it doesn’t just protect the wealthy but properly rewards work.

And, yes, that means that in the coming Budget Danny Alexander and I are pushing to take the Liberal Democrat income tax cut even further than we had originally planned in this parliament.

We are about to hit the target that was on the front page of our manifesto: raising the personal allowance so that no one pays a penny of income tax on the first £10,000 they earn, saving over 20 million people £700. Now we want to go beyond that, taking the total tax cut to £800.

And if we’re in government again we’ll go further still: no one paying a penny in tax on the first £12,500 they earn.

Fairer taxes. The future, not the past.

We’ll create an education system that, from toddler to graduate, allows our all of our children to rise as far as their talents and efforts will take them, irrespective of the circumstances of their birth.

The future, not the past.

We’ll transfer ever more power to our cities and communities so that they can drive their own destinies and we break Whitehall’s grip for good.

The future, not the past.

We will ensure that this country rises to the challenge that will define the 21st Century: playing our part in the fight against climate change, for the sake of our children and the planet we leave behind.

The future, not the past.

And we will live up to our greatest traditions by keeping Britain engaged, outward facing, a heavyweight in Europe and a leader in the world.

If this sounds like the Britain you want, the Liberal Democrats are the party for you.

Between now and the election my aim – our aim – is to build a coalition bringing together all of the liberal-minded, liberal-hearted men and women who love the Britain we love – and who want a party prepared to fight for it. That’s the coalition I care about. A coalition of all the people who want to keep this nation open, tolerant, compassionate and strong.

So to the people out there who may not have voted for us before: it doesn’t matter, that’s the past. What matters now is the kind of country you want to live in. The kind of nation you want us to be.

Open not closed.

In not out.

Great Britain not little England.

Forward not back.

Hope not fear.

The future not the past.

If you have faith in this country, if you believe in Britain’s values, if you still want this incredible island of ours to keep punching above our weight and shaping the world so that it is a better place, put the Liberal Democrats back in government again – let us protect the Britain you love.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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71 Comments

  • Trevor Stables 9th Mar '14 - 12:20pm

    This is my kind of patriotism, my party and proud.

  • lynne featherstone 9th Mar '14 - 12:37pm

    Really great speech – all that’s worth fighting for!

  • Well played, Nick! Genuine internationalism and patriotism are not mutually exclusive.

  • I thought it was a good speech and well delivered, It sets out the position very clearly, However, personally I remain somewhat Eurosceptic mainly because I can’t square the idea of a decentralised Britain within an increasingly centralised Europe and see little willingness to actually reform the EU within they key member states. But for less Eurosceptic voters I think he played a bit of a blinder.

  • “. ..staying out in our t-shirts and flip-flops – even when it’s obviously still cold.?.”.
    So it is official — sandals are bad, flip-flops are good.

  • It’s a good speech, and I hope Nick will be punching at this level when he debates Mr Farage!

  • Though I should note that the NHS is probably not “known across the planet” and the BBC would be better “known and respected” abroad if it were actually *available*. Most ordinary people abroad cannot find access to a BBC transmission, even on the internet, whereas most other major media organisations in the world have gone out of their way to make sure that their content is easily accessible.

  • Tony Dawson 9th Mar '14 - 3:53pm

    @David

    “Most ordinary people abroad cannot find access to a BBC transmission, even on the internet”

    So, the BBC World Service has disappeared?

  • BBC World Service is not the same thing as “the BBC.”

  • Eddie Sammon 9th Mar '14 - 5:15pm

    An ethical criticism of drawbridge down or “open rather than closed” politics is that it leads you to do business with odious people.

  • Churchillian!

  • I am struggling to take this speech on board. The words ‘internationalist’ and ‘little-Englander’ are battling it out in my skull!

    Anybody else feeling a little dizzy?

    Only a few days ago UKIP was being compared to the BNP for using the slogan ‘Love Britain’. It will be interesting to see if we get the same treatment for being patriotic.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2570198/Nigel-Farage-launches-patriotic-push-Euro-election-victory-Ukips-new-Love-Britain-slogan-used-BNP.html

  • “That’s the real question in May. One party wants out. Another is flirting with exit. The other lot don’t have the courage of their convictions on this – they’re saying nothing at all. The Liberal Democrats are now Britain’s only party of IN”.
    If my interpretation of the above is right, Nick is telling us to turn the European Parliamentary Elections on 2nd May into a straight in/out referendum on the EU. The Liberal Democrats are now Britain’s only party of IN so the selection is easy.

