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Liberal Democrat News 16th March 2012

March 16, 2012 5:00 AM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Fighting for a liberal Britain

In his speech to the party's Spring Conference last weekend, Nick Clegg said the party, and the nation, must pull together. "We must pull together as one nation, a liberal nation - because that is the spirit of Britain.

"Our biggest challenge is to rescue our economy. We need a new economy that serves not one square mile, but one nation. Not creative accounting, but creative industries. Not the City, but all our cities."

On jobs, he said: "Our Regional Growth Fund is investing £2.4bn, creating more than 300,000 jobs in the areas that need them most. And we will bring sanity and responsibility to our banking sector. That's why we've put up the bank levy and why we are protecting high street banks from risky investments.

"We will free our biggest cities, giving them new powers and new opportunities, to be the engines of growth again. And we will rebalance power in the workplace. That's why I want us to build a 'John Lewis' economy, where workers have a real stake … an old liberal idea to build a new liberal economy."

On the environment, Nick said: "Some say we have to choose between boosting growth and being green. What a load of rubbish. Going for growth means going green. The race is on to lead the world in clean energy."

And on welfare reform: "...in these hard times, we have to look out for each other. "Unemployment benefits are benefits for people who fall on hard times and hard times are not the moment to slash them. But if you are on benefit, you owe it to the nation, to yourself, and to your family to strain every sinew to find a job.

"That is why, I will be launching the new Youth Contract .. a £1bn scheme to get every jobless youngster earning or learning ... because there is nothing liberal about leaving our young people to waste away on the dole."

Taxation: "...the sight of the wealthiest scheming to keep their tax bill down to the bare minimum is frankly disgraceful. So, we will call time on the tycoon tax dodgers and make sure everyone pays a fair level of tax. A philosophy of tax as old as our party … tax wealth, not wages.

"That is why we will raise the income tax threshold to £10,000. Help we promised, help we must deliver in government, today. …I want the Budget to show how we are anchoring this government in the centre ground. Credible - but fair.

"I am proud of this Coalition Government. We have shown that two parties, two very different parties, can govern together. Take NHS reform ... the Health Bill was stopped in its tracks and rewritten because this is a coalition government.

"This is a bill for patients not profits. It is not a Liberal Democrat health bill but it is a better bill because of us, a better bill because of you. A better bill because of Shirley Williams. So, I am proud of how Coalition is working but I am even more proud of us, of you.

"I may be Deputy Prime Minister but let me tell you: I am as much of a radical as ever … we are in politics to change things. We are the pioneers of British politics: with our eyes on the horizon. By 2015, we will have done a lot but we will have plenty left to do …

"But 2015 is not the destination, it is a staging post … we will just be getting started on making this nation: stronger, fairer, greener, freer and a more liberal Britain with every passing year. That's the prize - let's get out there and fight for it."

(The full text of Nick Clegg's speech to Spring Conference can be found on the party's website: www.libdems.org.uk).