IN FULL: Nick Clegg’s leader’s speech to conference

Clegg SpeechHere’s the text of Nick Clegg’s speech to the Lib Dems’ autumn 2014 conference:

Before I say anything else, I’m sure I speak on behalf of all Liberal Democrats when I say that our hearts and condolences go out to the family and friends of Alan Henning and David Haines for their tragic loss.

These were good men. In the work they did they stood for hope and compassion – the things that everyone in this room believes are more important than anything else. We have to take on the cowards who took their lives. We have to defeat their barbarity to help protect the millions of people who now live under the threat and fear of these merciless killers.

Britain will not be intimidated. We will not be divided. We will not allow this brutal organisation to pervert Islam.

And to ISIL we say this: All you have done is unite the people of Britain – Muslim and non-Muslim, people of all faiths and none – around a single aim. All you have done is give the British forces who are being deployed to Iraq – some of the best professionals in the world – a clear, single objective.

We and our allies – including in the Middle East – are going to find you, we are going to destroy your bases, we will cut off your supplies, isolate you from your support – and for the sake of peace, democracy and the freedom of all those you terrorise, we are not going to stop until it’s done.

And let’s also take this opportunity to pay tribute to our armed forces – including the RAF personnel who are being deployed over Iraq, as well as the many men and women helping fight dangerous threats across the world. Our immense gratitude should go without saying – but it’s important we say it too.

Al Murray – he of Pub Landlord fame – said a great thing on Trafalgar Square in the days leading up to the Scottish referendum. I was there stood in the crowd with thousands of others and it really stuck in my mind. He said that there is something wonderfully vague about being British. After all, he said, that’s why we call ourselves Brit – ish. And it’s true. You can be British as well as Scottish, English, Northern Irish, Welsh…ish. At the same time you can be black, white, Asian, Indian, African, European, mixed, not-mixed. You can be gay, straight, bi-sexual, transgender. Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, atheist.

The Scottish referendum was not only momentous because it reaffirmed Scotland’s place in the UK – and for that I will be eternally grateful for the unbelievable efforts of Willie, Alistair, Danny, Jo, Mike, Charles, Ming, the whole Scottish team… The Scottish referendum was also brilliant because it forced us to hold up a mirror and think about who we are. Four nations, yes, but also 64 million people with identities which are distinct yet overlapping, because these Isles of ours are among the most diverse and inclusive in the world.

And yet something very un-British is taking root in our politics. A growing movement of people who want to pull us apart. Salmond, Farage, the bitter tribalism of left and right – in their different ways they’re all doing the same thing. A growing pick-a-side politics, in a world of us-versus-them. Worried about your job? Your business? Your children’s future? Your way of life? No matter, just blame Europe/Brussels/foreigners/immigrants/the English/the South/professional politicians/Westminster/big business/anybody claiming benefits/ even onshore wind farms…

…Life is so simple when you know who – or what – to blame. It’s seductive and it’s beguiling. That much may even be proved tomorrow, if the people of Clacton give the UK Independence Party an MP. But resentment, the politics of fear, doesn’t pay the bills or create a single job. Claiming to address people’s acute anxiety about the modern world, it provides nothing but the false comfort of grievance. Dressed up as the politics of hope, it is in fact a counsel of despair.

Why do you think I took on Nigel Farage in the TV debates at the European elections? Because I thought it would be easy? – me defending Britain’s membership of the EU, him bashing Brussels. No, I did it for the same reason this party must now come out fighting: Because someone has to stand up for the liberal Britain in which we and millions of decent, reasonable people believe. For tolerance, compassion, openness, unity – the values this party holds so dear.

Labour won’t defend those values. Even after four years in opposition Labour have nothing to say – or have forgotten to say anything of any value on the economy. The Tories won’t either. We heard all we needed to know last week: compassionate conservatism is dead and buried. If the Liberal Democrat voice is marginalised in British politics our country will be meaner, poorer and weaker as a result.

We must not and cannot let that happen. We must make our voice heard. That’s not easy these days. Disenchantment and anger towards the political class is now at an all-time high and, for a lot of people, we’re included in that. The British people no longer feel an automatic deference to their politicians – and that’s a good thing. Authority everywhere is challenged.

And – in what might be the least fashionable statement made by any party leader this conference season – politicians of every party have fed this growing cynicism by exaggerating and overstating what government’s can do. We’ve all done it. I’ve been there. When I apologised for the disappointment and anger caused by our inability to scrap tuition fees, I knew we could never, ever make that mistake again.

