Conference economy debate: Nick Clegg’s summation in full

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Nick Clegg Economy Motion 4Chairman Andrew Wiseman called Nick Clegg of Sheffield to summate on the economy debate. Nick said:

Colleagues, just to show that I can also agree with Paul Homes, I strongly agree with Paul about what a brilliant, brilliant debate that was. It really, really does show us at our very, very best. No other part could stage such a democratic and respectful debate. Well done to everybody on whatever side you were on the debate.

Now, I’m gonna gallop along. They say summarise all that in four minutes. I will try.

I want to pay particular tribute by the way before I forget to the first time speakers. Catherine, Nick Thornsby, I thought you were absolutely brilliant but the best speaker of all has to be Brian Matthews shameless, ruthless advertising of his own fringe meeting. An astonishing hijacking of a whole debate for ulterior purposes.

Conference. I would like us to vote for the motion and crucially for the vast bulk of Amendment One, lines five to 15. But as Tim Farron and others have explained, vote against Amendment One, or rather the lines one to four, and against Amendment Two. And that’s of course on top of the amendments on further banking reform and trade which we will fold into the motion anyway.

I want to just say a word about three things. Bank of England, housing and the fiscal mandate.

On the Bank of England, I think what Sharon, Malcolm Bruce and others have said, we really should take this to heart. We were the leading architect and proponent of one of the greatest innovations of macroeconomic policy in this country in a generation. And we should not lightly turn our backs on that. And simply chopping and changing the mandate the politicians might want to hand down to the Bank of England only increases the uncertainty that all speakers have said is very destructive of further economic confidence and recovery.

On housing, I hear, I understand, I actually share, I genuinely share, the frustration and the anger that John Shipley, Paul Homes, James King and others have spoken about so eloquently. About the failure of our country to build more houses and particularly more affordable housing I really do get – Barbara Jack rightly and wisely suggested, Danny Alexander, myself, we are more than happy to stand with John [Shipley], all of our colleagues in the LGA to find a way through this.

But there is a fundamental misunderstanding. This motion is, and it says it in the motion, is about what we can do now. And it is my sincerely held belief that what is says in the motion, which is all about allowing councils for the first time, free of some of the shackles imposed upon them by Treasury, to basically swop the capital allowances they are given to build houses to do so. If we get that done we will build more affordable homes now.

If we on the other hand delete all of that and go for the amendment that will be a complete revolution in the way that everything is done, not a single extra affordable home will be built under our watch. That cannot be right, under our watch. That cannot be right.

Finally, on the fiscal mandate. The first thing I’d say, just to dispel this myth, that if we continue to stick to the plan that we will deal with the structural deficit – and let me stress it’s not by next year, not at some breakneck speed by the year after that even, but into the second half of the next parliament, we are committed to dealing with this black hole in our public finances by 2018 – none of that, none of that ties our hands on tax and spend. I’m against 100 per cent spending cuts. Completely against it.

We will go in to the next election in favour of more fair taxes and not follow George Osborne’s plan, such that it may be to only make further savings only out of spending cuts. Of course, we are not going to do that. That’s not Liberal Democrat. It won’t happen under my watch. It won’t happen and nothing prevents us from doing that. Nothing prevents us from having independent policies on broadband, on skills, on housing and on all the other crucial issues where our voice, our independent voice, is so essential.

But please, be careful for what you wish for. If we start messing about with the big goalposts that we have stuck in the ground, which frame the stability which is required for further economic growth, we will destroy jobs and decrease prosperity.

Final point. The only people who will welcome what we do today if we adopt these amendments are George Osborne and Ed Balls.

You were brave last year. Be brave again.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem living in Shropshire, and a former editor for Lib Dem Voice

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4 Comments

  • I listened to it live. I thought he sounded a bit desperate.

    He had to accept a large chunk of amendment one, and say that he basically ‘agreed with amendment two but not yet’ to get his own way.

    It is good to see that Lib Dem conference can still constrain a leader in vital ways – even if it is reluctant to humilate him in public.

  • Peter Hayes 16th Sep '13 - 4:20pm

    Perhaps if he was described as from Sheffield Hallam, or Hague described himself as from Richmond (Yorkshire) we would have a better view of the constituency they come from. There are parts of the North that are relatively conservative (small or large C) . That is why the leadership seems to be at loggerheads with membership spread over the whole country or even their local area.

  • He can’t be described as being from Sheffield Hallam because people might look it up on wikipedia and realise that it was held by the Conservatives for the 112 years prior to 1997 and that it is the wealthiest constituency outside of the south-east. It would play havoc with his ‘I know about deprived northerners because I represent Sheffield’ routine.

  • I tried to read it, I really did, but urgh

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