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 1015.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, as a household, you can only spend what you earn. The Tories and Lib Dems acknowledge this, Labour do not. I still can't fathom how labour were to spend their way out of debt and I hope to never find out! Don't forget, we are not aiming to reduce the colossal debt inherited from Labour yet, just shut the gap between earnings and expenditure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1014.

    987.Dr Mark Kennedy
    "Intelligent people change their behaviour when circumstances change- it is not a failure to react to changing circumstances by changing policy."

    Could you mention that to those calling for investment? I believe public spending created the deficit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1013.

    He will not feel the long hard road . three months hols a year south of France . Italy . that's the way to suffer a recession

  • rate this

    Comment number 1012.

    Labour's policy was to increase fiscal policy by adding as many layers to the public sector workforce as they could; we call this bureaucrac

    The more people you have who work, no matter what they're doing, the more they pay tax, and the less they claim benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1011.

    I just dont know how an unelected government can get away with what they are doing to this country,i understand the rich voting for this bunch of scum but dont understand how ordinary every day working class people could have helped put this lot in power. We the British people must get this lot out as soon as possable before they wreck this country for good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1010.


    Oh I've been in financial predicaments, as have many. That doesn't mean it's a legitimate solution to bring down everyone else. Jobseekers allowance, for example - who do you think pays for that? The same people you demand more money from. You already have something you have no right to, but is a privilege of our society, yet you want to stamp on the hand that provides it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1009.

    Is that a pledge Nick?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1008.

    I can honestly say that despite the slating he may get over tuition fees I really think that being in a coalition government has strengthened Nick Clegg and the LibDems. It shows true leadership to do things that have to be done, and although people wont admit it, the Lib Dems have acheived a lot albieit in the background. Manifesto promises actually followed through - that makes a change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1007.

    " to sort out the disaster created by Labour."

    So, if Labour created the last recession and debt, and it had nothing to do with the US economy, Eurozone debt, banking, surely the Conservatives are going to be responsible for anything that happens over the next 5 years?

    I suspect, they'll probably blame the global economy don't you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1006.

    I can't stop laughing... Like being in the TARDIS form last year? Small beer from a sold out party Baked Beans 57! Vince the some old story about banks year in year out year in year out. Yawn...Nick who - Paints down & Wee dram anybody?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1005.

    Before you can come up with a solution you have to understand the problem. The reason none of these proposals will work is because no one dare admit what the problem is,

  • Comment number 1004.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1003.

    ". 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."

    As a tory, you have nothing but admiration for the fact that Clegg has shifted to the right, forgot his principles, to prop up a Conservative government that only has 33% of the electorate.

    I'm not that surprised. Grateful even!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1002.

    The_Gambler - post 957
    I understood you perfectly, the first time. I just hope for your sake, you do not find yourself in a financial predicament, be it self inflicted or not. You are right, I probably am naive and even idealistic, but I prefer helping my fellow man/woman, to kicking them when they are down.
    Tombleson - post 966
    Stop shouting and then I'll post of public sector experience.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1001.

    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"

    But in the UK there is a long list of things private healthcare doesn't pay for such as A&E, 24 hr ambulance cover, geriatric, psychiatric, chronic care etc etc. Try getting all that for the 2k each/y the NHS costs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1000.

    Good analysis, not scathing enough - all 3 of the parties have no idea how to run the proverbial in a brewery never mind a country. Yet the British electorate has only itself to blame, until it educates itself to the real facts and starts to elect people that have a clue this country is doomed to continued failure at all levels.

  • rate this

    Comment number 999.

    Another pointless political speech containing no substance just soundbites and platitudes. Why is this news?

  • rate this

    Comment number 998.

    The Lib Dems Conference, A sad virtual big top of unbelievable ego, spin, waffle and smoke and mirrors. Roll up, roll up see the incredible spineless men! Clegg, Huhne and Cable have said absolutely nothing of any note during the conference and are now a doomed discredited party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 997.

    Long hard road to what?
    He is joking, with the policies of Labour, Conservative and Libdem the only road this country is heading down is one to more and more economic calamity for 99.9999% of the population and massive bonuses and payouts for the tiny minority of CEO's, bankers and politicians

  • rate this

    Comment number 996.

    Rebecca Riot
    3 Hours ago
    This Tory Government siezed power on a no thankyou we don't want any of you, thank you very much, vote by the electorate. It was a non election if you had not noticed.

    Presumably you wouldn't have been so dismissive of democracy if Labour had joined with the Lib Dems to form a Government - even though even less people would have voted for Labour policies.


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