And we won’t. We understand that political parties must show by doing: our promise of more must be built on a record of delivery, not just words. So if you meet someone who doesn’t believe we’ll raise the personal allowance to £12,500, tell them how we already raised it to £10,500.

If they’re not persuaded we can help young people with their travel costs to college, tell them we’ve created more apprenticeships than any Government since the war. If they’re cynical about our promises to help with young children, tell them we’re the first party ever to start providing free support to two year olds across the country, tax free childcare and free school meals for infants.

And all of it while fixing our broken public finances – so they can be sure we’ll finish balancing the books fairly too. Danny set it all out on Sunday: Eliminating the deficit in the first three years of the next parliament, and then bringing debt down steadily and sustainably. Running a budget that is balanced overall and – this is crucial – doing it in a way that allows us to invest in Britain’s creaking infrastructure too.

The Liberal Democrats will borrow less than Labour, but we’ll cut less than the Tories. We’ll finish the job, but we’ll finish it in a way that is fair. And just as we are refusing to saddle our children with mountains of debt, we are determined to hand them on a clean planet too.

Both parties in this Government promised we would stick to our green commitments, but it has taken constant pressure from the Liberal Democrats – not least Ed Davey – to hold the Tories to their word. And I can tell you now that a sustainable environment will remain at the heart of our vision for Britain’s future – it’s not green crap to us.

A plan that is credible. A party which has learnt from our mistakes. A party proud to have delivered on the commitments we made on the front page of our last manifesto – remember this? – and a whole lot more.

The biggest change in income tax in a generation – designed and delivered by Lib Dems. The biggest overhaul of our pensions system – designed and delivered by Lib Dems. The biggest amount of money going into early years education every year, more than any previous government – designed and delivered by Lib Dems. The biggest shake-up of parental leave, revolutionising the rules for mothers who want to work and fathers who want to stay at home – designed and delivered by Lib Dems. The biggest ever commitment to renewable energy – designed and delivered by Lib Dems. And one of the biggest, proudest achievements for all of us: giving gay couples the same right to marry as everyone else – designed and delivered by Lib Dems.

That is an extraordinary record from anyone, let alone a party that had never been in government before, let alone at a time of upheaval and strife. So when you meet people who still aren’t sure about us, ask them this: How will you judge us? By the one policy we couldn’t deliver in government, or by the countless policies we did deliver in Government?

Fixing Britain’s shattered economy, making sure the recovery spreads to every part of the UK, cutting taxes for millions for people, investing in young children and protecting Britain’s schools…Judge us on that record. By the four years we worked tirelessly to make sure public services are safeguarded for future generations…

The environment – safeguarded for future generations too…Privacy, protected…Civil liberties, defended…Older people, treated with dignity. And all children – from before they even start at school – given a chance, so that they can all live out their dreams and all live their lives in full. Judge us on that record.

And, while this party has learnt from our mistakes, can the same be said of our opponents? Ed Miliband is now promising a new Nirvana where everyone will be well-off, no one will be out of pocket, we don’t need to cut government spending and the public finances will be miraculously fixed. Sounds great. How does he intend to deliver this? Well, he promised a rise in the minimum wage by 2020 – which was already going to happen. A one year limit on the increase in child benefit – which is already in place. And a cut in Ministerial pay – which this Government introduced in our first week in office.

This is a man who was part of the government which wasted their chance and ruined the economy, destroying jobs and slashing incomes – and yet not a single word on the deficit. A man who was part of the government which obliterated trust in our immigration system – and yet not a word on how you rebuild it. So much for a radical plan from the official Opposition.

David Cameron and George Osborne, meanwhile, say don’t worry: immigration can be slashed, human rights redrawn, taxes lowered, the NHS protected, and we can have all the benefits of being in Europe while opting out of the bits we don’t like. Every worry can be fixed with a big wave of the Union Jack. How do they intend to deliver that? Well, they’ve quietly ditched their commitment to reduce net migration to tens of thousands. Conservative Ministers have dragged their feet in implementing Lib Dem border controls. They want to scrap the universal human rights Brits have enjoyed since the days of Winston Churchill. And they’re prepared to jeopardise Britain’s membership of the EU – and our prosperity with it – in order to appease their backbenchers. So much for a credible plan from the Conservative Party.

And most astonishingly of all, they have chosen to single out the working-age poor to bear the brunt of the final years of deficit reduction, while refusing to ask the super-rich to make a single additional contribution…That’s the 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. …And given the Conservatives are not planning a single tax increase, how will they pay for all their spending commitments? They will have no choice but to cut the services they have not protected like social care, policing, education – education – to the bone. No wonder they’ve stopped claiming that we’re all in it together.

