Closing the Liberal Democrats’ conference, party leader Clegg defiantly defended the coalition’s plans to eliminate the annual deficit by 2015.
“Saddling our children with the nation’s debt: that’s not fair,” he said. “Handing control of the economy to the bond traders is not progressive.”
Labour’s shadow chancellor Ed Balls accuses the government of reducing the deficit “too far and too fast”, leading Clegg to jibe: “Labour would have offered too little, too late”.
“Labour’s economy was based on bad debt and false hope, they got us into this mess,” he added. “Never, ever trust Labour with our economy again.”
Nonetheless, the Deputy Prime Minister admitted that the outlook for global growth has got worse.
“That’s why we’re already investing in infrastructure, reducing red tape, promoting skills, getting the banks lending. But we need to do more, we can do more, and we will do more for growth and for jobs.”
The speech was welcomed by Tim Montgomerie, editor of Conservative Home and former adviser to Iain Duncan Smith. “Clegg made attack after attack on Labour. He feels like a real coalition partner in a way that Vince Cable, Chris Huhne and Tim Farron do not,” Montgomerie said. ECONOMICS: P6
DEPUTY PM NICK CLEGG’S SPEECH: THE HIGHLIGHTS
● ”After their government stipend, 95 per cent of Labour's money comes from unions,” Clegg said, arguing that the Lib Dems are “in nobody’s pocket” – neither unions nor “media moguls”.
● “When we come to sell those [bailed-out] bank shares, I want to see a payback to every citizen,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.
● Clegg promised “a new economy safe from casino speculation”, adding that Vince Cable was “putting a firewall into the banking system” – an endorsement of ring-fencing.
● Bankers were not the only people to be accused of “greed” by Clegg, who blasted the riots as “outbursts of nihilism and greed”.
● Clegg threatened to “make firms work harder to get women on their boards”.
● The Human Rights Act “is here to stay”, the Liberal Democrat leader pledged to activists.