Nick Clegg’s Letter from the Leader: “Only the Liberal Democrats are, unambiguously, the party of ‘In’.”

This week the Lib Dems got #WhyIamIn trending on Twitter to launch the party’s campaign to show the positive benefits of British membership of the European Union. Nick Clegg takes up the cause in his weekly letter, making the point you’ll hear a lot between now and next May’s Euro elections: “Only the Liberal Democrats are, unambiguously, the party of ‘In’.” As I pointed out this week, it’s not just a cause the vast majority of the party passionately believes in — it’s also smart electoral politics. Here’s Nick’s letter in full…

libdem letter from nick clegg

Dear Stephen,

“Because three million jobs depend on it.”

“Because many problems like climate change can only be tackled if we work together.”

“Because crime crosses borders: justice should too.”

“Because I can buy real champagne for my wedding next month at €12 a bottle in Calais.”

Just four of the reasons given this week as part of a social media blitz to launch our European election campaign. Under the hashtag #whyIamIN over 5,000 people gave their own reasons why Britain is better off as part of the European Union. Richard Branson even joined in, with an article setting out his own view of how important the EU is to Britain and our economy.

You can sign our petition to stay in the EU, and give your own reason for being in at

Next year’s Euro elections, unlike many that have come before, will be all about Europe. It boils down to a simple question: in or out. It’s time for all pro-Europeans to step up and make the argument that our jobs, our livelihoods, our security, and our climate all depend on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

That’s the case I made in a speech on Tuesday morning at Buhler Sortex, a company which manufactures and distributes throughout Europe from its base in east London. They understand that there’s nothing isolation can get you that comes even close to the economic benefits of being part of the world’s largest single market.

And that’s the case we will all be taking to the British people over the next seven months, as we lead up to May’s elections.

Take a look at the parties setting out their stalls for this election:

  • UKIP are the party of “Out”.
  • The Conservatives can’t stand anything European and many, in their heart of hearts, want out too.
  • Labour used to be internationalist but have lost all the courage of their convictions.
  • Only the Liberal Democrats are, unambiguously, the party of “In”.

Let’s make sure we don’t wake up one morning to find that a toxic combination of apathy and Tory madness have taken our country out of Europe altogether. If you believe Britain benefits from being part of the EU: speak out, join your voice with ours, and help persuade your friends, family and colleagues to vote Liberal Democrat. Together we can keep Britain safe, secure, and strong in the world.

Best wishes,

Nick Clegg

Do you know someone who would like to get Nick’s weekly email? Forward this post and they can sign up here:

Don’t forget you can catch up with all Nick Clegg’s past Letters from the Leader on LibDemVoice by clicking on this link.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • jedibeeftrix 13th Oct '13 - 3:35pm

    I am fine with all this #whyiamin business, as long as they explain at-what-cost all this in’iness will be achieved:

  • There must also be a good outline acknowledging the flaws with the EU and some bold & imaginative proposals for reform from the LibDems, otherwise it will look like we support the status-quo, which will only play into the hands of UKIP and the Tories.

  • Alex Macfie 13th Oct '13 - 4:08pm

    I hope, with all this talk about being the party of “in” (something over which MEPs have no influence), that in the Euro election campaign we shall find some time to discuss policies for the EU — the things that MEPs actually debate and vote on. We need to campaign not just for the EU, but for a specifically *liberal* vision of the EU. We may be pro-EU, but more importantly we are liberals, and others who might be equally in favour of the EU might have a very different idea of what the EU should look like.

  • Eddie Sammon 13th Oct '13 - 7:46pm

    So when it comes to Trident we are willing to be so centrist that it pleases nobody, but when it comes to Europe we have to take the opposite end of two extremes?

  • I was a Eurosceptic Liberal Democrat, but now Nick has told me about cheap champagne and the view of Richard Branson …..

    I’m a Eurosceptic Liberal Democrat.

    Possibly more so.

  • Philip Rolle 13th Oct '13 - 10:10pm

    In 2008, Nick Clegg said

    “It’s time we pulled out the thorn and healed the wound, time for a debate politicians have been too cowardly to hold for 30 years – time for a referendum on the big question. Do we want to be in or out? Nobody in Britain under the age of 51 has ever been asked that simple question. None of them were eligible to vote in that 1975 referendum. That includes half of all MPs. Two generations have never had their say.”

    Now in 2013, Clegg emphatically answers the question for us. But two generations have still not had their say.