Say what you will about the Liberal Democrats…We may no longer be untainted, as we were by the freedom of opposition… I may no longer be the fresh faced outsider…But we still stand for a different kind of politics. Treating people like adults. Not shirking the difficult dilemmas this country faces, but confronting them head on. Not pretending there’s a magic wand answer to every problem when there isn’t. Not doing things just because they’re popular. Not being afraid to court controversy when we have to stand up for something we believe. Trying, every day, to do what lies at the heart of politics at its best – decent people, driven by decent values, resolving problems which can only be resolved together for the good of all.

So our mission now is to give people a reason to reject bitter, us-and-them politics, to shun the politics of blame and fear, and choose something better. To do that, we have to provide the one thing that so many people across Britain still lack and crave: Opportunity.

Government can’t do everything for you. It can’t make life perfect – and no one should pretend it can. But government can strive to level the playing field so that you and your family can look to your future and see the chance to get on. No matter who you are. Opportunity for Everyone. If you can see that you have a fair chance to get on in life, you don’t need to look for someone to blame. If you give people a sense of fair play…The power to shape their own lives and that of their communities…The chance to fulfil their talents, pursue their aspirations, regardless of the circumstances of their birth…The anger, the powerlessness will wane and the hope of a better future can take root.

After the London riots three years ago, I commissioned some research into why some people had rioted and others had not. I’ll never forget hearing about the young men and women who told the researchers: of course I didn’t riot. They wanted to apply for apprenticeships. They’d seen jobs they wanted and didn’t want to ruin their chances. Give people a future and they won’t trash the present. Give people hope and they turn their backs on fear. And yet Britain is still a place where opportunity is handed down like an heirloom, not spread around like a universal right.

Educational achievement, professional advancement, wealth, life expectancy – all our measures of success are still umbilically tied to an individual’s background rather than the talents they possess. So the question is: which political party can do something about it?

Look, I’m sure Ed Miliband and David Cameron would say that their parties are parties of opportunity – no one’s against opportunity. But the point is: they can’t deliver it for everybody. There is no opportunity without a stronger economy – to give people good jobs, business opportunities, the money to follow their dreams. That’s why Labour is not the answer. And without a fairer society you can’t create opportunity for everyone, instead of just those lucky few at the top. That’s why the Conservatives are not the answer.

Fairness without a strong economy does not work. A strong economy without fairness doesn’t work either. And – as the last few weeks have now put beyond doubt – there’s only one party with the head and the heart – the resolve and the compassion – to deliver both. To deliver opportunity for everyone – and it’s us.

It starts with giving people power over their lives. Powerlessness is the enemy of opportunity. It’s why we care as passionately about civil liberties as we do about good schools. It’s why blocking the so-called snooper’s charter was as important as delivering a massive increase in free childcare.

Because a Big Brother state which demands the storage of the websites you visit is as threatening to real freedom and opportunity as a state which fails to help toddlers get the support and care they need. And while we’re on the subject… I say this to Theresa May: stop playing party politics with national security. Stop playing on people’s fears simply to try and get your own way. Your Communications Data Bill was disproportionate, disempowering – we blocked it once and we’d do it again.

There are times when the state needs to keep its nose out of our lives, to give us the freedom to make the most of our lives. There are times when the state needs to extend a helping hand so that everyone can make the most of their lives. That is a smart, liberal, enabling state. And at its heart are powerful citizens.

But, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the last four and a half years, it’s that the hardest thing about being in power… Is getting vested interests to give up their hold on power. Just look at where we’ve been thwarted. Giving people a democratic say over their lawmakers in the House of Lords – blocked by Labour and the Conservatives. A clean up of party funding to restrain the influence of big money – blocked by Labour and the Conservatives. The Conservatives have even told us in the most explicit terms: you can’t have your Mansion tax because our donors won’t wear it. So proud are they of this act of brazen self-interest they even wrote to wealthy homeowners boasting about it – in the hope of courting more cash.

Within hours of the historic Scotland vote, when we were meant to be cracking on with the plan for further devolution – a plan that this party will not see hijacked, or diluted, or delayed… They were at it again. The Tories trying to impose an entirely self-serving system of Tory votes for English laws on the House of Commons, in order to give more say to their MPs.

Labour ignoring the problem altogether in order to give more say to their MPs. Well they can both forget it: whatever reforms we do will be fair and right by the British people, and that will be guaranteed by our MPs. And they still simply cannot grasp that spreading opportunity means putting people in control – in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and in communities up and down England too.

We’ve done a lot to release Whitehall’s grip: by the time the election is called next year every single part of the UK – every nation, every City, our towns and villages – will all have more power than the day the Coalition was formed – just as we said. But I want us to go so much further, supporting strong, prosperous, empowered communities – able to shape their own futures.

And to anyone who thinks that in the next parliament we should cut our losses and give up on our ambitions for real, meaningful political reform: no way. This country deserves better than the tawdry Westminster politics we get from Labour and the Tories – and I am going to keep hammering away at the system every single day, because bit by bit that system will break to let the people in.

And if power is still hoarded at the centre, the ability for people to liberate themselves from the circumstances of their birth is still denied to too many people. I have fought tirelessly to instil opportunity in the earliest years of a child’s life. Did you know Michael Gove raided the budget for much needed school places in order to fund his Free School obsession?

Did you see the frenzied bile from the Tory Right against our plan to give young children at primary school a healthy meal at lunchtime? Have you ever heard the dated snobbery from some Conservatives against the value of vocational qualifications and good quality careers advice?

Of all the faultlines which have opened up in this Coalition Government, the one that has been most revealing is the way in which self-proclaimed Conservative educational reformers sought to suffocate almost every single initiative designed to instil opportunity at an early age – for all children, not just some. A world class education system is one that releases the potential in all children, not just some.

My mother worked as a teacher for children with dyslexia when myself, my brothers and sister were growing up. Those days it wasn’t as readily recognised that very bright children can be hampered by learning difficulties which may obscure their talents, but don’t make them any less bright.

Those days countless children were discarded by the education system because children were not treated as individuals, they were expected to conform to the rigours of the classroom or be left behind. And my mother drummed into us what seems so obvious today. That you don’t write anyone off. You don’t overlook anyone’s talents. Given half a chance, everyone can shine.

For me, that is what our new commitment to expanding childcare to all two, three and four year olds is all about. That is what our new commitment to healthy lunches for all primary school children is all about. That is what our new commitment to helping with the travel costs faced by all college students is all about. That is what our new commitment to a qualified teacher in every classroom is all about. That is what protecting funding from cradle to college – even as we clear the deficit – is all about.

Education. Opportunity. That is what the Liberal Democrats are all about. Almost exactly thirteen years ago Phil Willis and myself visited a number of schools in Denmark, Holland and Sweden. The idea of the Pupil Premium was born. Today it funds breakfast clubs; homework clubs; it helps involve parents who are otherwise disengaged.

It gives teachers the time to focus on children, one on one. And the many wonderful, wonderful teachers I meet across the country, working in the noblest profession of all, tell me the ability to do that is priceless in unlocking the talents of every child. The thrill I get every time I hear from a teacher about how great they think the Pupil Premium is never diminishes – and it reminds me that in politics being clear about what you want and then doggedly, stubbornly working away until you make it happen is what really counts.

We are the party of education and we always will be – because it is the driver of opportunity. Because if you want to spread opportunity you can’t just stop at today. You have to think about tomorrow too.

And for that same reason, our next manifesto will contain something I can guarantee you none of the others will: A commitment to five green laws. Laws that will commit British governments to reducing carbon from our electricity sector…Create new, legal targets for clean air and water…Give everyone access to green space….Massively boost energy efficiency and renewable energy…Prioritise the shift to green cars…Bring an end to dirty coal… Because Liberal Democrats understand that opportunity for everyone means thinking not just of this generation, but of future generations too.

There are two other big commitments I want to single out today. For me, they epitomise the way in which we are striving to spread opportunity wherever we can. And – while I’m not going to get dragged into endless speculation about this or that red line in the event of another hung parliament – people do have a right to know what our priorities are.

Forget talk of deals, let’s just dwell on our values. This isn’t about tactics in a negotiation, this is about what our values are and where we want to take the country. So the next priority I want to highlight is tax: raising the point at which you start paying income tax to £12,500.

I know that some people think I bang on too much about our success in raising the personal allowance from where we found it – just under £6,500 – to £10,500. But I don’t think we bang on about it enough.

It is, in my view, quite remarkable that a party experiencing it’s first stint in government, which only has 9% of the MPs in Westminster, should have succeeded in driving through the biggest and fairest transformation of our income tax system in a generation. If that isn’t something to bang on about – loud and proud – I really don’t know what is.

Over 3 million people on low pay taken out of paying any tax at all. An £800 tax cut for over 24 million people. And with our new policy of an even higher allowance, nearly a million more people will pay no income tax, and 30 million people will be an additional £400 better off.

Labour would never have made this change because it’s all about liberating people through their own hard work rather than making them more dependent on an overweening state. The Conservatives couldn’t have been more explicit that it wasn’t their priority during our Budget negotiations where, year after year, it was frequently referred to as ‘your tax cut, Nick’.

Apparently it’s our tax cut in private, but it’s their tax cut in public. In 2012 – I’ll never forget this – Danny and I said: let’s go further and faster to cut people’s income tax. It’s possible now, so why wait? George Osborne turned to me and said: I don’t want to deliver a Liberal Democrat Budget. He insisted instead on the Tory bit of the Budget: a cut to the top rate of tax. I can’t think of a better, simpler illustration of what sets the two coalition parties apart:

Tories insisting on tax cuts for the few; Lib Dems insisting on tax cuts for the many. And, when they say now that they’ve signed up to our plan to raise the personal allowance to 12.5k…just scratch beneath the surface.

They’re giving a tax cut worth four times as much to the highest earners. And who pays for their income tax cut?

You do. It’s no secret. The Conservatives told you last week what they want to do:

Everything they promise will be paid for by cutting the support to the working age poor and cutting further and faster the money which goes to our schools, our police, our social care homes and other unprotected services. We, by contrast, have set out how we’ll fairly fund the first step of raising the personal allowance to £11,000 in the first year of the next parliament.

So the choice is clear: unfunded, unfair Tory tax cuts or Lib Dem tax cuts which are funded and fair. The difference is that they want to cut taxes for the wealthiest, paid for by the working age poor…We want to cut taxes for working people, paid for by the wealthiest.

And then there’s one more policy. One I care about passionately. Mental health. The second class status given to mental health in the NHS was the subject of the first question I ever asked at Prime Ministers Questions. I have campaigned to end the Cinderella treatment of mental health services ever since – because it threatens the opportunities available to hundreds and thousands of our fellow citizens.

Anxiety, panic attacks, depression, anorexia, bulimia, self-harm, bi-polar disorder – these and many other mental health conditions are one of the last remaining taboos in our society, and yet they will affect one in four people.

Much progress has been made – people now speak out in the way they never did before…We have put mental health on the same legal footing in the NHS as physical health…We’re massively expanding talking therapies and transforming the help children can get as they move into adulthood – but there’s still a long, long way to go.

I want this to be a country where a young dad chatting at the school gates will feel as comfortable discussing anxiety or depression as the mum who’s explaining how she sprained her ankle. There are many brave campaigners who have been leading the way – not least our very own Paul Burstow and Norman Lamb who deserve medals for all the tireless work they have done in Government.

Earlier this year I visited a group of young mental health service users to talk about their experiences of the care they received. They sat round in a circle, away from the television cameras, these brave, articulate young men and women, and with astonishing honesty and candour they told me – a complete stranger – all about the things they had been through. The despair, the shame, the bullying, the parents and siblings who didn’t know how to cope with them. And for some of them, the very darkest thoughts imaginable, including attempts to take their own lives. And I heard about their recoveries too; their resolve; with the right treatment their determination – some of them just teenagers – to deal with their issues and live full and happy lives.

If they can speak out to me…I can speak up for them. This morning I announced that next year, for the first time ever, we will introduce national waiting times for patients with mental health conditions.

Labour introduced waiting times in physical health – we will do the same for the many people struggling with conditions that you often can’t see, that we often don’t talk about, but which are just as serious. So if you are waiting for talking therapies to help with your depression, you will be seen within six weeks – 18 weeks at an absolute maximum – just as if you are waiting for an operation on your hip.

If you are a young person experiencing psychosis for the first time, you will be seen within 2 weeks, something we are going to roll out across the country – just as if you suspect you have cancer.

If you are having a breakdown, if you are thinking of harming yourself, for any emergency which takes you to A&E, you’ll get the help you need – just as if you had gone to hospital with chest pains or following an accident.

These are big, big changes. And in Government again the Liberal Democrats will commit to completing this overhaul of our mental health services – ending the discrimination against mental health for good. And while I know not everyone in the party is going to agree, I can tell you now: I want this smack bang on the front page of our next manifesto.

One of a small number of top priorities. This is a great liberal cause. Let’s be the first political party to give mental health the status it deserves. For the countless people who are suffering alone; who are failing to get the treatment they need on time and in the right way; who are being denied the chance to get on in their lives. For the families who are being strained to breaking point. For a Britain that is compassionate, open and leads the way.

