Nick Clegg’s Blog


The Liberal Democrats are not for sale
5 January, 2010, 9:00 am
Filed under: Inside Westminster, News

The Liberal Democrats are not for sale

5th January 2010

Nick Clegg, The Times

If there is a hung Parliament there will be no under-the-counter deals with either big party

Hostilities have started. The frenzied announcements and counter-announcements from the Conservative and Labour parties over the past few days point towards a long, grinding election campaign.

Much of what we have heard so far is unsurprising: absurd pledges on spending, vitriolic attacks on cuts.

But one development is new: both the old parties now claim to be almost identical to the Liberal Democrats. David Cameron and Gordon Brown are ostentatiously flirting with Liberal Democrat voters, clumsily trying to woo them — and by implication me and my fellow Liberal Democrat MPs.

This year’s general election is likely to be the most open and unpredictable in a generation. So you have a right to know where we stand. I can promise voters wondering whether to put an “X” against the Liberal Democrats that there are no backroom deals or under-the-counter “understandings” with either of the other two parties.

The stance the Liberal Democrats will take matters more than ever because the map of British politics is being dramatically redrawn. Slowly but surely three-party politics has asserted itself. Half a century ago only 2 per cent of voters chose a party other than Labour or the Conservatives. At last year’s local elections, that had shot up to 40 per cent. At the last general election, one in four people who voted supported the Liberal Democrats; six million voters, more than for any other Liberal party in Europe.

So no wonder that both Mr Brown and Mr Cameron are trying to appeal to the millions of people who have long tired of the pendulum politics of Westminster. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so it’s a compliment of sorts that the core values of the Liberal Democrats — fairness in society, real change in politics — are now being mimicked by others. On so many issues in recent years, Liberal Democrat instincts have been in tune with the British public: on Iraq, civil liberties, political reform, the environment, fair taxes, the excesses of the City of London, the rights of Gurkha veterans.

We are, and have shown ourselves to be, very different from the other two parties. My message to Mr Brown and Mr Cameron is simple: the Liberal Democrats are up for real change. We are not up for sale.
Mr Brown and Mr Cameron utter fine words about reform and fairness, but their policies aren’t even close to what’s needed. They both say that tax should be fair, but Mr Brown has created a tax system where the poorest pay a higher proportion of their income in taxes than the rich, while Mr Cameron’s top priority is tax cuts for millionaires.

But Britain faces economic, social, political and environmental crises on an extraordinary scale. So we need an extraordinary government, not more of the same, for these extraordinary times. In the event of a hung Parliament, the British people also deserve to know how the Liberal Democrats will respond. We have two basic principles that I will uphold.

One, we will respect the will of the public. The voters are in charge and the decision is theirs. If voters decide that no party deserves an overall majority, then self-evidently the party with the strongest mandate will have a moral right to be the first to seek to govern on its own or, if it chooses, to seek alliances with other parties.

Two, regardless of the post-election arithmetic or whatever power we are granted, there are four objectives that we will unwaveringly pursue.

First: fair taxes. Our plan would mean that the first £10,000 you earn would be free of income tax. This would be paid for by taxing income and capital at the same rate, phasing out special pension subsidies for highest-rate earners, switching tax from income to pollution and introducing a mansion tax on the value of homes above £2 million.

Second: a fair start for all our children. We will cut class sizes and provide more one-to-one tuition to children by introducing a new “pupil premium” in our schools.

Third: a fair and sustainable economy that creates jobs. We will use the money from one year’s cuts in current spending to create tens of thousands of new jobs in public transport, a national programme of home insulation and new social housing. We will be honest about where savings must be made to balance the books and we will break up the banking system.

And finally, fair, clean and local politics. We will introduce a fair voting system, ensure that MPs can be sacked by their constituents if they break the rules, return powers to local communities and stop tax avoiders from standing for Parliament, sitting in the House of Lords or donating to political parties.

While the other parties set out increasingly implausible lists of promises, the Liberal Democrats will remain focused on this short list of big, structural changes that will make Britain fairer. Neither of the other parties seems willing or capable of delivering them. So the Liberal Democrat message to the voters is clear: if you like what we offer, vote for it. The decision is in your hands.

Nick Clegg is leader of the Liberal Democrats

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Rosh Hashanah Greetings
18 September, 2009, 8:34 am
Filed under: Inside Westminster, News

I wish everyone in the Jewish community shanah tovah and a peaceful, successful and sweet new year. May the shofar mark the beginning of a festival of rest and reflection for Jews in Britain and around the world as they celebrate this festival with their friends and families.

May this year be one in which Jewish communities throughout the world live in tranquillity without fear of anti-Semitism and may it be a prosperous and productive year for us all. I hope that the coming year will see progress towards peace between Israel and its neighbours.

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The Liberal Moment
17 September, 2009, 10:09 am
Filed under: Inside Westminster, News, Statements

Today published I published my thoughts on the future of progressive politics in Britain.

About The Liberal Moment

This pamphlet is about the future of British politics. Specifically, it is about the future of progressive politics in Britain. It is obvious to most people that Labour’s time is up. This Government displays all the hallmarks of a government running out of road – tired, ideologically incoherent, and internally fractured.

