Vince Cable warns Nick Clegg that Lib Dems must return to 'radical' party roots

Business Secretary voices concerns over party's future and economic policy at conference

Vince Cable has warned that the Liberal Democrats must not sacrifice their principles as Nick Clegg tries to convert them into a party of power.

The Business Secretary told a fringe meeting at the start of the Liberal Democrat spring conference in Brighton: “While we are now not a protest party we have to ensure that we remain not just a party of government but a radical party, attacking privilege, vested interests and the abuse of economic and political power.”

Appealing to Liberal Democrat activists disaffected by the compromises of coalition, he added: “We must make a success of government but in acquiring respectability and the aura of responsibility we must continue to defend our strong liberal and social democratic values.”

In a warning shot across Mr Clegg's bows, Mr Cable called for new wealth taxes on the rich, including the end of privileges for “non-doms” and curbing people avoiding inheritance by making gifts. Renewing his call for a boost to housing and infrastructure projects, he said: “The Government, together with the Bank of England, must support recovery, not undermine it.”

The Business Secretary has been denied a speaking slot in the formal conference, where his grassroots allies in the Social Liberal Forum (SLF) pressure group have tabled a “Plan C” or “Plan Cable” for the economy. They hope conference delegates will agree today to discuss their emergency motion tomorrow. But the Liberal Democrat leadership will try to water it down because it opposes further spending cuts.

Mr Cable insists his “Plan A Plus” does not depart from Coalition policy. Addressing the SLF last night, he said he and Mr Clegg agreed it was a “mistake” for the Coalition to implement the capital spending cuts it inherited from Labour in 2010.

He attacked the economic policies of both Labour and the Tory right, and warned that Tory plans to cut net migration below 100,000 a year is “seriously damaging to economic recovery and politically pointless”.

He said businessmen and highly qualified staff were being driven away by Britain's complex visa procedures.

Mr Clegg pledged last night to stamp out sexism in the Liberal Democrats as he promised to learn lessons from the way they handled allegations that activists were sexually harassed by its former chief executive, who denies the claims. Lord Rennard will stay away from the conference.

Speaking at a rally in Brighton, Mr Clegg said: “Sexism must have no place in the Liberal Democrats. Harassment must have no place in the Liberal Democrats. Abuse of power and position must have no place in the Liberal Democrats. I won't tolerate it. Our party should be better than that.”

Speaking at the same rally as Mr Clegg, Equalities Minister Jo Swinson gave details for the first time of how she handled claims that Lord Rennard had behaved inappropriately.

She said a “number of women” had come to her and their “shared objective” was to make sure the alleged behaviour stopped. “I have not heard any account of inappropriate behaviour subsequently,” she said.

The Rennard affair and conviction of Vicky Pryce, the ex-wife of former minister Chris Huhne, have created a difficult backdrop to the conference.

But an upbeat Mr Clegg told the rally the party's victory in the Eastleigh by-election showed it is “winning again”. He said: “We won not in spite of being in power, we won because we are in power – locally and nationally.”

Helena Morrissey, a mother of nine who is chief executive of Newton Investment Management, will head an independent inquiry into the party's “culture, process and complaints”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
News
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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project