In Full: Nick Clegg’s statement from today’s Press Conference: Britain needs a new wave or energy, optimism and liberalism

Nick Clegg Q&A 12Nick Clegg gave his monthly press conference. This is the statement he had released in advance. We’ll deal with the press conference itself in another post.

Today I want to talk about the Liberal Democrats’ 2015 manifesto.  With just 325 days remaining in this Parliament, and the final year’s agenda of this coalition agreed and announced in the Queen’s Speech it is time to start talking about the future. It is time to set out our distinct Liberal Democrat vision for the next Parliament.  For a party in government, the usual election message is simple: things are on the right track. Don’t let the other lot mess it up.

As Liberal Democrats, we could put that offer to the British people. It would be very easy to say: don’t risk change. But liberals have always embraced rather than shunned change. And more, not less change, is what Britain needs now. Let’s be clear: I am and will remain immensely proud of what Liberal Democrats have achieved in government. When history looks back at the 2010-2015 Parliament it will see an unprecedented government tackling unprecedented challenges with unprecedented ambition.  The economy rebuilt. Millions of people freed from paying income tax. More renewable energy than ever. The Pupil premium to help low income children. More childcare and shared parental leave. ID cards scrapped. Free school meals for under-7s. More apprentices. The biggest ever cash increase in the state pension. A Green Investment Bank. Equal marriage. None of these things would have happened without the Liberal Democrats.

But our manifesto will be about the future not the past. As we look towards 2015 it is clear to me that Britain doesn’t want or need simply “more of the same”The Conservative party will tell you: everything’s fine, let’s just carry on down the tramlines of permanent austerity. But once the books are balanced – as they must be, and will be if Liberal Democrats are in government – in my view it would be wrong to carry on with austerity-as-usual. Britain doesn’t need more of the same: it needs a new wave of energy, optimism and, put simply, liberalism.

Liberal Democrats will put forward in 2015 a responsible manifesto. As I set out last week we have a responsible plan to eradicate the deficit and set a course to bring debt down. But acting responsibly is not the same as carrying on regardless of changing circumstances. Labour claim to want change, of course. But until they come forward with a coherent plan to deal with Britain’s fiscal problems, they’re just whistling in the wind. They won’t be taken seriously.

The way I see it is this: if this Parliament was about repairing the British economy, the next one must be about rewiring it. If the last parliament was about rescue, the next must be about renewal: rescue to renewal. That’s why we need to move from austerity to ambition. We need to think boldly and restore a sense of national optimism.

Out of the rubble of the 2008 crash we must rebuild a new economy, not just reassemble the old one; we can no longer accept a society of unfairness and inequality of opportunity; we cannot mortgage our children’s future by ignoring the threat of climate change; and we cannot have a state where power is hoarded at the centre rather than being returned to citizens and local communities.

So over the summer months, leading up to our conference in October, you will hear from us a drum beat of new, bold, liberal plans, that together will make our economy stronger, our society fairer, and enable people across Britain to get on in their lives.

I want to put one thing beyond doubt once and for all: this will be an independent, liberal manifesto from an independent, liberal party.

It will not be written with an eye to what Labour or the Conservatives think or might sign up to.

It will be written with an eye for what Britain needs.

It will be written as an answer to one, simple question: how can we build opportunity for all?

Because for liberals, no matter what your background, your race, your colour, your sex or your sexuality: we believe in you. We don’t write anybody off.

The task of a liberal party is above all to empower every person to realise their own potential. That will be the guiding principle behind every policy we unveil this summer.

Improving education has been fundamental to the Liberal Democrats for decades. We were the party who argued for an extra penny on income tax, to pay for education. And, in government, education has been a priority – tackling the stubborn gap in attainment between pupils from different backgrounds, and raising standards for all children. We have introduced a pupil premium – straight from the front page of our last manifesto – extra money going to the children who need it most. We are tearing up Labour’s unfair system of league tables, that for so long has forced teachers to ignore children at the top and bottom of the ability range. And we have dramatically expanded early years education – so that two year olds from lower income families get a free place at a nursery or with a childminder for the first time.

