20 September 2011

What Nick Clegg should say in his leader's speech

Fellow liberals. I'd like to start with an apology.

To all those hard working Lib Dem councillors who lost their seats in May and the campaigners who didn't win - I apologise for letting you down.

For all those campaigners for political reform - from all parties and none - who lost out in the AV referendum - I apologise for letting you down.

And most importantly to the millions of people who voted for our party last year in the hope of something different and better - I apologise for letting you down.

It is clear that many people up and down the country feel let down by us and in particular me. And in today's personality obsessed age it's right that as leader of the party I should be the focus for that discontent.

And I hold my hand up as I have been responsible for getting things wrong.

I have been too close to David Cameron.

I have enjoyed being in government a little too much - particularly as cuts begin to bite and the British people fear for their livelihoods and wellbeing.

And I haven't communicated the party's successes well enough to break the impression that this is a Tory government in everything but name.

And as a result the people spoke - and they comprehensively rejected our party in May. Let's not kid ourselves that this was simply a mid term election that will simply wind back automatically as we approach 2015.

It was a clear message from the people to get our act together in government and to prove we are delivering a distinctively Liberal Democrat agenda in that government.

At our last conference in Liverpool we started that process by outlining our opposition to many of the Conservatives' market obsessed proposals for the NHS.

This week we have carried on with radical proposals for dealing with the harm drugs do to our community, tackling the obscenity of Murdoch phone hacking and how we are breaking the link between a poor upbringing and poor exam results.

And most importantly Vince Cable outlined how Liberal Democrats are recasting our economy - with a focus on apprenticeships, investment in our infrastructure and how we will make sure the banks will never bring the economy down again through their incompetence and greed.

But I want to make be clear - to you here in the hall, to Liberal Democrats watching at home and to the country at large that I expect myself and the party to be judged in 2015 on our deeds - not fine words in conference halls.

Building the new politics - ending the red, blue, blue, red, blue duopoly that has brought the country to its knees - was always going to take time and I haven't forgotten the hope and sense of anticipation of something new that was so apparent in that spring of last year.

It is that hope that we can govern in a new way - putting aside the old tribal tit for tat politics - that is the glue behind the coalition. Two competing parties, with different outlooks and traditions, working together in an adult way for the good of the people. That's what we are trying to do in difficult times.

So I am making five clear commitments today for Liberal Democrats in government - our agenda if you will.

One, by 2015 a higher proportion of people from poorer backgrounds will get the opportunity to go to a good school and go on to a good university than under Labour in 2010.

Two, by 2015 our NHS will be more responsive to local people's needs with less central bureaucratic interference allowing doctors and nurses to carry out their calling, free at the point of use for the patient.

Three, by 2015 prisons will be a place only for those who are clear threat to society and communities that suffer from persistent low level crime and disorder will get pay back from the perpetrators who will put right what and who they wronged.

Four, by 2015 Britain's reputation in the world and our ability to influence our allies and deter our enemies is restored and the memory of Bush, Blair and illegal adventures in Iraq is replaced by a truly ethical foreign policy.

Five, by 2015, if the economy is growing strongly again and the government can start giving something back - it will be hard pressed families on low and middle incomes that get a break - not the Tories rich friends in the city or offshore.

I ask every Liberal Democrat in this hall to campaign with me and our ministerial team to make this agenda happen.

And for those watching and listening in the country outside this hall all I ask is for you to look and listen and judge us in 2015 on what we achieved in government that made Britain a better place.

1 comment: