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The chance to deliver liberal policies

Submitted by on 15 Nov 2010 – 12:09


The coalition offers a unique opportunity for liberals in Britain, argues Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

Jo Grimond once said “there is no purpose in keeping a Liberal Party alive unless it promotes liberalism.” It may sound obvious but it’s no less true – it is the primary job of the Liberal Democrats to advance liberal ideas.

Throughout the General Election campaign I argued for a new approach to politics, for a radical redistribution of power and for the hard-wiring of fairness into British society. That liberal moment has now arrived and our challenge is to seize it with both hands and make Britain a more liberal country.

The Coalition Government should be proud of what we have already achieved. As Liberal Democrats we stood in the Election on a platform of four clear priorities – fairer taxes; a fairer start for children and extra funding for disadvantaged children; a new politics with a fairer voting system; and a greener, more sustainable economy. We are already delivering on each of those promises and we will continue to do so in the years to come.

Liberal ideas are being directly deployed in the Coalition Government’s policies. Our Programme for Government was titled by three simple values – freedom, fairness and responsibility. Those are values I have always believed in. They can be seen in the raising of the income tax threshold by £1,000 (taking over 800,000 people out of paying tax altogether) and reforming capital gains tax. They shine through in the Pupil Premium which will give some of the poorest children in our schools extra help with more funding. You will see them in the referendum planned on the Alternative Vote electoral system planned for 2011 and in the Green Deal to make our homes and business energy efficient.

The Prime Minister and I are united in our zeal for reform. We are both determined to pursue one of the most fundamental principles of liberalism – the belief that power should rest in the hands of the people. That means greater powers for Local Authorities; greater autonomy for our schools; greater patient choice and control in our NHS; and radical constitutional reform. It is about politicians trusting the people to do the best for themselves and their communities in a society made up of powerful, responsible citizens.

The Government is determined to undertake these radical, liberal reforms despite the extremely difficult economic circumstances. The decisions we take as we regain control of the public finances will be difficult and painful but we are determined to ensure that cuts are made in the fairest manner possible. But cuts must be made because there is nothing liberal about saddling our children with our debts. Revenue generated from future growth should be spent on schools and hospitals and not on bond dealers’ bonuses.

Despite what others may say, this is a Government built to last for a full five years. It is imperative that we seize the liberal moment that has been presented to us. My colleagues and I should be judged on whether Britain is a more liberal country by 2015 and whether we have been part of a truly reforming parliament. Power must be radically redistributed towards people; our civil liberties must be restored; our broken political system must be repaired; and our economy must be greener and more balanced.  I am under no illusions about the scale of this ambition but similarly I do not doubt we can achieve it.