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  • A Social Liberal 16th Jun '14 - 1:31pm

    I’m confused.

    If the new, bold, liberal plans have been decided before conference gets to vote on them then surely this is against our constitution. If the new, bold, liberal plans are waiting on conference voting them in as policy then why are they being announced before conference meets?

  • Deny this;
    32 more years of needless CO2 panic will make neocons out of all of us.

    If you remaining “believers” really want to SAVE THE PLANET with your “climate action” then give the denier voting majority what they want………………. and that is; 100% certainty from the real world of science not the “beliefs” of a mob of determined “believers” as 32 MORE years of science being their laughable “95%” certain is unsustainable.

    And get up to date;
    *Occupywallstreet now does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded and corporate run carbon trading stock markets ruled by politicians.
    *Canada killed Y2Kyoto with a freely elected climate change denying prime minister and nobody cared, especially the millions of scientists warning us of unstoppable warming (a comet hit).
    “BELIEVE” all you like but don’t tell kids that science “believes” as much as you remaining “believers” do.
    Most of Canada and the USA hasn’t had a smog warning day (actual smog) in close to 10 years now because those preachy; “Be kind to the air days” and smog “alerts” and “advisories” and “watches” are not measurements of smog or anything at all, just predictions that a “Smog Warning” could be issued within the next 36 hours and they haven’t had to issue a warning in almost a decade.. The smoggy 70’s are gone! Be happy!

  • Smog has been reduced because timely action was taken to reduce the emissions that help produce smog. Had “smog deniers” been uttering nonsense like the above, that action would never have been taken and it would be worse than ever. Due to the interference of selfish corporate interests and their politicians, timely action has not been taken on global warming, and some amount of it is now inevitable; our children will grow up in a measurably warmer world than the one we took for granted. However, it is not too late to ameliorate some of the effects of that warming, and possibly keep it from getting out of control.

    The entire climate change denial industry is a classic example of money-backed short-term thinking winning out against informed long-term thinking. A generation that does not worry about the future but only concerns itself with the present contents of its wallet blithely passes on problems of its own making to the next generation, all the while blaming those who point out what they are doing.

  • “We were the party who argued for an extra penny on income tax, to pay for education.”

    Breathtaking from a man who has spent the last five years cutting billions from income tax – while cutting public spending and benefits – and is now advocating cutting billions more.

  • I think there is a typo in the headline or -> of. Alternatively just replace the word “or” with “Lib Dem Leader” and cut off the rest 🙂

  • Jonathan Pile 16th Jun '14 - 2:09pm

    Another excellent speech for a broom cupboard. The public outside the Westminster bubble don’t listen to Clegg and what he says but remember what he said at the election on tuition fees and did next. They judge all his pronouncements in the same way. He is wasting his breath. He should talk to the party who are telling him he has lost us 75% of supporters and 90% of MEPs. Clegg needs to go now.
    Nottingham wants him to go and the movement for a democratic vote on his future gathers pace in the party.

  • Charles Rothwell 16th Jun '14 - 2:25pm

    Much as I very welcome, and am enthusiastic about, putting “education” at the heart of any manifesto, the problems are obvious in that millions (particularly ex-Lib Dem voters (who had actually read the party’s policies and were not just looking for somewhere to park their grievances against the Blues and Reds)) will far too quickly associate “Nick Clegg > Tuition fees” in exactly the same way as voters still think “Tony Blair > Iraq” (plus the fact that Blair already ‘did’ “education, education, education” to death in his/New Labour’s way (i.e. League Tables, centralisation, arbitrary target setting (“50% in HE”) and throwing money around like confetti under PFI schemes). What is needed is a REALLY ‘big idea’ (and ‘opportunity for all’ certainly is not it!) A costed proposal to ABOLISH tuition fees/bring back EMAs/fund apprenticeships well above minimum wage etc via hypothecated taxation would be much more likely to do the trick (especially if advanced by an ‘untainted’ leading figure who could inspire confidence and trust).

