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Nick Clegg - Spring Conference - 8th March 2014The Liberal Democrats are working to build astronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life.

That's why in Government we have given 24 million people a £700 tax cut, created 1 million jobs and helped 1.5 million apprentices.

That's 5,500 more people in work every working day!

5500 people every working day

We are the only party that can anchor Britain in the centre ground, ensuring we have sustainable growth and equality of opportunity.

Labour can't be trusted with the economy, in government they would drag Britain to the left, borrowing too much, spending too much and risking the recovery.

And the Conservatives can't be trusted to treat people fairly. If Liberal Democrats weren't in Government, the Tories would focus attention on the best-off, let employers fire staff without cause and allow schools to be run for profit.

Only the Liberal Democrats can be trusted to build a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling every person to get on in life.


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  • BBC One logo (Reproduced under licence from bbc.co.uk - © 2014 BBC)
    Article: Apr 26, 2015

    David Watts and David Laws were on Sunday Politics Yorkshire and Lincolnshire at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05qtwpw

  • Poster - Gedling 3
    Article: Apr 26, 2015
    By Alan Posener in The Observer

    From a German point of view, the debate in the UK appears to be crushingly parochial. Why does nobody speak about the big topics: Britain's relation to the EU, the US, Vladimir Putin's Russia?

    Billboards. Where are the billboards? Come election time in Germany, politicians' faces are everywhere, smiling down on you from billboards, hanging from lamp-posts - really! - and often adorned with little Hitler moustaches or blacked-out teeth by people who think that's a witty contribution to the campaign. None of that in Britain, as far as I could see. If you didn't know it, or didn't watch the news on the BBC, you might not ven notice there's an election coming p.

    But you would, wouldn't you, because local candidates and their helpers go from door to door canvassing your intention. I did the rounds with Andrew in Withington, a Manchester suburb. He's a Labour councillor. Labour's got all the seats on the city council except one. But this parliamentary seat has been held by the Liberal Democrats since the protest vote against Tony Blair in 2005.

    By the end of the campaign, Andrew will have knocked on 42,000 doors, most of them more than once. He knows who lives where, who votes what - "Don't bother with her, she's from the Socialist Workers party" - and what their problems are. "He's worried about the bedroom tax, voted Lib Dem last time, but he'll come round. Careful, mind. He's got a vicious dog."

    Politicians in Germany don't bother with stuff like that. Their idea of connecting with the voters is setting up a beach umbrella in the party colours in the pedestrian zone and handing out leaflets and balloons, while being lectured to by the odd drunk or lonely old lady.

    These seemingly small differences in the way a campaign is run say quite a lot about the differences between Germany and Britain - not only about the differences between the voting systems. With proportional representation, party grandees are put on "safe places" at the top of the party voting list. Why should they bother about their constituents?

    And given Germany's efficient control system, where every resident has to be registered with the authorities and every eligible citizen gets their voting papers automatically in the mail, parties don't have to make sure people register. But the candidates put their faces on billboards so you'll recognise them if you see them under the party beach umbrella one day.

    This personal touch is typical of Britain. Again and again, when I visit, I'm struck - next to the cleanliness of airports, railway stations, streets and shops, the rampant consumerism and easygoing multiculturalism of the place - by the friendliness of people. In London, men get up for women on the underground. It just doesn't happen in Germany.

    A young woman even offered to get up for me. And I honestly don't look that old. I knock over my full mug of coffee at Greggs. "I'll take care of it, mate," says the guy behind the counter. "You want another one?" No charge. In Germany, I'd have had to mop up the mess myself and pay for the extra coffee.

    Britain today is a far cry from the grim and grimy days of my childhood in 1950s Greenwich, or the surly, churlish Thatcher years, when I last visited Manchester: garbage on the streets, rats crawling over it, sullen ex-miners drinking in pubs smelling of urine and despair. I'd taken a group of German students from a working-class neighbourhood of Berlin to get to know "the real England", and they were shocked by the poverty and the dirt. Britain may not be the "big society" David Cameron envisaged. (What an ugly slogan! Why not "great"?) But it's not the "broken society" he talked about before he got elected. It's a civil society. Civil in the sense of polite.

    Ukip leader Nigel Farage celebrates St George's Day. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

    Even Ukip has to acknowledge that. I speak to Phil, Mark and Myles, who run the party's campaign in Manchester. They're small businessmen and very eager to disown the image of the even nastier party. "We wouldn't call people 'scum'. But I was called 'racist scum' by a trades union woman at a Guardian event," says Mark. "Labour didn't create multiculturalism, it created ghettoes," says Phil. "And now they're pledging to control immigration. But we're the racists. Actually, we're in favour of immigration. But we'd prefer dentists from China to beggars from Bulgaria."

    The Ukip trio seem slightly embarrassed by the beery, populist Nigel Farage. "We're not a one-man, one-issue party," says Myles. And indeed, in the evening, on the hustings in the Withington Methodist church with the other candidates, Mark doesn't even mention immigration. Nobody does. In fact, nobody talks about any of the topics that interest me as a German journalist: Britain's place in the new world order, its relation to Europe, the US, Vladimir Putin's Russia.