And to make sure this and all other care is properly funded, this week we have set out how we’ll pay for the rising costs of our treasured NHS. Everyone now accepts it needs more money. And it’s a good thing that all of the parties have chosen to talk about this at their Conferences.But it’s still the case that only one party has spelt out a credible plan to pay for it.

Not only will the Liberal Democrats protect the NHS Budget in real terms, we will raise an extra £1bn for it every year, by ending three different tax breaks which benefit the highest earners, including scrapping George Osborne’s ludicrous shares for rights gimmick.

And, once we have finished the job on the deficit and public spending is rising, we are committing ourselves to ensuring NHS spending rises too.

Words in speeches are all well and good – we all love our NHS. But what it needs is money – and that’s what the Liberal Democrats will guarantee.

Friends, between now and the election our opponents will do everything they can to do us down – and we’ll give as good as we get. All that’s ok in the rough and tumble of politics. But what isn’t ok is our motives being caricatured.

Not me, not you, not our party, not our reasons for wanting to govern again. And we mustn’t allow coalition to be caricatured either. This government has provided the country with the political stability without which the economic recovery and hundreds of thousands of new jobs would never have materialised. I often hear the Conservatives claim that the economic recovery is “George Osborne’s recovery”.

…Pretty rich coming from a Treasury where the person responsible for the really tough job of repairing the damage to our public finances is a Liberal Democrat…And people know the truth: After the 2010 election, the Conservatives could not have formed a government and secured this economic recovery without the Liberal Democrats…and the Liberal Democrats could not have secured this economic recovery without the Conservatives.

It’s called Coalition – and in my judgement it is most likely Britain will have more in the future. That doesn’t mean when there are real disagreements and disputes with our coalition partners we shouldn’t talk about them.

On the contrary – don’t hold back. But that isn’t the same as seeking to wash our hands of the whole thing – and that is something I will never do. Because I don’t believe the British public would buy it for a second. They know we’ve been in Government for this Parliament and we’re not suddenly going to pretend that it had nothing to do with us.

Because I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved and I don’t want the Tories claiming all the credit for everything we’ve done. And because I never lose sight of the fact that simply forming a successful coalition unlocks the grip on power of the old, establishment parties. It undermines the soulless pendulum swing of red/blue blue/red politics, and destroys once and for all their desperate claims that single party Government is the only kind of Government fit for our country.

As someone who has grown more, not less, impatient with the establishment during my time in office, I have realised that what the vested interests would relish most is to eject us from office before our time is up. What disrupts those same vested interests most is seeing this Government through. So, however tempting it might be, we should never play our opponents game.

I will not, no matter how much anyone goads me to do it, seek to distance us from the achievements of this Government, because it would only play into the hands of those who say we should never have been in Government at all. I believe – despite the febrile, angry mood of our times – there are millions of our fellow citizens who still long for a politics of reason, of fairness and of decency.

In seven months the people of this country will need to make a choice. You can pick a Labour party which has learnt no lessons from the past and which – left to its own devices – will jeopardise the economy all over again. You can pick a Conservative party which doesn’t share your values and which – left to its own devices – will make poor people poorer while it keeps cutting away at the services everybody needs.

Ed Miliband – you might have forgotten what you did to our economy, but we have not. And the British people don’t want a Labour government running their country, racking up debts for our children and grandchildren to pay.

David Cameron – you can copy our ideas but you will never imitate our values. And the British people don’t want a Conservative Government running their country which only looks after its own kind.

It is left to our party, to us, to work our hearts out each and every day to give the people of Britain a stronger economy and a fairer society. We will do everything we can to ensure you and your family have the opportunities to get on. In that Britain we can defeat the politics of blame and grievance and fear. And we have seven short months to tell people, to show people: there is still a party that speaks to the decent, British values they hold.

So let our opponents say what they will, after all the knocks, setbacks and bruises we will go to the country with our heads held high. Say what they will, we will go to the country with a plan that builds on everything we have achieved with a credible promise of more. Say what they we will, we are now the only party holding firm to decent, liberal values while anger and blame are on the rise.

The only party refusing to trade in fear because we believe what the British people want desperately from their politics is hope. The only party who are as economically competent as we are socially fair – a party of the head and the heart, of compassion and resolve. The only party who says no matter who you are, no matter where you are from, we will do everything in our power to help you shine.

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  • Liberal Neil 8th Oct '14 - 1:56pm

    I’m not Nick’s biggest fan, and was happy to leave Glasgow a day early and miss the speech, but this is pretty good stuff, and makes a solid liberal case.

