In Full: Danny Alexander’s speech to Conference

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Danny emphasised the Liberal Democrat contribution to the economic recovery in his keynote speech to Conference and talked about the forthcoming budget and the choice facing the country. Liberal Democrats were needed to provide fairness and responsibility, he said. Here is his speech in full:

Conference, we gather at a time when the economy is in better shape than at any time since we entered government. And that’s for a reason. Conference, this recovery would not be happening without the Liberal Democrats. My inspiration has come from millions of people and hundreds of thousands of our brilliant businesses who are powering our economy.

I am proud to have worked so closely with Nick Clegg, our brilliant business secretary Vince Cable and the rest of our economic team to help those people and businesses do what they do best.

Our policies and our values have created the right climate for them to succeed. This recovery has created millions of new jobs, has restored growth, has put Britain back on its feet and back to work.

And our country needs our policies and values in the next parliament too. To sustain the recovery. To finish the job of balancing the books and to do so fairly. We set out our economic vision – to make Britain a country that offers opportunity for everyone.

Our aim is to make Britain the largest, most successful, most sustainable economy in Europe. That aim is within our grasp. Getting there starts with our manifesto pledge to balance the books by 2018. And to do so fairly.

Our Liberal Democrat plan will share the burden, with the best off making a fair contribution. That’s why we’d bring in a High Value Property levy. It cannot be right that a home worth £50million pays the same council tax as one worth £500,000. So we will introduce new bands, on top of council tax, to make sure those people make a fair contribution.

That’s why we have already set out plans to raise more money from banks. We would introduce an additional supplementary corporation tax charge on the banks, raising over £1 billion. As the economy is recovering, and banks profits are rising, it is right that we should ask a sector that did much to cause the financial crisis to contribute more to repairing the nation’s finances. That’s why we will ask those that benefit from our society but who wish to remain non-resident – the non doms – to pay more.

Most commentators agree that to finish the job of balancing the books the next government will need to find around £30 Billion. We have set out clearly the mix of tax and spending reductions that we would employ to achieve this.

We’d raise around £8 Billion in extra taxes on the best off, on ensuring that large corporations including the banks pay their fair share. We’d raise £6 Billion by cracking down even harder on evasion and aggressive avoidance. The rest would come from spending measures.

And because we’ve guided the economy through the last 5 stormy years, in our vision, there is no need to raise the tax rates that affect most of us. VAT, Income tax, National Insurance and corporation tax for businesses. Far from raising income tax. We will cut it. A manifesto pledge to cut income tax by another £400.

Over the last 5 years we, the Liberal Democrats, have delivered the largest tax cuts for working people in living memory. Just think back to 2010. The amount you could earn before starting to pay income tax was only £6475. Within a few weeks, it will have rocketed to £10,600. That’s the biggest income tax cut for working people for a generation. Lower taxes for 26 million working people. Only delivered because of you.

You may remember David Cameron telling Nick in the leaders debates last time that it couldn’t be done. To him I say – oh yes we could! No wonder he’s running away from debating Nick again.  And we want to go much, much further. To £12,500 within the next Parliament. This tax move on its own has had a transforming affect on our economy.

It’s made work pay. It’s allowed people to keep more of their own money. Gladstone would have been proud!

The only party offering a fairer tax system in this election is us – the Liberal Democrats.

A manifesto pledge equal care for mental and physical health. Conference, our mantra of Stronger Economy, Fairer Society makes the link that we want a better economy for a reason. To make our society fairer. That’s why I am so proud of Nick Clegg’s drive to end the Cinderella status of mental health once and for all.

And then what of education. A manifesto pledge to protect education not just in schools, but from nursery to nineteen. The Tories are clear – they will cut schools’ budgets as part of their drive to shrink the state. Our education system is the engine of opportunity – that’s why we will protect its funding.

And has recent weeks have shown yet again, nothing upsets law abiding tax payers more than people who think they can evade paying the tax they owe. Paying the tax you owe isn’t an optional extra – it’s a legal requirement. Quite rightly, benefit fiddling is a crime and a social taboo. For too long, tax evasion has been seen by the rich and privileged more like a sport than the crime it is. So in our future vision, they’ll be even more measures to crack down hard on the tax dodgers.

I want to see tax evasion as socially unacceptable as ‘drink driver’. I want to see those who aid, abet, facilitate, or encourage tax evasion hit as hard with criminal and financial penalties as the tax evaders themselves. That will be in our manifesto too.

And we have clear and distinct plans to make sure we build the infrastructure that our country needs. The roads, the railways, the digital networks and – yes – the housing that we will enhance our financial stability and help unleash yet more growth. After the books are balanced in 2017, our new fiscal rules will set the country on the path to lowering our national debt to sustainable levels.

But, provided that goal is on track, we will also allow borrowing for that productive investment. Investment in roads and railways that can open up economic opportunity, as I saw in the South West two weeks ago. In Torbay, I saw with Adrian Sanders the nearly completed Kingskerswell bypass. It’s a project that local people have been campaigning for over 40 years to achieve. It’s one of hundreds of projects now being delivered, because there are Liberal Democrats in charge of economic policy.

