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
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...