  • ‘IN because cooperation between our police forces is essential for catching the criminals who cross our borders. Crime crosses borders, so must we.’

    I am bothered by the European arrest warrant. You can be deported without the benefit of habeas corpus. Habeas juris is not at all the same, it seems like a backward step to me.

    ‘In the Netherlands Geert Wilder’s PVV party is polling at around 18%. They have called for the Koran to be banned, comparing it to Mein Kampf.’

    The Quran can hardly be described as Liberal or indeed liberating as in women’s lib. For example the traditional punishment for homosexuality is either to be buried alive or thrown down from a high place. There is a bit of a paradox for us. Do we as Liberals defend something that is illiberal?

    http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/Quran/026-homosexuality.htm

    http://www.answering-islam.org/Authors/Arlandson/homosexual.htm

  • Chris Manners 9th Mar '14 - 8:03pm

    “If my interpretation of the above is right, Nick is telling us to turn the European Parliamentary Elections on 2nd May into a straight in/out referendum on the EU. The Liberal Democrats are now Britain’s only party of IN so the selection is easy.”

    Labour are pro-EU. Why shouldn’t I vote for them?

  • “Labour are pro-EU. Why shouldn’t I vote for them?”

    Presumably because Ed Miliband isn’t having a head-to-head debate with Nigel Farage.

  • Chrises, Presumably (according to Clegg) it is “because he (Miliband) is too timid”. This year’s Lib Dem approach is certainly bold, but in previous years I would have characterised this Party’s approach as “timid” also. Having road-tested various approaches to this issue over the years on doorsteps, I can confirm that many people like full-on cynicism. I haven’t tried full-on jingoism as in today’s speech. Probably because I don’t think I could pull it off with any degree of conviction! Perhaps that will go down well – I am just dubious whether people will believe it, and it could sound artificial.

    People are very dubious about others’ motives. Part of my incentive to carry on with active politics is to try to persuade people that collaboration and cooperation on a wide basis are desirable, and indeed necessary to make good progress in an ever more interconnected world.

  • Chris Manners 9th Mar '14 - 10:17pm

    Ha, ha, yes.

    The Opposition are entitled to pick their issues and take their time. So far Miliband’s left the Tories to tear themselves apart on the EU, while holding the line against a referendum. When they do start to articulate the obvious fact that Cameron wants to chuck away working rights, I think they’ll be in a decent position.

  • @Chris Manners

    “Labour are pro-EU. Why shouldn’t I vote for them?”

    To quote Nick “The other lot don’t have the courage of their convictions on this – they’re saying nothing at all”.

  • I have voted Lib Dem before in European elections. I’m pro-EU and tend to the centre-left so would like to see more centre-left parties in the European parliament. So why would I want to vote for the Clegg-led Lib Dems over the unambiguously pro-EU Labour?

    Also, I fear Clegg is making a strategic error by painting his party as the only pro-EU party (not true, Labour, the SNP, PC and most NI parties are firm supporters of the EU) he’s inviting people to draw conclusions about public support for the EU following any dismal LD showing, which is more likely to be due to people’s disillusionment with Coalition rather than an anti-EU position.

  • In answer to the question posed by the person posing as “g” ( am I the only person who finds it irritating that people cannot use their real name?) —
    You can vote for a Liberal Democrat MEP despite your dislike of Clegg and what he says, because Clegg is not the leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, Clegg himself is not a candidate and by his foolish actions against Verhofsdat shows that he is out of touch with Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament.

    I will happily vote for Liberal Democrats in the European Electiom knowing that they are not clones of Clegg.

  • “Also, I fear Clegg is making a strategic error by painting his party as the only pro-EU party (not true, Labour, the SNP, PC and most NI parties are firm supporters of the EU) he’s inviting people to draw conclusions about public support for the EU following any dismal LD showing, which is more likely to be due to people’s disillusionment with Coalition rather than an anti-EU position.”

    Not only that, but he’s clearly damaging the pro-European case by the very act of pretending that the Labour Party is not pro-Europe.

    And that’s because, for Clegg, this isn’t really about making the case for Europe. It’s yet another short-term electoral tactic designed to shore up Lib Dem support – and, of course, to protect his own position.

