Nick Clegg tells Wales: Liberal Democrat councillors create jobs and fight to protect services

Nick Clegg’s speech to the Welsh Liberal Democrat conference has been widely covered. The Guardian led on his push for greater diversity in the Party and mentioned his defence of the Government’s economic policy, missing out the massive section on how the Liberal Democrats are delivering fairness in many areas across Government. Why would they do that, I wonder?

The BBC led on Nick’s assertion that he would not let the Government lurch to the right.

Having read the whole speech, I think there’s a part that has so far not made the headlines. Nick has spent a great deal of this Spring showing that Liberal Democrats are winning again and he did the same in Wales:

The unspoken story of the last year has been that Liberal Democrats are winning again. In council by-elections we have been making gain after gain after gain.

Last year, contrary to the impression you’d get from the media, since the council elections last May, across the United Kingdom, we actually made an overall gain at council by-elections.

We held our own in Cardiff South and Penarth, for which I want to thank Bablin Molik and her excellent team.

And then came Eastleigh…

…Now no one can be in any doubt: the Liberal Democrats are winning again.

You can feel that sense of renewed optimism and purpose here in Wales.

He then asked for Welsh activists to help the County council campaign in England by getting involved in phone banking, telling them exactly why Liberal Democrat councillors were best for local communities and giving a whole list of examples of the other parties’ failings:

Only Liberal Democrat councillors have shown that they have the right priorities in tough times. Creating jobs. Fighting to protect services. Making sure that when times are tough, cuts are made with care, with a scalpel instead of an axe.

You won’t get that from the Conservatives.  In Leicestershire, the former Conservative Council Leader spent £210,000 on his own personal chauffeur.

In Somerset, because the Tories have insisted on cutting opening hours for rubbish tips and introducing charges to use them – a “tip tax” – flytipping has rocketed, leaving local residents stuck with the bill for cleaning it up.

In the Cotswolds, after announcing nearly one and a half million pounds worth of cuts, how did the Conservative council try to boost staff morale? They hired a motivational magician – costing £19,000.

And what about Labour? What are their priorities?

Do you know how the Labour council in Derby are choosing to spend residents’ money?

On emotive street posters passing all the blame for their cuts on to the Coalition Government, costing thousands of pounds – while at the same time they’re looking to make drastic cuts to homelessness services.

The Liberal Democrats are different. Only we can deliver a stronger economy and a fairer society – both. Only we have the right priorities in tough times.

Nick did have some very clear messages from the party on diversity, though. First of all, he praised Kirsty Williams and others for being  great role models:

I know there will be girls watching the telly, seeing Kirsty running rings around her opponents or taking Carwyn Jones to task at First Minster’s Questions, thinking: ‘I want to be like her’.

What Kirsty always says is her being there, being a strong leader, shows other women they can do the same.

And when I see Kirsty, or Jenny Willott or Eluned Parrott, I know that we have a generation of inspirational Welsh women coming through the ranks.

But the party has to change, become more diverse:

We need to build on that – this party is too male and too pale and that needs to change.

We need more Liberal Democrat role models for black and Asian boys and girls; for disabled boys and girls; for young gay men and women too.

My challenge to you – in every selection committee you sit on, with every candidate you support and every vote you cast – is to consider how you can help us change our party for the better.

We must be a more diverse party. And we will be a better party for it.

 

 

 

 

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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