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
Alex Salmond said he accepted 'the democratic verdict of the people'
newsSNP leader says Scotland must move forward as 'one nation'
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

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

Supply Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Crawley: Randstad Education can provide you wit...

Year 4 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 4 Primary Teachers needed Randst...

Sessional ICT Teacher - GCSE

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: ICT teacher job in Humberside. ...

Year 6 Teacher - January start

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are looking fo...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week