Conference: Nick Clegg’s speech

Edit: Link to text of speech

12.20 Standing ovation welcome. Nick begins with a few words about yesterday’s attack in Northern Ireland.

12.21 Talks frankly about the need to update our policies – he doesn have a perfect answer for everything. But our liberal values must win through.

12.22 Over his paternity leave, he has had time to reflect. And he has never been so certain that liberalism is what people want. This is a recurring theme from Clegg this weekend. And he refers again to the “dismal” choice offered in the last recession by
a Thatcherite right and a, well, Thatcherite left.

12.24 Labour talked of change, but they kept power locked up in Whitehall.

12.25 Our beliefs, dispersing power, attacking monopolies, could have prevented much of this crisis, but more importantly they can solve it.

12.27 The long lens of history – good stuff! The great fire of London as an informing analogy for great pioneers and thinkers to bring new ideas to a scene of devastation. Only at Lib Dem conference. “Even if everything you know has been destroyed, you must not go backwards.”

12.29 Our policies will not just rebuild what we had before. We will build it anew and better. We will take this approach to everything. Tax is first up – interesting. “People on the minimum wage still pay tax” – is that a raised Personal Allowance I see before me? Hoorah!

12.31 Gosh, sounds like we might revisit the whole tax package . Bring it on!

12.32 Inevitable plaudits for Vince as head of our brilliant parliamentary economic team. We don’t agree with the sham of nationalisation-in-all-but-name. Time to take full and temporary nationalisation. Re-privatise in the longer term.

12.33 Lib Dem vision of return to old style community High Street banking. Banks should have a choice – either you can do ordinary consumer business and we’ll protect you and regulate you like a hawk, OR you can be a bank that takes risks, and if things go wrong, don’t come begging. We will let you fail. Loo-oo–ong clap punctuated by cheers!

12.35 And for the first category, we will need a new culture – they will be utilities, without a bonus culture. And those responsible for the current crisis have failed. Compare Barings’ failure, when 10 directors were banned from ever sitting on boards again. The audience are seriously loving this. He wouldn’t trust these people to run his sons’ piggy banks – they should be disqualified from their profession.

12.39 Interrupted by long applause for saying we should use dip in housing market to rebuild social housing stock.

12.40 On the to the £12.5bn borrowed for the VAT cut. Green alternative – he’s using the language of “could have”, rather than “we will”, which is more accurate. It was a “shameful waste of money borrowed in our name and it should be stopped right now”. Labour thinks there are no limits on what you can borrow

12.42 Tory idea of cutbacks from next year would be “economic madness”. This would kick us back down just as we might be starting to climb out of recession. Lib Dems accept that borrowing must go up in a recession, but with two simple tests on what to spend it on – the spend must genuinely stimulate the economy, and must give us a long-term return.

12.43 Therefore, we can rebuild infrastructures and promote a green economy.

12.45 Returns to his core theme of fair Britain. He has been going round Britain meeting people – and they don’t want handouts, they don’t believe government is the answer to everything, but they do want a break, they want a bit of help carrying their burden. This is what Lib Dems can provide.

12.47 Labour has been the progressive party for as long as he can remember. But Labour is a spent match – they have burnt out. Contrast the hope in 1997 with the disappointment now. Lib Dems carry the torch of progress now. “Turn to us.”

12.48 The failed politics of Thatcher, Blair, Brown must be replaced.

12.49 Isolationism must be headed off. Times of economic trouble breed extremism and intolerance.

12.50 What was Gordon Brown doing lecturing Congress on protectionism when he uses protectionist rhetoric? Our Prime Minister would rather bow down to a US congressman than shaking the hand of a European colleague. That demeans Britain and it must stop.

12.51 Time for Labour and Tories to grow up and accept that if we want to be strong in the world, we have to be strong in Europe. Of course the EU is flawed. But it’s our best bet.

12.53 He has been told that the tax and spending plans won’t work – don’t you know there’s a recession on? But the point of a crisis is that it makes the unthinkable thinkable, and opens the door to genuinely new ways of doing things. On to tax havens and rich earners’ loopholes. Recession doesn’t make it impossible to change this, it makes it essential.

12.55 Stop building so many roads and stop the Child Trust fund and you can provide universal childcare.

12.57 Balanced politics – fair votes for all. The reliable PR dog-whistle.

12.58 Now – the hard-won inheritance of liberty. The Lib Dems will get it back.

12.59 He would love to have an instant solutions. But he can’t say that. But it will be a long, slow climb out. There is hope so long as we do things differently. Progress has faltered but it need not die. The cycle of blue-red-red-blue governmet has got us into this mess and is never going to get us out.

13.01 If you want better, if you want different, choose Liberal Democrat!

And we’re out!

(And a political incident is averted when Clegg just about remembers to turn his microphone off.)

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  • ““People on the minimum wage still pay tax” – is that a raised Personal Allowance I see before me? Hoorah!

    12.31 Gosh, sounds like we might revisit the whole tax package . Bring it on!”

    Looking at the version of the speech on the party website (and I know it says “check against delivery”) I don’t see any indication of that.

    That version has “People on the minimum wage still pay hundreds of pounds in income tax.” The rest of it sounds like the same kind of rhetoric he’s been producing for months.

  • On a lighter note, looking at some of the imagery in the speech makes me a bit concerned about what Nick Clegg may have been brooding about during his paternity leave.

    The Great Fire of London, burning flames, torches, spent matches?

    As a precautionary measure I shall be locking up my cacti tonight.

  • David Allen 8th Mar '09 - 11:01pm

    Nick Clegg said:

    “12.53 He has been told that the tax and spending plans won’t work – don’t you know there’s a recession on? But the point of a crisis is that it makes the unthinkable thinkable, and opens the door to genuinely new ways of doing things.”

    Michael White said:

    “Nine out of ten tax payers better off? That’s a hostage to fortune, all right!”

    White has rightly identified that a policy of long-term permanent tax cuts is simply not credible. The threat is that Clegg could be ridiculed if he were to claim otherwise.

    Clegg will do well to counter that threat, as he did today, by declaring that his policies are for the here and now, and that we are the party who can deal effectively with the credit crisis.

    In the longer term, we can still campaign for fairness in distributing the tax burden. But public spending will assuredly have to fall, and the total tax burden will assuredly have to rise.

  • I have to say I think “take a chance” and “leap of faith” are rather ill-chosen slogans at a time of such economic uncertainty.

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