Nick Clegg warns of 'long, hard road' on economy


Nick Clegg's full speech to the Liberal Democrat conference in Birmingham where he repeatedly used the "not easy but right" phrase.

Britain faces a "long, hard road" to economic recovery, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has warned.

In his speech to the Liberal Democrat conference, the deputy prime minister insisted the government would not perform a U-turn over spending cuts.

The squeeze was tough but right, he said, adding that ministers could still "do more" to boost growth.

Labour accused Mr Clegg of "sacrificing liberal tradition for personal ambition" by joining the coalition.

The International Monetary Fund has cut its UK growth forecast and warned of a "dangerous new phase" for the global economy.

'Not enough'

Mr Clegg's 42-minute speech brought to a close the five-day Lib Dem conference in Birmingham, which has seen ministers repeatedly stress that the coalition remains united on its deficit reduction plan.

Adopting a sombre tone, he said the economy was the government's biggest concern, adding: "The recovery is fragile. Every worker, every family knows that. There is a long, hard road ahead."

Mr Clegg said deficit reduction had protected the economy and laid "the foundations for growth", but added: "On its own it is not enough. That's why we are already investing in infrastructure, reducing red tape, promoting skills, getting the banks lending.

All week Lib Dems have stood on the conference platform and tried to make themselves look different from their Conservative coalition partners.

Nick Clegg has been irritated by language he regards as over the top and warned his party to stop behaving like they are still in opposition and remember they were in government.

Where others won laughter and applause by poking the Tories in the ribs, he aimed his blows squarely at Labour's two Eds - this is no time, he said, for Gordon Brown's backroom boys.

The Lib Dem leader is positioning his party as fairer than the Tories while more competent than Labour.

"But the outlook for the global economy has got worse. So we need to do more, we can do more, and we will do more for growth and jobs."

The Treasury has denied BBC reports that ministers are considering a £5bn rise in spending on infrastructure to kick-start the economy.

Aides stressed that Mr Clegg was not suggesting anything in his speech which would alter the government's deficit reduction strategy but said he was pointing to a growth review report, due in November.

The deputy prime minister said global financial turbulence showed that the "painful" spending cuts strategy was "essential to protect the economy" and that, while it would have been easier not to enter into the coalition, it "would not have been right".

"You don't play politics at a time of national crisis, you don't play politics with the economy, and you never, ever, play politics with people's jobs," Mr Clegg said, in a speech containing few jokes.

'Too little, too late'

The Lib Dem leader became more animated as he attacked Labour's record in power, saying it had left the UK "teetering on the edge of an economic precipice."

And he rejected Labour's argument that the government is going too far, too fast on spending cuts, arguing that the alternative would be "too little, too late".

Start Quote

We must move now beyond the reflexes of opposition to the responsibilities of government”

End Quote Nick Clegg Lib Dem leader

In a jibe at opposition leader Ed Miliband and shadow Chancellor Ed Balls - both of whom worked for Gordon Brown when the was chancellor - he said it was time for "real leadership. This is no time for the back room boys".

But Mr Clegg's speech contained little criticism of the Conservatives - who have been the brunt of many jokes from other Lib Dem MPs during the conference.

He said his party was "in nobody's pocket", while arguing other parties had served "vested interests" - from unions to bankers, to long applause from the hall.

The Lib Dems have faced an onslaught of voter anger over the past year, over the U-turn on tuition fees and support for spending cuts - and saw a long-cherished dream of changing the UK voting system dashed, when the AV referendum resulted in a resounding "no" from the electorate.

Mr Clegg acknowledged the party had been "vilified" by both the left and the right and paid tribute to members' "resilience" and "grace under fire".

The party's "character" had been tested, he said, but it had "come out fighting" on the NHS, on protecting human rights and "fighting for every family".

'Stopping bad things'

He said the decision to support the rise in university tuition fees was "the most heart-wrenching for me".

But he said Lib Dem ministers were making a difference, on banking reform, green jobs and easing the tax burden on the lower paid.

The party had been right to challenge NHS changes, he said, adding the Human Rights Act was "here to stay" - the Conservatives had pledged to axe when they were in opposition.

Mr Clegg told party members that being in government was not just about "stopping bad things, but doing good things".

He announced a £50m summer school scheme, to help children who need it catch up in the maths and English before going to secondary school.

For Labour, shadow education secretary Andy Burnham said: "People will not be fooled by Nick Clegg's rewriting of history and desperate self-justification. His actions speak for themselves."

He added: "He and his Lib Dem ministers have sacrificed their liberal tradition for personal ambition. They share the responsibility for stalling the recovery and damaging the life chances of the next generation."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 975.

    There is so much unfairness with this Government. If you're going to cut then the cuts must be done in equal proportion. No ring fencing. I'm not saying that if we're going to go down as a sinking ship then we all go together. I think that why should people on low incomes pay zero tax. Why not something, every little bit for the cause. and giving away of tax payers money to foreign aid is crazy

  • rate this

    Comment number 974.

    No turning back on the economy?

    Looks like there's no turning forward either. Not even enough sand to stick one's head in....

  • rate this

    Comment number 973.

    Maybe Total, but can you imagine some contributors ? They would pontificate ad nauseum because they know best"

    The HYS between 2010 and early this year did give unrestricted posts, but you could at least enlarge on a point sufficiently that others could not take the absence of criticism of someone or something as condoning or agreeing with that someone or something.

  • Comment number 972.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 971.

    937.mrwobbles = The Government's cuts were based on growth forecasts that have been shown to be optimistic.
    I think you`ll find that they have been shown to be totally unrealistic our economy is imploding and Clegg is in it up to his lying neck.

  • rate this

    Comment number 970.

    @961: Spirit-of-56
    Your comparison is flawed on account of the two systems of healthcare not being equatable. If I took my National Insurance contributions and put it into private healthcare, I would not still be waiting after 18 months for treatment for a long term back condition, wouldn't wait 18 weeks every time I get referred to a new deparment, and wouldn't be waiting 4 months for a dentist

  • rate this

    Comment number 969.

    No turning back on economy.. I presume then he agrees with the proposed move to stop benefits for the terminally ill.

    What a nice man.

  • rate this

    Comment number 968.

    "Quantative Easing is a figment of my socialist imagination then eh?"

    No. It just came from the central bank, not the banks you refer to, which is what makes you wrong. Any old bank can't create money out of nowhere, and this was not a contributing factor to recession, as was your implication.

    You are very mixed up on the issues.

    Money that wasn't there - again, hilarious

  • rate this

    Comment number 967.

    maxrev17, yes, this is a democracy and yet not one person got what they voted for in the last general election did they!!
    We are a country where the people are lucky enough to have a voice, so let the people speak, run another election and let's see where we go from there.
    We borrowed more in August this year than August last year! Current policy and ideas need a re-think then I would suggest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 966.

    VERITY: You haven't responded to my response about the NHS.
    If you're going to make a statement about what happens within the sector i work in, then please do back it up.

    I've poured **** all over your fire. Talk to me about how sick pay works in the NHS? Im intrigued to know what your thoughts are seeing as i have pretty decent knowledge of it.

    Think before you speak.

  • rate this

    Comment number 965.

    the banks are hopelessly under capitalised, one or two medium sized events will wipe them out, they cannot lend and will not lend at reasonable rates, they are are starving the economy to save themselves. In this situation 5 billion of capital spending will do nothing.

    Until this situation is resolved the the uk, us and europe are paralysed and a critical point is approaching

  • rate this

    Comment number 964.

    The problem with cuts, and Tory make this mistake all the time... is that you can't cut public services AND the police, as less money in public services will mean greater civil unrest, which means more crime and potentially riots e.g. London had insufficient police officers on the field, and Cameron still wanted to cut budget.

  • rate this

    Comment number 963.

    We don't own the markets as they are global markets and we can't shut them all down!

  • rate this

    Comment number 962.

    "Burying your head in the sand, that's not liberal," he said. "Saddling our children with the nation's debt, that's not fair."
    This is true, I respect this great idea which could come out. But another truth, which couldn't come out is someone can't feed their children without debt. Is that fair to let them die?

  • rate this

    Comment number 961.

    911 Tombleson
    Everyone wants the talented in the NHS rewarded and the sick notes, bone idle and reckless dealt with. As you appear to be failing in this maybe a change of approach is needed.
    One important point on the NHS admin charges and drug costs are lower than the US private system and overall outcomes are better, check average lifespans in the respective countries!

  • rate this

    Comment number 960.

    So The Gambler. Quantative Easing is a figment of my socialist imagination then eh? The banks did try to create money that wasn't there, and they tried to sell it to the world, and when it went belly up, they knew full well that WE, the people, would have to find the money that they had created. Yes, it's all a big con for you lot to get richer and richer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 959.

    I have always held staunch conservative beliefs and it is unlikely that I would ever vote for the Lib Dems. But I have to say that I have nothing but admiration for Clegg & Co forming a coalition with the Tories to sort out the disaster created by Labour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 958.

    920.stan howard wrote:

    john prescott put a stop to maritime disaster and accident cover ups, he found the answers because he cared. so dont put him down, he got something done.


    Yes, he wasted £500 million on regional fire centres.

  • rate this

    Comment number 957.

    "I have no debt"

    The country's debt, dear. How about you use something more profound than a soundbite about money vs people, and realise that without certain people, there's no money, and then no money hits a different set of people?

    As I said: simplistic, naive, vacuous claptrap.

  • rate this

    Comment number 956.

    As the economy shrinks, more people are unemployed, government revenue from tax and NI shrinks, welfare payments increase.
    Unless the coalition is prepared to stop or reduce welfare payments, they have to borrow the money to pay for it.
    Targeted spending on necessary infrastructure, creates jobs, increased government revenues, stimulates growth.


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