    Maybe it's because the discussion, organised by Churches Together, is supposed to be about "What does it mean to be a good society?" The church is packed with mostly middle-aged white people; perhaps Muslims might have a problem with the big cross on the wall. Nobody brings up the question. The candidates are also all white, and all male except for a young woman from the Greens. The discussion ranges from potholes to free schools to university tuition fees to support for small businesses against large ones, to climate change, abortion and the question of whether Manchester should get its own mayor.

    This last point is puzzling to an outsider. It seems that the chancellor, George Osborne, wants to devolve large spending powers to the Greater Manchester area. This at a time when every Labour politician in Manchester will tell you that the city, like the whole of the north, is being discriminated against by the Conservative-led government in Westminster, because it's a Labour stronghold.

    So devolution should be good news. But quite a few people in the audience are incensed, as it would entail having a mayor, and they voted against having one in a referendum only recently. Ah, say the Labour and Lib Dem candidates, who were against the mayor then but are for the mayor now, but when we voted the office didn't come with the offer of money. So much for referendums.

    Tory protesters with Nicola Sturgeon masks. Photograph: Nils Jorgensen/Rex Shutterstock

    When I get to London, after a comfortable ride on a fast, slick and punctual Virgin train (so why do you need a new high-speed railway?), everyone is talking about Nicola Sturgeon's offer to support a Labour government, Cameron's quip about a "match made in hell" and the criticism of this apparently anti-Scottish jibe from within his own party. Sturgeon is the real star of the election, my colleagues in the British press are saying. What? This is a star? Ah, but Boris Johnson is also considered a star.

    Admittedly, the competition is weak. Cameron visits a factory in the north and brings his own supporters with him. Afterwards, he tells a reporter he's talked to "welders and workers and so on". I watch Ed Miliband on Newsnight and I cringe for him. Miliband's desperately trying to get back to the security of his soundbites, and Evan Davis won't let him. That's another thing that's different from Germany. In Britain, journalists actually ask awkward questions. Watching Davis demolish Miliband may be painful for a Labour supporter, but for a journalist, no matter what your stance, it's exhilarating.

    If Davis tried that in Germany, though, he'd be out of a job. The parties sit on the boards of state-owned broadcasters and they don't want that kind of thing happening to any member of the political class. As a print journalist, if I interview a politician, I have to hand in the finished interview to be "authorised", meaning censored and sanitised, by his or her spin people. It's not the law, but we all do this, and we'd be fired if we didn't, because no politician would be willing to speak to us.

    But back to Sturgeon. Surely the point about her is not that she's Scottish but that she's just too leftwing. Soaking the rich and splurging on social services is a recipe for going the way of Greece.

    Her rhetoric against "austerity", which I found echoed by Labour and Green candidates, seems absurd against the statistics - employment up, spending on the NHS up, more and more pupils attending better schools, fewer and fewer people required to pay taxes - and even more absurd when you walk around a place like the huge mall in Stratford, east London, bigger than anything we've got anywhere in Germany, and watch obviously not-rich people piling their carts full of goodies.

    I know, I know. Don't be blinded by appearances. Researching an article on singer-songwriter Jake Bugg some years ago, I visited his home town of Nottingham and things on the estate where he grew up were pretty grim. But not grimmer than in many mid-sized industrial towns in north-west Germany or in most rural areas of the east. In places where young people are getting out - as Bugg did - and the remaining population is old or sick or stuck in some rut, talk of Britain's recovery may sound facile. But many of the problems people talk about in Manchester have been generated by population growth, not decline.

    As for the "West Lothian question", from a German perspective, the solution seems blindingly obvious: federalism. Give the four nations of Britain self-government on all the issues they want except foreign policy, defence and security, immigration and foreign aid, energy and climate policy and whatever else won't work without some national framework.

    David Cameron uses a selfie stick on a visit to the Cornish radio Pirate FM offices. Photograph: Pirate FM/APEX

    Federalism has worked quite well for Germany. Since the second world war, the federal state of Bavaria, always suspicious of the "Prussian" and Protestant northern states, has been governed by a single party, the Catholic CSU (Christian Social Union), which has always been a slightly rebellious and slightly more conservative part of any coalition involving the CDU (Christian Democratic Union), which in its turn does not field candidates in Bavaria.

    In some states of former east Germany, the ex-communist Left party is part of the government, although it is not considered fit to govern the country as a whole, given its anti-Nato stance. It might be too late for Scotland, but as long as the country as a whole remains in the European Union, it's hard to see what it would gain from full independence.

    Talking about the EU leads me to my final observation: the parochialism of this election. Big issues such as whether Britain will remain in the European Union, how it could renegotiate its membership and what concessions - euphemistically termed "reforms" - it could or should demand, simply don't figure in discussions with anybody except the Ukip people, and they have a one-size-fits-all answer: we want out.

    Together with the Greens, they oppose TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) and honestly think Britain would get a better deal if it negotiated with the US on its own rather than with the rest of Europe.

    Rather like the Green activists I meet in Stratford, the Ukip people I talk to in Manchester refuse to go to Starbucks, "because they don't pay taxes in the UK", and seem to think that leaving Europe would solve the problem of tax havens. Nigel Farage reacts to the horror in the Mediterranean by saying that Britain might send in the royal navy but shouldn't work together with the rest of Europe, lest the EU send "millions" of refugees to Britain.

    All this is so obviously wrong-headed that you'd think responsible politicians would be talking about issues like these. From the challenge of Russia's new aggressiveness to fighting Islamist terrorism and reacting to the rise of China and American isolationism, the EU is a key factor enabling Britain to punch above its weight, not to mention Europe's importance as a market and - yes! - a source of immigration. Yet the only things you hear British politicians talking about are "austerity", the bedroom tax and a thousand new nurses for the NHS.

    Who would Germany vote for? If the Tories win, they'll be committed to a referendum on the EU, and given Cameron's lack of European gumption, Britain might be out by the end of the decade. Except of course for Scotland, which would rather leave Britain. In the end, both unions could break up.

    A Brexit would encourage Marine Le Pen, and if France leaves the EU, the whole project is doomed. The end of the EU would spell the rise of protectionism and xenophobia and, given Russia's capacity for mischief, the end of peace on the continent. Spell that "peace", with the Russians advancing on the city of Mariupol in Ukraine.

    So should Germany welcome a Labour victory? A tax-and-spend government liable to blackmail by a party whose leader wants to get rid of Britain's nuclear deterrent is hardly reassuring. As George W Bush said, it's deja vu all over again: Labour was as loony as this before Blair.

    And if the government does collapse and the Scots do leave the UK, the ensuing Little England backlash would almost certainly lead to the rest of the UK - all due respect, Nicola Sturgeon: by far the most important part - leaving Europe, with the results sketched out above. Which is why Ukip is praying for a Labour victory - and working for it, too, by taking chunks of the Tory vote.

    I'd like to be sanguine about the outcome. But I'm not. It's not that the British don't realise how important Europe is for them that worries me and many other Germans. It's that they don't see how important they are for Europe.

    Alan Posener is a correspondent and commentator for Die Welt and Welt am Sonntag in Berlin

  • Article: Apr 26, 2015

    Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will today (26 April) deliver a speech in Sutton, hitting out at both the Conservative and Labour parties for not being honest about what they would do in a hung parliament.

    He will argue that it is increasingly clear no party will win an overall majority, and that the two main parties need to come clean about whether they will do a deal with UKIP or the SNP.

  • Article: Apr 26, 2015

    Labour's rent control announcements, including plans to cap rents so they cannot rise beyond the rate of inflation in certain tenancies, are ill thought through and will make things even worse for tenants.

    Rather than reduce rents, Labour's plans will lead to huge rent hikes every three years, higher rents overall and fewer available rental properties.

  • Article: Apr 26, 2015

    Business leaders, investors and philanthropists have backed the Liberal Democrat green economy vision.

    The letter praises the Liberal Democrat record in Government and emphasises the need for them to be part of the next Government. The publication of the letter comes on the same day the Lib Dems unveil their Environment Manifesto.

  • Article: Apr 25, 2015

    Commenting on the earthquake in Nepal, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg said:

    "My heart goes out to all the people of Nepal dealing with the after effects of the earthquake that hit the region this morning.

    "My thoughts are also with all the Nepalese people living here in the UK worried about their loved ones, including our Gurkha community, who are a shining testament to the resilience and great spirit of the Nepalese people.

  • key_nick-carestaff.jpg
    Article: Apr 25, 2015

    Responding to Labour's announcement on private provision in hospitals, Liberal Democrat General Election campaign spokesman Brian Paddick said:

    "This is rank hypocrisy from a Labour party totally beholden to the private sector when in government.

    "Under Labour, private providers were paid 11 per cent more than NHS providers for the same treatment and their PFI deals are still costing the taxpayer £1bn a year in repayments.

  • Article: Apr 25, 2015

    In the early hours of 25 April 1915, thousands of soldiers from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps - universally known as ANZACs - landed on the beaches of Gallipoli and began to fight.

    They were part of a combined Allied Force, comprising British, Ghurkha, Newfoundland and French personnel, leading the land battle for Gallipoli.

  • Article: Apr 25, 2015

    The Liberal Democrats have pledged a £10m boost for servicemen and women suffering from mental health problems.

    It would more than double the money currently available to help veterans overcome problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    The investment would also help provide a series of measures including assistance to get people back into work.

  • Article: Apr 24, 2015

    If you haven't watched his second appearance on The Last Leg, do, because he was great. On Twitter, people were saying that it was "refreshing to have a politician who can make fun of himself and be up for a laugh" and that "Nick Clegg [has] done more for the country than I ever realised".