Now you all know there’s a coalition Budget this week. Next year, I want us to be delivering a Liberal Democrat budget. This is what it would look like.

And what would be in it?

Tax cuts for working people – an income tax personal allowance of £12,500. Balancing the books fairly, not on the backs of the working people on low pay. A new tax on high value property. A new crackdown on tax dodgers. Protection education – cradle to college. No rises in the taxes that most people pay – VAT, income tax, National Insurance.

A Liberal Democrat plan, for a stronger economy and a fairer society, that’s what we will deliver in the next Parliament. And it’s a choice between truly stark alternatives.

You have the Conservatives. A Conservative Party that wants to cut for cuts sake even after the books are balanced. A Conservative Party with no heart, but two minds. One to stay in Europe, the other to leave.

A Conservative Party that wants to balance the books solely on the backs of the most vulnerable in our society.

The prospect of a Britain under a majority Conservative government is grim indeed. And haven’t we all groaned when they use their soulless mantra – Long Term Economic Plan. The truth is their Long Term Economic Plan means Long Term Economic Pain for millions of families.

And then you have Labour. Not so much long term economic pain as short term economic catastrophe. A Labour Party still so deep in denial about its role in the greatest financial crash of modern history, that they seem determined to repeat the same mistakes again.

Their vision is unclear, their policies flawed and their credibility non-existent. Listening to the incoherent waffle that seems to pass for Labour policy, you really wonder why Ed Miliband bothered to stand for Labour leader when he has so little idea how he wants to govern.

And you have the nationalists. Their message can be seductive. They usually deliver it wrapped in the Saltire or the Welsh flag or with a garish pound symbol. But at the core of nationalism – be it in Scotland, in Wales or for the UK as a whole – is a belief in separation.

In pulling people apart, rather than drawing people closer together. In their zeal to achieve what they see as the ‘Holy Grail’ of separation, they lose all perspective.

They take their eye off the ball. The SNP leaders are obsessed still with independence. But when it comes to the economy, they misjudge all the big calls. A few weeks ago, Nicola Sturgeon came on one of her regular trips to London to set out her economic vision for the UK. But analysis shows that she was factually wrong.  Her plans would lead to yet more debt, not less. So the choice in this election is stark indeed.

Heartless Tories. Clueless Labour. Reckless Nationalists, intent on slamming our recovery into reverse.

But there is another option. And that is to stick with us, the Liberal Democrats. To stick with our vision. Our vision to finish the job of balancing the books, of doing so fairly and, crucially, of turning the corner to a brighter future once that job is done.

And let’s remember, this election is about so much more than what we have done in the past. It’s about what we can do in the future. And we have a vision of the future that is very different from the other parties. And I can tell you what is so different. It’s this.

Our vision is optimistic. It’s positive. It’s full of hope. Now you might be reeling in shock that I am talking about optimism. But I am. And here’s why. These last five hard years of repairing the economy, Of having to take difficult decisions, of having to fight through the tough times, have put us in a place that is the envy of so many other countries.

We are now within touching distance of being able to finish the job of balancing the books. Now that will be a landmark in its own right. But reaching that point means more. It means that we can turn the corner. That spending can rise as the economy grows.

That we can borrow responsibly – as long as debt is falling as a share of our nation’s income – to invest in our railways, our roads and our digital networks. The very things that will help unleash economic growth.

Conference, some have asked if me if I find the prospect of the election daunting. And I say, no. I say no, because I know who we are fighting for, and what we are fighting for.

We’re fighting for the millions of people that have secured one of the new jobs created in this recovery, and the many more that seek work. We’re fighting for the millions of young people who are gaining self-respect and a stake in their world on one of the 2 million apprenticeships that Vince Cable has invested in. We’re fighting for the millions of people on low and middle incomes who are benefitting from the income tax cuts that we, not the Tories, have fought for and delivered. We’re fighting to keep Britain anchored where it needs to be, in the centre ground.

And what are we fighting for? We’re fighting for fairness. Fairness at the heart of the government of this great country of ours. Fairness that rejects separation. Fairness that rejects division. Fairness that rewards work. Fairness that provides opportunity for all

We’re fighting to secure this recovery. We’re fighting to save the soul of this country from a clueless Labour party, a heartless Conservative Party and from the delusions of nationalism. Conference, your fortitude in these difficult times has enabled liberalism to deliver so much in these past five momentous years.

Now let’s march forward. United. Proud of what we have achieved. Inspired by what we can achieve. Don’t believe those who write off the Liberal Democrats.

Let me tell you. I’ll be back. We’ll be back. And because of us, Britain will be back too.

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2 Comments

  • Would someone with better eye sight than me please tell me what the box says.
    Liberal Democrat Wedges ?

  • Well, we may be seeing both Nick and Danny in the run up to the election…..

    ……Ed Balls, the Labour shadow chancellor, may have forced his Conservative rival, George Osborne, into an election television debate with him, sealing the deal with an awkward handshake live on air….
    Balls ambushed the chancellor with the suggestion when they appeared together on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday….However, Osborne immediately tried to back out, saying he was sure his “very effective” deputy, the Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander, would want to come along.

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