  • “The way I see it is this: if this Parliament was about repairing the British economy, the next one must be about rewiring it. If the last parliament was about rescue, the next must be about renewal: rescue to renewal. That’s why we need to move from austerity to ambition. We need to think boldly and restore a sense of national optimism.”

    I think we need to be a little careful about claims to have repaired or rebuilt the economy at this stage. he BofE has reflated a stalled economy with unprecedented monetary stimulus, just as Anthony Barber did with fiscal stimulus in the boom of 1972-74 that was followed by a crash in the property and stock markets. Much of our economic growth is attributable to population growth, not productivity increases that generate higher GDP per capita. It has been largely driven by consumption and debt, rather than manufacturing and exports. While there has been some improvement in exports (given the extent to which Sterling has fallen over the past five years, it would be remarkable if exports had not performed better) the trade and current account deficits remain worryingly large.

    In the 1970s, when repeated stimulus only produced short-lived booms followed by ever-deeper busts, we eventually came to the conclusion that it is not fiscal or monetary stimulus but structural reform, that we needed to repair and rebuild the economy. Government had to stop trying to trigger growth and get to grips with the fundamentals of industrial strategy, international trade, skills development and re-training.

    At the beginning of this parliament, there was much talk of ‘rebalancing’ and a ‘march of the makers.’ That seems to have been shelved more recently, but it remains a critical element of sustainable recovery nonetheless. If this is indeed to be at the core of the Libdem economic strategy for regeneration in the next parliament, then it is to be welcomed.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Jun '14 - 3:53pm

    There’s an excellent article in today’s Daily Telegraph (of all places …) about one of the most central issues for the UK, housing and the need for a reform of “UK’s ludicrous system of taxation to deal with the “unmitigated disaster” of the UK’s property market. The link is here.

    The Liberal Democrats should be at the forefront of calling for this sort of reform – we have been strong on these issues in the past, and the Tories will never tackle it, and Labour aren’t even capable of thinking about it. But I note there is nothing whatsoever from Clegg about these issues as something we might be mentioning in our manifesto.

  • David Evershed 16th Jun '14 - 3:53pm

    Repairing the unsustainable government deficit has been postponed until the next parliament when the majority of decisions about cuts in spending will have to be made. Whilst there has been plenty of talk about cuts there has been very little action so far except a 30% cut in grants to local councils.

    Because a recovery in economic growth has been slow returning, there has been little increase in revenues to help reduce the the deficit which is still at £100bn .

    Voters are reluctant to vote for parties which promise big cuts. So whilst a positive message has to be projected, we should all constantly challenge all the political parties about the areas they will cut or the taxes they will increase to close the £100bn gap.

    It is their actions in times of crisis which will reveal the true character of each of the political parties.

  • Shaun Cunningham 16th Jun '14 - 5:03pm

    More polyfilla in the hope the chasm between the Nick and the electorate will be filled. Of course it won’t. This is so sad to watch. We have become a nonentity to most of the voting public on the national scene. Locally with some grit and determination we can just manage to overcoming the shackles of the Westminster backdrop. What will it take to bring about the necessary change?. When will this party acknowledge that change is at the top is not a luxury but essential if we are to move on and start the long process of rebuilding not only the party but the publics confidence in the party.

    Interesting article

  • Kevin White 16th Jun '14 - 5:03pm

    Hardly anyone listens to Clegg. Doesn’t matter what he says anymore. “Mr -65% approval rating” is a liability to the Party. If he cared for the Party he would go.

