Nick Clegg’s Blog

Liberal Democrats Conference 2009: Day 1
19 September, 2009, 12:42 pm
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Nick Clegg

Liberal Democrats Conference 2009

Day 1: Nick’s Agenda Highlights

Saturday 19th September 2009, Bournemouth

– Conference 2009:

12.00: Nick Clegg arrives at Conference

Nick Clegg, Leader of the Liberal Democrats and his wife, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez arrived in Bournemouth today for the 2009 Conference. After speaking to the media they had a coffee on the sea-front.

– Conference 2009:

18.30: Nick Clegg’s opening speech at Conference Rally

Nick Clegg, Leader of the Liberal Democrats has delivered his opening speech to Conference, speaking to activists at the 2009 Conference rally.

The Speech in full:

There’s one simple idea at the heart of this year’s conference. At the heart of everything we do from now until the General Election. It’s this: the Liberal Democrats are the only party offering change for real, change for good.

That’s not always going to be easy. In the current climate it’s going to mean some difficult decisions not least on public spending, where you all know the debate between the parties is raging.

Yes I have said there will need to be cuts, cuts that are savage and bold. But we will make those cuts so that we can be equally fierce – equally savage – about protecting the services that matter most, just as we put the nation’s finances back in order. So if ending tax credits for high earners is the price we pay for cutting class sizes and investing in disadvantaged pupils, so be it. If we need to tell the highest paid public sector staff they won’t get an increase in their pensions, so that we can afford to keep teachers, nurses, policemen and women in their jobs, so be it.

I won’t duck those choices. And in all of them I’ll be guided by our principles, our priorities.

That includes on tuition fees. I believe tuition fees are wrong. I believe they need to be abolished. I want to do it as soon as possible.

But we need to treat people like grown ups, and we need to be realistic. Ending tuition fees would cost billions of pounds every year. We need to be certain we can afford it before we make any promises. But I can make this pledge: at the next election we will have the best, most progressive package for students of any mainstream party: that is my guarantee to you.

Labour’s let the country down and their time is up. The question now is what comes next, what kind of change do we want? The Conservatives simply believe it’s their turn. That they don’t have to work for it, they don’t have to prove themselves. If you want things to be different, really different, then choose different. That’s our message.

George Osborne’s clearly heard that message. Did you hear his recent speech about the Conservatives being the most progressive party in Britain? The Conservatives. George, I think the clue is in the name.

There’s nothing the Conservatives could say now that would surprise me. They’ll promise to be whatever they think people want. Liberal conservatives. Progressive conservatives. Compassionate conservatives. Modern conservatives.

They will say anything to get elected. David Cameron is the conman of British politics. He’s put the con back into the Conservatives. Just telling people what they want to hear. He says he wants to fix the broken society. Yet he’s promised tax breaks to the rich. He talks the talk on the environment. Yet he seeks out climate change deniers as new allies in Europe. He claims he wants a new politics. Yet he won’t even own up to whether or not his big donors pay full British taxes.

He says he’ll balance the nation’s books. Yet his most eye-catching proposal is raising the cost of salads in the House of Commons canteen. It’s an issue of trust. How can anyone trust a word he says? David Cameron offers fake change, not real change. Phoney politics, not new politics. And Britain deserves better.

There is one principle David Cameron, George Osborne and their friends do hold very strongly: they believe people like them are entitled to run this country. I believe power should be earned, not inherited.

People want politicians who mean what they say. I hear it time after time, place after place, especially at the town hall meetings I hold. Believe me, people come along and say what they mean. I ran a kind of town hall meeting at Glastonbury festival this summer under a great big pink tee-pee. Before my opening spiel a man called Merrick offered to warm up the audience. I said ok, stepped to the side, still in full view, a mug of ginger tea in hand. Turned out Merrick isn’t our biggest fan. But he had taken the time to compose a 6-minute poem about us. Which he used to tell me, and the 200-strong crowd, exactly where I could shove each of our policies.

