Nick Clegg: Four pledges to prove only one party is serious about fixing Britain

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The Independent Online

Last week's phoney election campaign was a depressing experience. The other parties managed to produce a greatest hits compilation of almost everything that has turned people off politics. Airbrushed posters, meaningless slogans. All set against the spectacle of the Government turning in on itself when the country is crying out for leadership. But most depressing of all was that we learned that the Labour and Conservative parties have decided to run their election campaigns as if the world hadn't changed.

Talk of change is cheap. Delivering big, permanent change is the real challenge. We are putting our cards on the table now. The heart of our manifesto will be short, direct and to the point. We have stripped away everything that is not essential because the country cannot afford it. We have isolated only two areas where we will make immediate, significant additional spending pledges: in education and in infrastructure investment.

Both will be funded from specific cuts in other areas of current government spending. No other party in British politics today has taken such a deliberate step to be open and credible with the British people about what we can and can't afford. That means some multi-billion pound spending commitments we have promoted in the past – like new free childcare entitlements, a new citizen's pension or free personal care – will no longer be firm commitments in our manifesto, but will be put on hold until they become affordable again. Some of our other pledges such as the scrapping of tuition fees will have to be phased in over a longer period of time.

Our manifesto is based on a single insight: that the dreadful crises we have faced gives us the chance to reshape our country. And it is built on one simple and very British value: fairness. Making this country fair will not be easy. There are huge vested interests standing in the way. We will offer the British people the chance to vote for the four steps that are essential for a fairer Britain. Only four.

But they are four big changes – more significant than anything Labour or the Tories will offer at this election – that together will reshape the country we live in. Fair taxes. A new, fair start for all children at school. A rebalanced, green economy. And clean, open politics.

Taken from the Liberal Democrat leader's speech in London yesterday