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Oct '14 - 2:13pm

    Nick’s best speech for a while. Last time he was up he was talking about open versus closed politics and basically pursuing a 25% strategy. I noticed after the Farage debates he seemed to have realised this was a mistake.

    People should get behind Nick. He is learning all the time. I have faith the public will back him. However, there is a problem with the Lib Dem mutual structure that ties his hands behind his back. This is fine if his hands are prevented from doing bad things, but at the moment it is preventing him from doing good things.

    Continuous improvement.

  • jedibeeftrix 8th Oct '14 - 2:25pm

    Platitudes or 2.0% of GDP – defence is judged to be a low priority for nicks audience once more.

  • Ruth Bright 8th Oct '14 - 2:31pm

    Vastly better – interestingly defiant after the penitent tone of his interview with Cathy Newman yesterday.

  • John Roffey 8th Oct '14 - 2:41pm

    Pure fantasy – without any mention of TTIP, which the EU expects to get approved in the next couple of years, which will place multinationals above Westminster in many instances – how can it be taken seriously?

    It also gives even greater credence to the film producer Aaron Russo’s claims, before his untimely death and based on his friendship with the Rockafellers that there is an entirely different agenda:

  • Julian Tisi 8th Oct '14 - 2:52pm

    An excellent speech. Shame I had to come back from Glasgow and missed it in person.

    Alan, I get that you don’t like Nick. But how do you relate that to your point about electoral reform? And how do you conclude about the likely outcome of held seats under AV versus FPTP? I think it’s pure speculation. As for FPTP it’s surely now utterly discredited – particularly in the age of multi-party politics. It’s only the 2 main parties who want to hold onto it as it excludes other parties from power. But as the last Euro elections show the 2 main parties now get barely 50% of the popular vote (67% in the last General election – and the % is falling). For this to return almost all the seats is a travesty of democracy and needs fixing.

  • paul barker 8th Oct '14 - 2:59pm

    Well I thought it was a great speech, if Clegg is a closet Tory he hides it very well. Our enemies, & some of our friends keep convincing themselves we are finished; we keep failing to die but the doomsters never learn.
    We come out of our Conference in a much better state than our rivals, fired-up & united.

  • Julian you say the FPTP system is discredited, IS THE LIBDEM PARTY NOT DISCREDITED. All the broken promises after stealing people’s votes on the back of all those promises in your 2010 manifesto. People will never believe a word he says or your party writes and I for one don’t blame them! OMG Nick Clegg in his speech promises to keep welfare benefits at 1% while still earning himself an extra £100000 every year due to the 5% top rate tax cut.

  • John Roffey
    Thanks for the link to the George Monbiot article.

    “……… corporations select and buy and bully the political class to prevent effective challenge to their hegemony.
    Any politician brave enough to stand up to them is relentlessly hounded by the corporate media.
    Corporations are the enemy within.”

    Did Clegg have this in mind when he talked about vested interests??
    I fear he did not —- but I would be delighted to be proved wrong.

  • paul barker 8th Oct ’14 – 2:59pm
    Well I thought it was a great speech, …..

    And it will be alright on the night won’t it paul barker? I really enjoyed this self parody by you.

    I look forward to your explanation tomorrow of how the Clacton result is a great step forward for the party.

  • Those people who know that it was the bankers who wrecked the world economy not Ed Miliband will see this as a bit of cheap rhetoric, if not outright dishonesty by Clegg–
    “…,,Ed Miliband – you might have forgotten what you did to our economy, but we have not.
    And the British people don’t want a Labour government running their country, racking up debts for our children and grandchildren to pay.”

    The opinion polls would seem to indicate that for years now, month after month, the British people would much prefer a Labour Ed Miliband in government to Nick Clegg and his imaginary Centre Party millions.
    I am not a fan of Ed Miliband but to blame him personally for the near collapse of the world economy seems a tad over the top.
    And just how big is the difference between Miliband and Clegg when it comes to policies on debt?
    Seems to me that there is more overlap than Clegg is prepared to own up to.

  • I think Paul Barker you have tongue in cheek most of the time!

  • Alan
    You seem to believe that Ed Mliband willi give you everything you want.
    But how will you feel if Mliband invites Clegg to join a coalition?
    Will you feel betrayed? Disappointed? Let down? Puzzled? Infuriated?
    Or will you be delighted because you believe implicitly in Ed Miliband?