  • My word if this is an example of how some LibDems act after Nicks speech you have a question to ask will the electorate view the internal fighting as a good thing

    All those who think a change of leadership would be good

    Dr Cable, he was caught on the Sky issue and was moved and he in my opinion should have championed low pay more

    Danny Alexander his mantra perhaps correctly is that of government but sounds like George Osbourne

    Tim Farron goes on the daily politics and says £12 k tax threshold will see minimum wage earners taken out of tax, must be a low hour contract

    Steve Webb better and at least had the courtesy to say his flat rate single tier pension was misleading

    So when you look at it Nick does seem better you had better believe if you have low income you know if you are still paying tax

    If I had one policy I could offer a party consider looking at cost of living not as CPI or RPI but build a new one for the sub £15 k folk who will never credit that inflation is less than 2% you want a little more equality, if you work or have paid into a pension all your life don’t have them filling in forms for means testing

  • Shaun Cunningham 16th Jun '14 - 6:58pm
  • Stephen Hesketh 16th Jun '14 - 7:43pm

    Ah, the sound of Lib Dem-lite. So sothing on the ears … but offering little in the way of genuine change.

    Fighting ‘inequality of opportunity’ offers little to those who either joined or voted for a radical libertarian centre left party “seeking to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

    A radical reforming party such as ours should not be setting out our stall by ‘helping everyone get on in life’, or simply ‘not accepting a society of unfairness and inequality of opportunity’. Since the days of the Thatcher government, the gap between the richest and everyone else has not only grown significantly but so has the rate of this change. Fighting inequality of opportunity is a woefully weak response to this threat to the cohesion of our society.

    Could we all be successful – not to mention have fulfilling lives if we all had identical opportunity? It doesn’t stand up to even cursory scrutiny. It is the American Dream repackaged for Britain and sprinkled with ‘small l’ liberal centrism. But as with the American version, you have to be asleep to believe in it.

    If we are to regain those voters who were looking for a radical alternative to Labour, we need to do much better than this.

  • I like “The task of a liberal party is above all to empower every person to realise their own potential. That will be the guiding principle behind every policy we unveil this summer” and “you will hear from us … new, bold, liberal plans, that together will make our economy stronger, our society fairer, and enable people across Britain to get on in their lives.”

    This must mean we have to move on from the answer always being a child’s education. (I hope this is what Nick Clegg was saying and not as Charles Rothwell believes that he was just saying education will again be the priority). We need to move towards “life-long learning” and how to finance it. We need to provide a safety net that empowers people and doesn’t coerce them. We need to provide a job guarantee scheme and training programmes that meet individual needs and not force people to do things that will not lead to their long term well-being.

    (@ Shaun Cunningham
    Peter Kellner says there is a possibility of us having 44 seats in 2015!)

  • There’s a possibility the LibDems could get 144 seats, but it’s equally unlikely. Back both 10-20 and 20-30 at the bookies and you could be on a winner. The only worry is if Clegg carries on it could get worse.

  • Lib Dems at 8% only and in fourth place in the latest Lord Ashcroft phone poll – June 16 2014.

    Just imagine the burst of energy within the party and the sense of relief amongst the lost 20% who used to vote Liberal Democrat if this speech had ended a few lines earlier as follows —

    “…..Because for liberals, no matter what your background, your race, your colour, your sex or your sexuality: we believe in you. We don’t write anybody off.
    The task of a Liberal party is above all to empower every person to realise their own potential.
    And for this reason I am standing down as leader of the party so that one of the many MPs who have the potential to be the next leader of the Liberal Democrats can step forward to be a candidate in the forthcoming leadership election.
    Every person in our party is empowered to vote for a new leader and whoever the new leader is I will give them my full backing.
    I have had seven years as leader and I recognise the facts of political life, one of which is clearly that a new leader for the Liberal Democrats will have a better opportunity to take the party forward in next year’s general election.”

  • Eight percent! An increase of 33% over our previous vote share! It’s a clear trend! The Lib Dems are on the march to victory!

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