    I won’t vote for any of the main three parties ( except at local level ) until we’ve had the referendum that I think Nick at least is intent on denying us.

  • Malcolm Todd 13th Oct '13 - 10:44pm

    Still claiming “three million jobs depend on it” (“it” being what? the EU? Being in the EU?). As if pulling out would mean those 3 million jobs would disappear.
    I guess that’s how to fight stupid lies about Europe. More stupid lies about Europe.

  • “Unambiguously”. Nick, why?

    In the Orange Book, young Nick Clegg put forward a very balanced view of Europe – in favour of belonging, yes, but trenchantly critical of Europe’s many failings. That is the message we should now be putting forward. It would be much more credible with the voters than the Panglossian optimism, or the silly scare stories (3 million jobs at risk), that we are producing now.

    So why have you changed your tune, Nick? Are you actually campaigning for a Lib Dem win in 2015? Or is it for a Nick Clegg prestige job in Europe after 2015?

  • @David Allen: Being pro-EU doesn’t mean you can’t also support reform of the EU. The Lib Dems support constitutional reform for the UK: does that make us “UK-sceptics”? We don’t think that to support the UK as a concept, one has to uncritically support everything Whitehall and the government of the day does. So why is this assumed for the EU? However, I still think that we should NOT be fighting a Euro-election campaign on this the in/out question: we should be fighting it on policy for the EU (not necessarily policy ABOUT the EU), the same as we fight UKI elections campaigns on policy for the UK.

  • Eddie Sammon 14th Oct '13 - 1:42am

    Yesterday I told a friend about the ban on 10 packs of cigarettes and they asked who did that, I just blamed it on Europe. I know this infuriates people, but it just came out because I didn’t know the European parties’ positions on it. I’ll try not to do this in future, but this is the very problem that Alex Macfie has been warning about.

  • John Roffey 14th Oct '13 - 1:58am

    Whatever proposals for reform the Party puts forward for the EU – they will not succeed unless all of the Heads of State suddenly become saints.

    The European Council is the most influential body of the EU and the Heads of States or Governments attending are bound to battle for the best deal for their nation [if they don’t, they are very likely to lose their jobs if elected]. This means that any decisions made are bound to be something of a ‘pigs breakfast’ and certainly not the best laws with regard to the interests of the people – and will have no bearing on democracy.

    NC, now true to form, is simply trying to find some way for the Party not to be devastated at the EU elections [so that their is not a leadership challenge]. He is unconcerned whether the Party’s approach to these elections is in any way beneficial.

    Career politicking at its worst.

  • A few points.
    Alex Macfie You ask a question as to whether we can support an institution by calling for its reform. A basic question, and one that we all as Libs and Lib Dems do fairly regularly. We now, courtesy of the Daily Mail, know the answer: we must be “UK haters”, “EU haters” etc.
    John Roffey Are you suggesting that a putative UK Government putting forward EU reform proposals will consist of saints!!
    A consistent subtext seems to be emerging here, that NC may have his own agenda in appearing more uncritically pro EU than at times previously. I would say that the Party has many times now, tried the theme of “in favour of a reformed EU”, “making Europe work for us” etc. We have consistently ended with around half the vote share we get in local elections, or at most, 70% of our share in GEs, so maybe a new approach is called for if we are not to end with 8 or 9% of the vote, and probable elimination from most regions. Yes, I know 70% of our 2010 score would be around 16% or so, at which point we keep our MEPs in the main. However, that was before the current Coalition, appalling local results, and very poor leadership ratings and consistently low opinion poll showings.

  • The SNP are more pro-EU than the Lib Dems. Why leave them off the rhetoric? In Scotland they are a major threat in Lib Dem seats.

    Also, simple electoral arithmetic means that in any EU referendum the pro-EU views of the Lib Dems would have to support the pro-EU Labour Party, and the pro-EU parts of the Tory party to win the argument.

    What is the strategic benefit in rubbishing these other supporters of the EU?

    Also, ‘real champagne’? Is Nick justifying organised attempts to evade taxes on alcohol sold in the UK? Most people in the UK would lose a lot of money going to Calais to buy cheap champagne given travel costs. Only makes sense if you feel a van then flog it in car parks or to dodgy off licenses.

