In his keynote speech to the Lib Dem spring conference in Brighton, the Deputy Prime Minister turned his fire on Theresa May, the Home Secretary, after she pledged yesterday to scrap the Human Rights Act and said that pulling Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights is “on the table.” Mr Clegg replied: “I tell you, it won’t be on the Cabinet table so long as I’m sitting round it.” He warned that “the Conservatives would actively take away rights enjoyed by British citizens just to appease their backbenchers.”

The Lib Dem leader insisted that he agreed with Mr Cable, the Business Secretary, for the need for a boost to infrastructure spending and  for flexibility in tackling the deficit. But he pointedly did not endorse Mr Cable’s call for £14bn of extra borrowing to kickstart the economy, saying: “There are no cost-free, risk-free ways of finding such huge sums of money.”

Mr Clegg declared: “Countries around the world face the same, hard truth: We must all pay the piper in the end. I want to make one thing clear: We will not flinch on the deficit. But to be unflinching is not to be unthinking. And the idea that the choice is between a cruel and unbending Plan A and a mythical plan B is simply not the case.”

Amid the internal Lib Dem tensions over the Government’s economic strategy, Mr Clegg issued a plea for  party unity. He told delegates: “No one will know what we stand for unless we stand together. As our opponents argue among themselves and turn inwards it is even more important that we build on – rather than squander – the magnificent resolve and unity we have shown over the last three years. That unity is what our enemies most fear. That unity should make us proud.”

The Lib Dem leader argued that his party is on a journey from being one of protest to one of power. He struck an upbeat note following his party’s victory in the Eastleigh by-election. He said: “The odds were stacked against us. A fierce campaign, under a national spotlight, dogged by difficult headlines from day one. Extraordinary circumstances. Yet we still won. We beat the Tories. We squeezed Labour… We won.”

 Mr Clegg went on: “For the first time in a generation we could campaign on our record of local delivery and our record of national delivery too. We didn’t win in Eastleigh in spite of being in power. We won in Eastleigh because we’re in power locally and nationally.It’s important that everyone in this room knows that.”

The Lib Dem leader said: “There is a myth that governing together, in coalition, diminishes the ability of the smaller party to beat the bigger party. The idea that, in Tory facing seats the Liberal Democrats will find it impossible to distinguish our record, our values, from theirs. But that myth has been utterly confounded. The opposite is true. The longer you stand side-by-side with your opponents, the easier your differences are to see. We don’t lose our identity by governing with the Conservatives. The comparison helps the British people understand who we are.”

Rehearsing the Lib Dems’ key message for the 2015 election, Mr Clegg said Labour could not be trusted on the economy while the Tories could not be trusted to create a fair society. He said: “We are the party that shares the country’s priorities: Fair taxes; better schools; jobs. The only party that will deliver a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling every one to get on in life.”

He concluded by saying that, after telling his party for three years to remain steady under fire, he now had a different message for it after Eastleigh: “Win. Get back out there. Tell our side of the story. And we will win again.”

Nick Clegg slaps down Vince Cable’s call for higher borrowing as he issues call … – The Independent
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