Lib Dem Conference: ‘Rivals are airbrushing our role in recovery’ warns Nick Clegg

Lib Dems will emphasis their accomplishments in government on the road to 2015 elections

Nick Clegg has warned that the Liberal Democrats’ opponents are trying to "airbrush out" the party's role in the UK's economic recovery.

In a policy-lite closing speech to the Lib Dem spring conference in York on Sunday, the Deputy Prime Minister signalled the start of the long campaign to next year's general election by emphasising the party's achievements in government. Mr Clegg said the history books will show that "the country was put back on track by a party which had never been in government before".

Senior party figures spent the weekend conference playing up the Lib Dems’ influence as the minority party in coalition, reflecting fears that they lose votes for unpopular policies while the Conservatives get the credit for the economic recovery. An anti-austerity protest took place outside the conference venue over the weekend, while some angry voters have not forgiven the party for ditching a 2010 manifesto pledge to scrap university tuition fees.

Despite the pounding that the Lib Dems have taken in the opinion polls, Mr Clegg is hopeful that the 2015 election could still result in the need for shared Government, whether it is again with David Cameron or with Labour. He said that while the current parliament has been about being in "emergency mode" to salvage the country from the financial crisis,  the 2015-20 period will be focused on "reconstruction".

Sketching out his vision for a “Great Britain, not little England,” Mr Clegg said the Lib Dems needed to protect UK from one-party rule because they are “the guardians of a modern, open and tolerant Britain.” He said: “Between now and the election, our aim is to build a coalition bringing together all of the liberal-minded, liberal-hearted men and women who love the Britain we love – and who want a party prepared to fight for it. That’s the only coalition I care about.”

Read more: Nick Clegg to launch veiled attack on Nigel Farage's 'bile'
Lib Dems to demand £12,500 tax allowance
Vince Cable: Tories are 'seriously irresponsible' for promising EU referendum

The main theme of the conference was the party's commitment to staying in the European Union. In effect, the Lib Dems want to turn the May elections into a referendum on Europe, a high risk strategy given some polls suggest the party could lose all of its 12 MEPs.

In a thinly-veiled assault on Ukip, Mr Clegg warned that nationalistic extremism is making headway across Europe, from Hungary to France. "These are not far flung places," he argued. "This is our backyard. The forces of chauvinism, protectionism and xenophobia have been emboldened. And there is no doubt about it: the fight is now on for the future of our continent."

There was also a long passage on the things he loves about Britain so as to bat away Eurosceptic accusations that sticking with the EU is akin to selling out the UK. Among Mr Clegg's “loves” were the football Premier League, shipping forecasts,  pomp and ceremony, cups of tea – and wearing a t-shirt and flip flops.

Clegg's Britain: Patriot Games

Nick Clegg has his work cut out convincing us that he is an ordinary British bloke. He’s got the Everyman accent, to be sure, but his blood is a heady cocktail of Russian, German, Polish, Ukrainian and Dutch, with a late tincture of English. He speaks several languages, and he is married to a Spaniard. On top of all that he’s not only relaxed about immigration, but positively enthusiastic about the European Union.

So it is understandable that he should wish to remind the nation that he is not only British to the core, but proud to be so. Hence the long encomium for all things Brit in his speech yesterday.

Britain, he said, is as modest as it is proud, as inventive as it is conservative, as irreverent as it is obsequious. We love to queue even when there is no call to do so, and we believe a cup of tea is the solution to every problem.

Of course most of these distinctions could be cited to underline the argument that we are in fact the strangest nation on earth: listening to the shipping forecast 100 miles inland, sunbathing in the freezing cold…

The speech gave one the feeling of eavesdropping at breakfast with Miriam. Nick certainly makes a good stab at keeping his end up – but where will they go for their holidays? By Peter Popham

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
i100
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
News
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
video
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
people
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little