  • Peter Watson 10th Mar '14 - 11:14am

    @JohnTilley “I will happily vote for Liberal Democrats in the European Electiom knowing that they are not clones of Clegg.”
    Sadly, I no longer vote for Lib Dems in any election since the party will interpret or present it as support for Clegg whatever the intention behind the vote.

  • @ g

    Labour have a funny way of showing it….

  • John Tilley, I don’t understand, the LD’s in the European Parliament are the same party as the LD’s in Westminster. Surely it goes without saying that a vote for them is a vote for the Westminster LD’s policies?

  • Alex Macfie 10th Mar '14 - 1:09pm

    @Joe King: Sarah Ludford recently authored a European Parliamentary report on required reforms to the European Arrest Warrant, including human rights and proportionality clauses. I do wish, however, that we talked more about what our MEPs specifically have done to try to shape EU law and policy. That, after all, is what European elections should be about.

    “The Quran can hardly be described as Liberal ”
    On banning the Koran, the Bible also has passages that “can hardly be described as Liberal”. Should we ban that as well? And I don’t think Mein Kampf should be banned either (correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think it is banned in this country) Defending the right to publish something does not imply support for its content.

  • Alex Macfie 10th Mar '14 - 1:41pm

    At least Labour have attempted to campaign on European issues, by which I mean the EU law and policy issues that are discussed in the European Parliament (although I do not always agree with their stances on these things).

    I agree with John Tilley’s point that Clegg is not the leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament (or even an MEP), and for that reason I disagree with the party strategy of putting him at the forefront of our Euro election campaign. The campaign should be led by our MEPs, and we should make a lot more of the fact that the European Parliament is a “Coalition-free zone”, with the Tory and Lib Dem MEPs each belonging to their respective European Parliamentary party groups and one the Tories belong to being extreme raving-right. We could present ourselves to Tory-LD waverers as *the* moderate centrist pro-European party, while exposing the Tories for the company they keep.

  • Richard Fagence 10th Mar '14 - 1:45pm

    No, John Tilley, you are not the only person who finds it irritating that people cannot use their real name when posting comments. I no longer react to anonymous postings, no matter how provocative/sensible/inaccurate they may be.

  • Richard, John, why should I give my full name? So you can google me? Find out where I work? Who I am in a relationship with? What I look like? Details of my family?

  • Chris Manners 10th Mar '14 - 2:13pm

    Theresa-1 9th Mar ’14 – 11:25pm
    @Chris Manners

    “Labour are pro-EU. Why shouldn’t I vote for them?”

    To quote Nick “The other lot don’t have the courage of their convictions on this – they’re saying nothing at all”.

    That makes no difference at all. They’re pro-European.

  • Paul in Twickenham 10th Mar '14 - 2:25pm

    All this talk of “pro European”… are we really using it as a euphemism/shorthand for “pro Immigration” or at least “not hostile to immigration”? Put in that way it becomes meaningful to talk about Labour’s prevarication on the issue.

  • Quite correct, g. If we are talking about policy or strategy, there is no need for people to provide any information about who they are. Names are not relevant to the questions of whether policies or strategies are right or not. It would be different if this was a tittle-tattle gossip site. But hopefully it is not, or not exclusively. I guess those who wish to gossip are free to provide a claimed name.

  • Paul in Twickenham

    All this talk of “pro European”… are we really using it as a euphemism/shorthand for “pro Immigration” or at least “not hostile to immigration”? Put in that way it becomes meaningful to talk about Labour’s prevarication on the issue.

    OK. The Coalition have criticised Labour’s immigration policy as too lenient and blamed them for the large numbers of immigrants in this country, therefore Labour are more pro-immigration than the Coalition, and thus more pro-immigration than the Liberal Democrats, if judged by their actions, not their words.

  • Paul in Twickenham 10th Mar '14 - 3:24pm

    @g – but it’s their words that we are talking about, isn’t it? Where is the speech from Chuka Umunna that matches Vince Cable’s recent well-reported remarks? On the contrary, in January Mr Umunna called for changes to the unrestricted right to travel to limit it to those travelling with the guarantee of work. And of course he specifically said (this is a verbatim quote – check it out) that Labour had previously made “a mistake – you had high skilled people coming from other countries to do low skilled jobs here”. That sounds like a mea culpa rather than criticism by others, no?

  • Phil Rimmer 10th Mar '14 - 3:32pm

    Before this I knew that Clegg could talk the talk but couldn’t walk the walk. Neither of these things has changed.

  • Paul, so your argument is that what the lib dems say they’ll do is more important than what they actually do?

  • Peter Hayes 10th Mar '14 - 5:44pm

    G

    Why should you not post anonymously. Let’s ignore you might be a party troll and give a serious answer.
    1) because as a party member I want my views to be seen and know I might leave or deliver depending on policy.
    2) because in my constituency it is Tory carpet bagger from London or it is a moderate LibDem local so the MP needs to keep his local people on side.

  • Shirley Campbell 10th Mar '14 - 5:48pm

    “We’ll transfer ever more power to our cities and communities so that they can drive their own destinies and we break Whitehall’s grip for good.”

    Well, yes, this is raw Liberalism at play, but I despair. Yesterday afternoon, I watched Boris Johnson outline his vision of what transferring fiscal powers to London and other cities would mean. Feeble as I am, I concluded that the measures would seemingly add yet more bureaucracy to the existing layers of bureaucracy. Furthermore, did Boris suggest that council tax bands might be re-evaluated? Council tax would not be raised but Joe Public might well find himself in another council tax band and paying considerably more council tax none the less! Moreover, there are affluent London boroughs and not so affluent London boroughs. Centralisation does ensure that the weak individual is not strangled by the strong individual. The accountability of public institutions features strongly in the centralisation model! Ombudsmen! IPCC (a joke but however)!

    As regards local communities driving their own destinies, I would cite the “Neighbourhood Community Budget” being piloted in Ilfracombe, North Devon. I vote for a MEP, a MP (Westminster), a Devon County Councillor, two North Devon District Councillors, and six Ilfracombe Town Councillors, but, seemingly, all eleven are not deemed sufficiently competent to liaise with each other and deliver true and fair services to me and my fellow citizens. Well, the concept of truth and justice has broken down in this Lib Dem stronghold because we have a young man who is, and continues to be, the subject of a long running miscarriage of justice. Read the latest account of the local constabulary’s incompetence in the New Statesman Oct’2013 (Nick Rose). However, a town council, Ilfracombe Town Council, comprising members, many of whom are co-opted and have not been elected to office, has been given carte blanche to set up an unaccountable organisation with discretionary powers to run the local constabulary, the local fire service, local council services and to oversee local health provision. Would Sir Nick, my Lib Dem MP, deign to lower himself to my level and explain, well, probably not?

    Oh, and I am a free spirit, a staunch Internationalist and a staunch Republican and I want to be able roam free with the free. I am a Liberal. I support the European Union, free trade and the free movement of people.

  • Richard Fageance — that is sound advice. If people are so embarrassed by the comments they make in LDV that they cannot use their real name, then I should not give them any credibility by responding.

  • Paul in Twickenham 10th Mar '14 - 7:41pm

    @g – Liberal Democrats say “immigration is good for Britain” – .http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2569103/Net-migration-soars-212-000-year-despite-Camerons-tough-talk-cutting-number-tens-thousands.html

    Labour say “Some immigration is good for Britain” – http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/chuka-umunna-immigration-labour-toughens-3009396.

    If I might turn your non-sequitur question around, are you saying that Labour will not do what they say will do?

  • Paul, that point is implicit in what I wrote. I imagine, in power, Labour will be far more liberal on immigration than their current rhetoric suggests. I don’t think that is honest, and I don’t approve, but it is good politics unfortunately. As somebody who is pro-immigration I’ll grit my teeth and accept that rather than those who speak good words then do quite the opposite.

  • ‘In the Netherlands Geert Wilder’s PVV party is polling at around 18%. They have called for the Koran to be banned, comparing it to Mein Kampf.’

    The point is that Mein Kampf is illegal in the Netherlands. I am not aware of anybody calling for it to be banned in the UK.

    ‘In the Netherlands selling the book, even in the case of an old copy, may be illegal as “promoting hatred”, depending on the circumstances under which it is sold.’

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mein_Kampf

    I am rather conflicted regarding banning information. Banning child pornography seems sensible to be banned since it would have been created by child abuse. The recent outcry regarding the P.I.E. highlights this.

    Regarding banning books – I am not really sure what the point is. In any case it is readily available via the internet, as is Mein Kamf.

  • Little Jackie Paper 10th Mar '14 - 10:43pm

    g – ‘I imagine, in power, Labour will be far more liberal on immigration than their current rhetoric suggests.’

    I have to admit that I used to think that but more and more I think that actually that might not be the case. Labour were very badly burnt by the forecasts of EU migration. If you read the original document back you will see that the forecasts were subject to uncertainty, but even so they were plainly far too low and politically they still hurt. I suspect that the Coalition were reluctant to give a Bulgaria/Romania forecast because the 2004 experience was so toxic. Perhaps of course that was sensible on the part of the coalition, but now as in 2004 the stark truth is that the uncontrolled nature of EU freedom of movement can (stress, can) cause pressures. The Conservative’s net migration target was an ill-advised attempt to address those pressures, but however ill-advised it was, the aim did make some sense.

    Ultimately I think that too often the public are not given enough credit on immigration. A lot of people ride the talkboard hobby-horse on the subject, but outside of these forums I think that by and large the public understand the nuances. What grates, to my mind, is not the immigration per se, but the lack of control. The influence of the media is much-overstated but people will, rightly, believe the evidence of their own eyes.

    The overarching issue here is that immigration in the sense of a liberal/open policy has winners and losers and to pretend otherwise offers the public a false prospectus. Not, I would hope, a comfortable thought for those that want to duck the tough issues behind warm words. And I direct that at all parties.

  • Shirley Campbell 11th Mar '14 - 1:38am

    “We’ll transfer ever more power to our cities and communities so that they can drive their own destinies and we break Whitehall’s grip for good.”

    I am sorry for quoting the wrong year since the details of “Who killed Charlotte Pinkney?” was published in the New Statesman on 20 October 2012. I live nestled in Lib Dem territory and back in 2004, a stone’s throw from my home, a young girl went missing and she has never been found. The local constabulary failed to properly collate evidence of her disappearance, they failed to engage with and take statements from potential witnesses and they seemingly deleted relevant CCTV images. Latterly, and in accordance with “government” guidelines and “localism”, the local constabulary has been invited to sit on an unelected and unaccountable body and given licence to determine policy in the realms of health and well-being. In the case of Charlotte Pinkney, she has never been found and a young man has spent nearly ten years in prison having been convicted of her murder on purely circumstantial evidence. The case is one of many being pursued as a miscarriage of justice. Baroness Lawrence never gave up seeking justice for her son and neither has Nick Rose’s mother ever given up seeking justice for her son. I wish Nick Rose’s mother success in her quest for justice but I question the legitimacy of a police body, corrupt or otherwise, sitting on an unaccountable body of unaccountable people.

    Nick, please stand up and be counted, Sir Nick has failed to do so.

  • The more I re-read the speech the more I am disturbed by it.

    Reading the comments on newspaper websites show that it has gone down very badly.

    In a way we should be pleased that UKIP have not really got their act together. If they did then they would be on 30% of the vote. Also thank goodness that they appeal to the older generation more, who are genuinely patriotic having gone through the war. We just need to wait it out and UKIP will decline once these old folks die out.

    The younger generation who we have to attract are internationalist rather than patriotic. They see the stupidity of national wars and can see that the EU is a light of hope and freedom and prevents conflicts. We must redouble our efforts to gain the votes of the eastern Europeans. Indeed do all we can to prevent our coalition partners from placing restrictions and thereby depriving us of the future bedrock of our support. In this light, the apparent patriotism shown by Nick Clegg makes no sense at all.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2577971/UKIP-hit-30-message-Analysis-100-000-voters-views-says-support-party-not-just-driven-Eurosceptism.html

  • Furthermore we have to tap into the eastern European vote for another reason. The indigenous population is in decline, and they are the ones who vote for UKIP and the Conservatives. Labour tap into the Asian votes, the Asian population is increasing. The eastern European population is also increasing.

    If we can do this, although our current situation seems more or less hopeless, we can have a revival of our fortunes. Looking ahead 20 years with this strategy, both UKIP and the Conservatives will have withered away, and it will be Lib Dems (eastern Europeans) vs Labour (Asians).