  • Tim13,

    I grant you that slogans like “Making Europe work for us” have been used before, and that our results in Euro elections have been dire. However, I don’t think I have ever heard our opponents sneer at us for being half-hearted about Europe, or for being too critical. Overwhelmingly, they sneer that we are too much Europe’s patsy, that we have our heads in the clouds about internationalism, that we won’t stand up strongly enough for British interests, etc. Why do they do that? Because they believe it will win votes away from us. They probably know what they’re doing, in that respect.

    So if we are to improve our Eurovote by changing our tune, I don’t think that being more uncritical is the way to go.

    We don’t have to be dishonest. We can rightly say that Europe needs stronger financial control, stronger democratic institutions, stronger collaboration e.g. against international crime, and above all fundamental reform of its dysfunctional currency. So “While UKIP lounge around the bars of Brussels and the Tories hobnob with extremists, Lib Dem MEPs are working hard to put Europe’s many failings right, etc etc.”. Well, it’s basically true, after all!

    But – let’s recognise what a voter turn-off is. Saying “three million jobs” is a turn-off, because the voter can tell it’s just unrealistic scare tactics to suggest those would all go if we left Europe. Even saying “keep the peace” is a turn-off if not done carefully, because most voters nowadays will think “so these beggars are so keen to promote an internationalist ideal, they’re ripe to be conned by fraudsters, and a soft touch for a bad deal with the Continentals”.

  • Europe is not very democratic as presently constitued. It needs a Great Reform Act. And Lib Dems should be campaigning for it.

  • Alex Macfie 14th Oct '13 - 3:28pm

    @David Allen:

    ‘We can rightly say that Europe needs stronger financial control, stronger democratic institutions, stronger collaboration e.g. against international crime, and above all fundamental reform of its dysfunctional currency. So “While UKIP lounge around the bars of Brussels and the Tories hobnob with extremists, Lib Dem MEPs are working hard to put Europe’s many failings right, etc etc.”. Well, it’s basically true, after all!’

    I find this a very sensible campaign strategy for us in Euro-elections. Just sounding like uncritical supporters of Europe isn’t going to win us any votes. The other problem with our Euro election campaigning in the past is that when we talk about issues, the ones we talk about are not the ones that MEPs have any influence over. Voters aren’t stupid, they know that the NHS, education, local crime etc are nothing to do with the European Parliament. It would be doubly stupid to do this sort of campaign in the 2014 Euro-election as it would associate our MEPs with the Coalition, and there is no Coalition in the European Parliament and we would not want to be associated with any of their MEPs.

  • I would like to see a campaign based on what Liberal Democrat MEPs have achieved in the European Parliament and what Liberal Democratic MEPs aim to achieve and can achieve in the next parliament.

    Media coverage of the EU seems to be dominated by whether or not to hold a referendum and which way to vote if there were one, but next to nothing on business in the parliament and its committees. I gather Farage is on the fisheries committee, but can anyone recall when he has been questioned about his contribution to committee business and ho he has represented UK interests in discussions about fisheries policies?

  • @g: Booze cruising is tax avoidance, not tax evasion, and is perfectly legal (and incidentally, I consider that there is a moral difference between small-scale tax avoidance by individuals and aggressive tax avoidance by multinational corporations and the super-rich, even if it is difficult to distinguish legally). I don’t know how much booze one would have to buy in a trip for it to be worth doing, but obviously it depends on where you live, and taking back a vanload for the purpose of serving it at your wedding (the example given by NC) would be perfectly legal as it is not a commercial use (i.e. not for resale). Anyway cheap booze is not necessarily the only reason why one might make a trip to northern France.

  • I agree with GPPurnell. The Lib Dems have failed miserably in pretty much all attempts at domestic electoral reform – perhaps their last chance of winning over the UK electorate is to target the EU’s rotten democratic functions?

  • Oh, and g: shouldn’t Clegg be encouraging the purchase of English bubbly? Pretty much anything produced here is better that Laurent Perrier NV…

  • Alex Macfie 15th Oct '13 - 7:33am

    @Stewart: Nick Clegg was giving an example of the benefits of the EU single market, not promoting any particular country’s bubbly.

  • Alex, you’ve missed my point. It’s not about pedantry over avoidance/evasion, it was a small point (I note nobody has addressed my main point on other pro-EU parties) about an odd example to choose – an expensive trip only justified if the money saved is greater than the money spent, which would be a lot of champagne given that it isn’t actually that much cheaper in France. For info, if you bring more than 90l of wine in to the country then HMRC are likely to raise eyebrows and ask questions.

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