UK Politics

Nick Clegg 'irrelevance' warning to Lib Dem activists

Liberal Democrats risk a "slow decline" and "irrelevance" if they do not act like a party of government, Nick Clegg has warned activists.

The party's leader said its 2015 election manifesto would be a "to-do list, not a flight-of-fancy".

He pointed to his 2010 promise to oppose increasing tuition fees, saying it was a "mistake" he will not repeat.

Mr Clegg was setting out how he plans to approach the next election at his party's local government conference.

The Lib Dems were at a "very real fork in the road", he said, and must choose between their position in power or the "comfort blanket of opposition".

He said the party had "taken a hit" as a result of going into coalition with the Conservatives.

But he added: "If we try and turn back the clock, hankering for the comfort blanket of national opposition, seeking to airbrush out the difficult decisions we have had to take, we condemn our party to the worst possible fate - irrelevance, impotence, slow decline."

'Sacrosanct' policies

He said the party needed to be clearer going into the general election about which of his party's policies were promises and which merely aspirations.

The speech comes ahead of the government's spending review on Wednesday when the chancellor will spell out details of the latest round of budget cuts.

Most government departments are facing cuts of between 8% and 10% although the NHS, schools in England and international aid are protected, and the military equipment budget is set for a small increase.

The Lib Dem leader said his party must be prepared to make clear what policies it regarded as sacrosanct in negotiations with another party in the event of another hung Parliament.

"That doesn't mean pre-negotiating our manifesto - producing a bland, generic set of plans we know either of the other parties could sign up to," he said.

"Far from it. We can and must fight the next election on a platform of distinct, forward-looking, liberal policies."

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