Nick Clegg faces calls to distance his party from the Conservatives


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Indy Politics

Nick Clegg will face calls from senior Liberal Democrats to get "back to basics" and distance himself far more from David Cameron and the Conservatives over the coming month.

Tim Farron, the party's president, is expected to use the annual conference in September to warn the leadership that it needs to help members "hold [their] heads up high" and bring in policies to entice back the voters who have deserted the party.

Liberal Democrats yesterday began to outline the policies they will put forward at the next election to put "clear orange water" between the Coalition parties. These include a comprehensive review of taxation policy – with proposals for a new "land tax" on the rich as well as major initiatives on criminal justice, immigration and political reform.

Liberal Democrat sources said the motions could become a "lightning rod" for dissatisfaction among the party's rank-and-file members.

"Conference is a chance for the members to have their say and I have no doubt that they will do so," said one.

In a report ahead of conference, Mr Farron admitted the past year had been "frustrating" and suggested the party needed to do much more to reconnect with local communities ahead of 2015.

After the failure of May's AV referendum, the party is also expected to look at the case for an English parliament and whether the voting age should be lowered to 16.

A motion, to be debated at the conference, calls for large companies to be forced to publish data on employee satisfaction. It suggests that company directors could be disqualified if they are found to have "seriously failed to protect employees' well-being".

The party's conference agenda also includes a motion on "community politics" being proposed by Mr Farron.

"Following a set of disappointing results in the May elections, as well as the defeat in the Alternative Vote referendum, there is a need at every level of the party to reassert the Liberal Democrats' commitment to the communities we serve," the motion says.

It calls on the leadership to ensure all future policies are "conducive to community politics" and are presented in such a way to help local activists.

Mr Farron said: "We have begun to consider how the party should take a more strategic and longer-term outlook to how we conduct ourselves in Government. But there is always more we can do and it is absolutely right you keep us on our toes so that we are delivering your priorities and giving you every opportunity to hold your heads up high as you campaign on the doorstep."

He added: "In the wake of the recent elections, my main focus will be reinvigorating the party base and renewing our commitment to the theory and practice of 'community politics'."

In his introduction to the conference agenda, Mr Clegg sought to reassure activists that the Liberal Democrats had made a difference in Government.

"We have ruled out price competition [in the NHS], made it safe from any threat of back-door privatisation, and ensured decisions are taken in an open, democratic and accountable manner," he wrote. "This is both a powerful demonstration of the difference Liberal Democrats are making in government and a strong endorsement of our party's proud democratic traditions."