  • When I was a child I wanted everything now I’m grown up I want to be treat like every other decent human being. The banks caused the deficit and they should pay for it. And if the poor are going to have there benefits cut then the rich should not have their taxes cut. Don’t you lot get IT!
    With regards Milliband getting into bed with Clegg, I would be devastated, why? Because I hate the ideology of right wing millionaires.

  • David Evans 8th Oct '14 - 6:48pm

    It’s noticeable that the jokes at Tim and Vince were allegedly not scripted. Or was the one pointing out how he thought Tim was like Nigel Farage more of a coded jibe?

  • Green Voter 8th Oct '14 - 7:06pm

    He talks about ISIL but makes no mention of what lessons we should learn about the decision to back a sectarian Iraq government which failed to tackle the grievances of the Sunnis. Is there no foreign policy group in the Lib Dems looking at this? What about our current backing for the repressive government in Egypt? Are we setting things up for future Egyptian-born terrorism which will threaten the world? Is no one looking forward?

  • “When I apologised for the disappointment and anger caused by our inability to scrap tuition fees, I knew we could never, ever make that mistake again.”


    What he actually apologised for was for making (rather than breaking) a pledge to vote against an increase in tuition fees – a pledge which all Lib Dems clearly had the “ability” to keep, as proven by the fact that some decent ones did.

    Every utterance Clegg and other senior Lib Dems makes just seems to make the tuition fees situation worse, because now he’s piling untruths on top of the broken pledge. And the fact that he does so during a passage of his speech which is supposed to tackle cynicism about politics just sends me into irony overload.

  • Igor Sagdejev 8th Oct '14 - 9:27pm

    Stuart, you wrote almost what I wanted to write – but before me.
    I almost choked on the phrase you quoted.

  • Stephen Donnelly 8th Oct '14 - 9:51pm

    Banging on about the NHS again.

    Nick said : “And to make sure this and all other care is properly funded, this week we have set out how we’ll pay for the rising costs of our treasured NHS. Everyone now accepts it needs more money. And it’s a good thing that all of the parties have chosen to talk about this at their Conferences.But it’s still the case that only one party has spelt out a credible plan to pay for it. Not only will the Liberal Democrats protect the NHS Budget in real terms, we will raise an extra £1bn for it every year, by ending three different tax breaks which benefit the highest earners, including scrapping George Osborne’s ludicrous shares for rights gimmick”

    The Kings fund have commented “though we don’t know when the deficit will actually be eradicated, the Liberal Democrats’ promise on NHS funding seems clearest – essentially a real increase of 0.9 per cent per year from 2015/16 to 2017/18”.

    However they also say “This is less than encouraging news given an estimated need for annual real increases of around 4 per cent from next year to 2020/21 to meet the £30 billion funding gap estimated by NHS England. Even assuming a (somewhat optimistic) productivity gain of 2 per cent a year over the next few years, all parties’ commitments fall short on the remaining 2 per cent required.”

    My conclusion is that we have been less dishonest than the rest, but that we are in no position to fund the service that Nick Clegg wants to put on the front page of the Manifesto.

  • Why do people judge by what they think a good speech? I’ve mentioned before on this site that history has had its share of good orators! Did Clegg write this speech? No probably not. As for him saying that you should not be judged on one policy you could not deliver, you are not. You are judged on being the enablers for the most vicious policies against the poor, sick and disabled seen for many years. You are judged for what has happened to the NHS. You are judged by decimating Legal Aid, for the privatisation of Royal Mail and the Probation Service, for the Bedroom Tax and last but not least enabling the bombing of Libya that has left that country in a mess to say the least. All this happened because of you. One speech will never make up for that.

  • Igor Sagdejev 8th Oct '14 - 11:12pm

    Anne, truth be told, Lybia was a mess, or worse, before the bombing. and your “Bedroom Tax” is not a tax, but a by and large reduction of usually unearned benefits, ludicrous, when you think of the working young people who can only afford a room in a house share.

  • David Evans 9th Oct '14 - 11:05am

    “When I apologised for the disappointment and anger caused by our inability to scrap tuition fees, I knew we could never, ever make that mistake again.” Instead he caused disappointment and anger by ignoring conference twice and supporting secret courts; then he caused disappointment and anger by allowing the bedroom tax. In May 2015 he will cause disappointment and anger by all those good Lib Dems who will see the final destruction of our party in most of the country.

  • Tsar Nicolas 9th Oct '14 - 6:28pm

    To borrow (and probably mangle) some words from Dr Martin Luther King Jr – “A man should be judged not on the colour of his rosette, but by his charcter and the honesty of the words that come out of his mouth.”

    On that basis, the Dear Leader has no future.

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