There is something to be said for a bit of stage management. Only a bit though. You have to keep it spontaneous. Cameron doesn’t think so. Did you know you can’t get into a Cameron Direct public meeting unless you hand over personal information and supply photo id. Here’s a man who says he opposes the surveillance state. Yet asking him a question in a village hall is harder than getting in to North Korea.

For my meetings, everyone’s welcome. I tell people – come along, ask me anything, anything at all.

What most people tell me is that they are fed up with the business as usual cop out they get from the establishment parties. Sick and tired of the pendulum that only swings to make Britain stand still. Ready for something different, something we are ready to give them.

Ready because of our values. Ready because of our team. Ready because of you. Values first.

Liberty – the dispersal of power away from the central state downwards to local communities and upwards to international organisations.

Fairness – beginning with the opportunities open to all of our children because that’s the measure by which a society must be judged.

Being green – taking a stand on behalf of the generations that will follow us not just when it’s popular, but, more importantly, when it’s not.

Those principles are enduring. They are the values Britain needs today.

Why else would we keep calling it right on all the big issues?


Climate change.

Northern Rock.

Bankers’ bonuses.

The Speaker.


The Gurkhas.

Only the Liberal Democrats stand against populist propaganda on immigration. Against the mass incarceration of our children. Against the colossal surveillance state.

Only the Liberal Democrats were willing to break the silence on the scandalous under-equipment of our troops in Afghanistan.

And only the Liberal Democrats have consistently called for radical reform to scrape out the rot in our democracy. What began with disgust at MPs’ expenses has evolved into a much bigger appetite for change. Liberal Democrats we always knew the time would come when the mere mention of multi-member transferable preferential voting would get pulses racing.

Our party has stayed true to its liberal values, with their long history. And now, in the most centralised country in Europe; ruled by a government that snatches freedom away without a second thought; that flouts international law in our name; that pays lip service to the environment but does so little to protect it; that after twelve years still presides over a society in which if you are poor, female, disabled, gay or from an ethnic minority your life is still harder than other people’s.

In that Britain – this Britain – we are more relevant than ever.

We’re ready because of our team. I am privileged to lead the most dynamic team in Parliament. With our outstanding Shadow Chancellor: Dr Vince Cable.

Danny Alexander, Chris Huhne, Sarah Teather, Ed Davey, David Laws, Norman Lamb, Julia Goldsworthy, Steve Webb. If I go through the whole superstar roll call we’ll be here all night. And day in, day out, I benefit from the support and advice of people without whom the party would not be what it is today: Shirley, Paddy, Charles, Ming.

Our team is ready. All of our MPs: confident, capable. And ruthless. Trust me, I’m regularly reminded of how ruthless – savage even – they are. I went to Leeds and my rugby team was thrashed by Greg Mulholland’s. In Sutton Paul Burstow pulled a better pint than me. I was beaten in a skipping competition by Jeremy Browne. On a trip to the arctic, Jenny Willott’s obliviousness to the cold put my whimpering to shame. And in Cornwall I entered a pasty crimping competition only to be told Julia Goldsworthy’s crimping was better than mine. A decision I still contest.

Finally it’s because of the work you do that we are now ready to embrace the opportunities ahead. The streets you pound, the hours you toil, the phone calls you make, the sheer tenacity with which you confront every challenge. Because of that, this time, this election, it will be different.

I know why you do it. I know why you campaign tirelessly, on a shoe string, come rain or shine. I know why you replace remote after remote every time another one gets hurled at the TV screen.

Because we are people who look at the world and seek to change it. Restive. Optimistic. Ambitious.

Because we’re not going through the motions, we’re going for broke.

We’re not in this to do our best, we’re in it to make history.

And because we know that the Liberal Democrats hold the values that will make this country great. Because we know that our moment is coming. Because we know that this time it is going to be different.

Thank you.

Full coverage will appear here as events unfold.The Liberal Democrats 2009 Conference runs from 19th – 23rd September 2009.

For a full agenda of the Liberal Democrats 2009 Autumn Conference visit the Liberal Democrats Conference site: Here

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