The question for progressives is what comes next? Is it inevitable that the red-blue/blue-red pendulum of British politics must swing again away from the progressive hopes offered by New Labour in its early days, only swinging back in many years to come once the Conservatives have had another go? Or is there life still left in the ideals of fairness, social mobility, sustainability, civil rights and internationalism which are the lifeblood of progressive thought?

My argument is simple: if progressives are to avoid being marginalised by an ideologically barren Conservative party, bereft of any discernible convictions other than a sense of entitlement that it is now their turn to govern, then the progressive forces in British politics must regroup under a new banner. I believe that liberalism offers the rallying point for a resurgent progressive movement in Britain.

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Letter to Jessica Ennis, Heptathlon World Champion 2009
21 August, 2009, 2:37 pm
Filed under: News, Statements

Dear Ms Ennis

I wish to add my heartfelt congratulations to the many you have deservedly received following your win at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin.

You have given pleasure to countless people who watched your joy in achieving gold in the Heptathlon. It was an inspirational culmination of all your efforts to overcome the setbacks you experienced in the build up to the Olympics last year.

I know your joy is shared by your family and those who have also helped and supported you and I wish you all well – and continuing success in the future.

Yours sincerely, Nick Clegg MP for Sheffield Hallam

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Ramadan Mubarak!
21 August, 2009, 8:22 am
Filed under: Inside Westminster, Statements

As Ramadan comes round once more, I’d like to wish all Muslims observing the month my very best wishes.

I have learned from working with Muslim communities across the UK – and indeed from the many Lib Dem councillors and candidates who are practising Muslims – that the fasting and Qur’an reading during Ramadan provide spiritual renewal and enlightenment. As friends and family are brought together every night, we also reflect on all the millions of people around the world who still go without food and clean water every day.

We in the Liberal Democrats have always championed religious tolerance, and we are proud of the diverse traditions in our country.

We recognise the importance of the principle of Zakat to Muslims, especially at this time, and I deeply regret that Islam can be unfairly portrayed in many parts of the media especially when Muslim communities in this country do so much excellent charitable work.

I congratulate Muslims for the volunteering and donations they make during the month of Ramadan and at other times, and, more broadly, to thank British Muslims for the enormous contribution they make to life in this country.

Ramadan Mubarak!

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Campaign to Return Unfair Banking Charges
12 August, 2009, 2:53 pm
Filed under: Campaigns, Inside Westminster, News, Statements

Nick Clegg and Vince Cable this week pledged to put a motion before Parliament to put pressure on the government and banks to act to return the money charged to customers by banks unfairly. Following an email campaign by MSE, Nick Clegg responded to an email sent to its members.

He also stated the Liberal Democrats commitment to debate consumer protection at the forthcoming Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference in Bournmouth. Read the full article: Here

Nick Clegg’s letter to MoneySavingExpert.com in full:

Dear Martin,

As a subscriber to your weekly email, I saw your recent comments on unfair banking charges. I couldn’t agree more with you about the scandalous nature of these charges.

The Liberal Democrats have taken a strong stance on this for a long time – in particular, in our manifesto for complete reform of Britain’s banking and financial institutions “A New Deal for the City”, launched in May 2008 where we stated:

“The treatment of charges by the banks borders on the scandalous. It is a continuation of the practice described above: a protected industry seeking to maximise profits by exploiting the weakness of individual consumers who lack information and sophisticated knowledge of products or legal advice. The principle should be established that bank charges must be transparent and cost based.”

In your email, you made a further suggestion that banks should have to pay back all unfair charges automatically if the courts do rule against them. This struck me as an extremely good idea that we should do all we can to put in place. Vince Cable, my shadow Chancellor, and I would be delighted to support your campaign.

We will put a motion before Parliament setting out our support for your idea as soon as the recess is over, which will hopefully put pressure on the government and the banks to act to return the money they so unfairly took from customers.

Finally, I’m really looking forward to receiving the manifesto you’ve been compiling on your site regarding other consumer issues. And I’m pleased to be able to let you know we will be having a debate on consumer protection at our conference in the autumn, where we hope to adopt some strong new policies for our manifesto.

All the best,

Nick Clegg

Leader of the Liberal Democrats

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Blair and Brown Must Not be Allowed to Escape Spotlight of Iraq Inquiry
30 July, 2009, 12:16 pm
Filed under: Inside Westminster, News, Statements

Commenting on Sir John Chilcot’s announcement on the terms of reference for the Iraq war inquiry, Nick Clegg, Leader of the Liberal Democrats said:

“It is essential that this inquiry has the teeth it needs to get the job done. The Government must not be able to interfere to keep Blair and Brown out of the spotlight for the sake of political convenience in the run-up to an election. Tony Blair ordered this disastrous war and Gordon Brown signed the cheques – without public appearances from them this inquiry will be seen as a whitewash.

The inquiry must have access to high level legal advice, in particular a counsel to assist them in cross-questioning witnesses. This is important to ensure that as gifted a communicator as Blair is not allowed to slip off the hook. It is very disappointing that the chances of an interim report have been described as ‘unlikely’ – there is no reason that such a report could not be published before the election.

Sir John’s assurance that evidence will be held in public ‘wherever possible’ is welcome. But where evidence is given in private, a genuine national security interest must be proven in each case. There is a strong case for televising hearings so the public can see that proceedings are as open as possible.”

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