    We may need a period of time in the political wilderness in order to build upon this approach. Unfortunately it will require ditching Nick Clegg who is now tarred with the brush of patriotism. Humanity needs to evolve beyond patriotic feelings, that is an idea of the past not the future.

    It will take some effort to re-programme our armed forces to reject patriotism. We have to set up joint European regiments and air forces, so that they come to the idea of defending the European ideals not nationalistic ones.
    Nobody in our armed forces yet laid down their life for the EU, and when that happens it will be a watershed moment. Maybe the conflict in Ukraine will be that moment.

  • Paul In Twickenham 11th Mar '14 - 7:13am

    @g – You mean that Labour will say one thing in order to win votes but do the opposite when in power, and that’s bad but you’ll grit your teeth. But the Liberal Democrats will say something (that on your logic would lose them support) and then in power not do that thing but actually do the thing that would have gained them more votes had they said they would do it in the first place?

    In truth I know what you mean. There is an interesting discussion to be had as to whether the pledge fiasco has now alienated a chunk of the public to the point where they literally think that the Liberal Democrats will do the opposite of what they say on anything and everything. A strange perspective, but we live in strange times.

  • Paul In Twickenham, I fully see the absurdity in my logic, but nevertheless, the best gauge of any party is what they do when given power rather than what they’ll say to get it. And, regrettably, even leaving aside tuition fees, the Liberal Democrats have proved to be very different in Coalition than expected.
    I had no idea that they would turn out to be a low tax, low spending party that sees solutions to social injustice in less state help, rather than more.
    I thought they would have opposed more privatisation, more PFI, more commercial partnerships, but in reality, they have either embraced these things or remained silent.
    I would have thought they would have supported teachers and pupils against the ideological convictions and dictats of Ministers.
    I would have thought they would have supported local government facilities, whether libraries, leisure centres or schools, not cut their funding, or forcing them to move outwith local government control.
    I would have thought they would have supported workplace anti-harassment and anti-discrimination measures, not be completely useless in dealing with the harassment and lack of BME/women candidates in their own ranks.

    In coalition the Liberal Democrats are indistinguishable from pro-EU Tories, such as Kenneth Clarke.

    That isn’t what I was expecting.

  • Paul In Twickenham, and then there’s the NHS. Which is being privatised following the Health and Social Care Act, something that critics alleged at the time, and prominent Lib Dems denied. Was that incompetence or malice? It doesn’t matter now, both possibilities are sound reasons not to vote Liberal Democrat.

  • “Looking ahead 20 years with this strategy, both UKIP and the Conservatives will have withered away, and it will be Lib Dems (eastern Europeans) vs Labour (Asians).”

    LDV gets more like one of those bizarre little far-right websites every day …

  • Jedi – this seems to me to be the logical end result of internationalism rather than patriotism. As far as I can understand it. Do you understand it differently? Is it even possible to be patriotic and internationalist?

    I would like to see the EU as effectively a new nation into which all member states are subsumed. Our armed forces then logically must swear allegiance to the EU rather than to the Crown. Is there any flaw in my argument? I am genuinely interested to be corrected or to be confirmed as being right.

  • My political antennae tell me we should move to scrap NATO and our national military machinery and place our trust in the EU’s combined forces to defend us. I see NATO as a military machine and I think we should be doing everything we can to encourage collaboration, love and harmony in the world. I don’t see any risk of foreign countries attacking the UK these days. The world is getting ever closer and ever smaller because of globalism. Barriers are breaking down and we hardly even need a passport to travel abroad now. The old-fashioned concept of nation states is going out of fashion as everyone now works together as one big happy family. It certainly makes sense to me to cut our defence costs even further than we have done as a coalition by merging them with the EU’s military force. Obviously, doing that would leave us with a lot more money to spend at home on increasing benefits or even reducing taxes. I support the party of IN, because I say no to wars, no to national armies and yes to a combined European defence force.

  • Nick Collins 11th Mar '14 - 2:34pm

    Theresa 1. Be careful what you say in jest; people may think you are serious.

  • Shirley Campbell 11th Mar '14 - 2:42pm

    Theresa, I fully support your eloquently delivered post in support of the EU.

    However, Joe King, please consider your contention stated thus:

    it will be Lib Dems (eastern Europeans) vs Labour (Asians).

  • @Nick Collins “people may think you are serious”.

    Nick, you are being a trifle flippant. IMHO, my post was serious enough to deserve a more thoughtful response.

  • @ jedibeeftrix “or as a guiding principle of any party that hopes to get elected…”.

    I am in favour of an ever-closer union. That’s why I support the LibDems.

  • @ jedibeeftrix “Did I get that right?”.

    Not really. You appear to perceive everything in terms of aggressive and violent acts. I think our party should be promoting love in all its forms. Love is the highest aspiration for humanity. We do not have to change anybody; we just have to love them. I support the party of IN, because national armies (supported by NATO) only fight for narrow-minded parochial fiefdoms. On the other hand, an outward looking combined European defence force would be there to defend of all Europe, and to promote love between our neighbours. Unlike our national army, a European defence force would not exist for the sole benefit of narrow-minded “Little Englanders”.

  • @ jedibeeftrix “Excuse me if i take this excuse to ask exactly what it is about the collective moral fibre of the EU that makes it resistant to industrial warfare, despotism, tyranny, and genocide, where another subset or superset of european nations will instantly descend into barbarism?
    And do I correctly understand that you wish britain part of this enlightened moral ennui precisely to halt our natural barbaric tendencies?”
    Jedi. You need look no further than the founding fathers to understand the EU vision. Way back in 1943, the visionary Jean Monnet said:

    “There will be no peace in Europe, if the states are reconstituted on the basis of national sovereignty… The countries of Europe are too small to guarantee their peoples the necessary prosperity and social development. The European states must constitute themselves into a federation…”

    So yes; this is where we must go. We must re-constitute. That’s why I am supporting the party of IN.

  • I wrote: “I would like to see the EU as effectively a new nation into which all member states are subsumed. Our armed forces then logically must swear allegiance to the EU rather than to the Crown. Is there any flaw in my argument?”

    Jedi replied: “No, there is nothing wrong with the logic of what you suggest, but I am not at all sure it has any relevance in Britain recognisable mass sentiment, or as a guiding principle of any party that hopes to get elected…”

    Jedi, could you in your comments please indicate the sources of your stance, or are they just your own opinions? In other words do they conform with policies (of the EU for example)? Theresa has given a quote by Jean Monnet which is very helpful for our discussion.

    David Cameron is resisting the creation of the EU common defence forces. I think that he is wrong and that Baroness Ashton is correct. If we Lib Dems are genuinely to be the party of IN, then we must surely align ourselves with the wishes of the EU, in this instance with Baroness Ashton and Martin Schulz. Otherwise if we do not and instead listen to the suggestions made by Jedibeeftrix for example, we simply cannot claim to be the party of IN, and our credibility will plummet even further if we try to cherry pick EU policies.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/10528852/David-Cameron-flies-to-Brussels-determined-to-fight-EU-drones-programme.html

    Quoting from the article:
    ‘David Cameron has blocked plans for European Union owned military forces and told a summit of Europe’s leaders that Nato is the “bedrock” of defence in Europe.

    The Prime Minister has told a Brussels summit that there can be no question of British support for proposals from Baroness Ashton and the European Commission for the EU to run its own military.

    “It makes sense for nation states to co-operate over matters of defence to keep us safer,” he said. “But it isn’t right for the European Union to have capabilities, armies, air forces and all the rest of it. We need to get that demarcation right.”

    Diplomats told the Daily Telegraph that Mr Cameron personally intervened to ensure that references to “Europe’s armed forces” were removed from a draft EU summit communique on defence cooperation.

    Britain has blocked EU proposals, backed by France, Spain, Italy, Poland and Germany, that would have paved the way for developing a new fleet of unmanned surveillance drones and a European Air Force comprised of heavy transport and air-to-air refuelling planes.

    During a “heated” summit debate, Martin Schulz, the speaker of the European Parliament called for the creation of a European army.

    “If we wish to defend our values and interests, if we wish to maintain the security of our citizens, then a majority of MEPs consider that we need a headquarters for civil and military missions in Brussels and deployable troops,” he said.’

  • Jedi: “Do we have a common foreign policy? Do we share the same ambitions, and apply a similar weight of importance to those ambitions?”

    In terms of getting Ukraine into the EU yes we do have a common foreign policy. David Cameron has followed Baroness Ashton in calling for Ukraine to join the EU. Facing down Russia gives the EU a clear mandate for sharing military resources to further the aims of the EU.

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