Clegg makes his bid for a place in history

A "power revolution" in Britain will be promised by Nick Clegg today as he tries to put his personal stamp on the Government in his first major statement as Deputy Prime Minister.

The Liberal Democrat leader will hail his programme of political reform as the most ambitious and radical since the Great Reform Act of 1832. He has told aides that the coalition government has given him the opportunity to implement the changes that he came into politics to pursue.

In a speech in London Mr Clegg will promise a "wholesale, big bang" rather than piecemeal approach, including:

* scrapping the identity card scheme and second generation biometric passports;

* removing limits on the rights to peaceful protest;

* a bonfire of unnecessary laws;

* a block on pointless new criminal offences;

* internet and email records not to be held without reason;

* closed-circuit television to be properly regulated;

* new controls over the DNA database, such as on the storage of innocent people's DNA;

* axeing the ContactPoint children's database;

* schools will not take children's fingerprints without asking for parental consent;

* reviewing the libel laws to protect freedom of speech.

The moves go well beyond the reforms already agreed by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats for five-year fixed-term parliaments, a wholly or mainly elected House of Lords, a new power for voters to dismiss MPs guilty of serious wrongdoing and a referendum on the voting system for House of Commons elections.

Mr Clegg will declare: "I'm not talking about a few new rules for MPs; not the odd gesture or gimmick to make you feel a bit more involved. I'm talking about the most significant programme of empowerment... since the great enfranchisement of the 19th century. The biggest shake-up of our democracy since 1832, when the Great Reform Act redrew the boundaries of British democracy."

In an attempt to reassure Liberal Democrat members and supporters who doubt the wisdom of joining forces with the Conservatives, he will promise: "This will be a government that is proud when British citizens stand up against illegitimate advances of the state. That values debate, that is unafraid of dissent."

Mr Clegg will infuriate Labour by stealing words from Tony Blair's rewritten Clause IV of the Labour Party's constitution, saying the coalition government will stand up "for the freedom of the many, not the privilege of the few". He will say the coalition will draw on the spirit of the great 19th-century reformers to deliver "a power revolution – a fundamental resettlement of the relationship between state and citizen".

He will announce plans to consult the public on which laws should be scrapped. Promising to "tear through the statute book", he will attack Labour for creating thousands of criminal offences which took away people's freedom without making the streets safe.

"Obsessive lawmaking simply makes criminals out of ordinary people. So we'll get rid of the unnecessary laws and once they're gone, they won't come back. We will introduce a mechanism to block pointless new criminal offences," he will say.

Raising the coalition's sights, the Deputy Prime Minister will say: "I have spent my whole political life fighting to open up politics. So let me make one thing very clear: this government is going to be unlike any other.

"This government is going to transform our politics so the state has far less control over you, and you have far more control over the state. This government is going to break up concentrations of power and hand power back to people, because that is how we build a society that is fair. This government is going to persuade you to put your faith in politics once again."

Mr Clegg endorsed David Cameron's flagship "big society" theme, which the Tory leader contrasts with the "big government" offered by Labour during its 13 years in power. In a U-turn, the Liberal Democrat leader told a Downing Street seminar for voluntary groups he hosted with the Prime Minister: "What I'm discovering is we've been using different words for a long time – it actually means the same thing. Liberalism, big society. Empowerment, responsibility. It means the same thing."

Mr Clegg took a rather different approach to Mr Cameron's big idea during the election. On 2 May, he said: "What is this 'big society'? It is a big society with a price tag attached. It's a bit like inviting someone to a party in a pub and finding that it's your card behind the bar paying for everyone's drinks."

The birth of people power

The Great Reform Act of 1832 was the first major change to the electoral system in England and Wales for more than 150 years. It is regarded as the first stage in the process of asserting the power of ordinary citizens over Parliament.

It swept away the network of rotten boroughs – constituencies with MPs but barely any electors – and created new seats in the towns and areas that had expanded dramatically with the Industrial Revolution. Prior to 1832, Dunwich in Suffolk had no voters because it had been submerged by the sea yet sent two MPs to Westminster, while Manchester had no representation.

The Act also vastly increased the number of adult males entitled to vote in elections by extending the franchise to more male householders and "tenants at will" paying an annual rent of £50. It was followed by further major Reform Acts in 1867, 1884 and 1918.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £30,000+

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy