Next year poses “many great challenges” for everyone in Britain, Nick Clegg has warned in a gloomy New Year message.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Sheffield Hallam MP said the UK had been “pulled back from the brink” but the “economic rescue mission” remained the Coalition’s number one priority.
In a video message to Liberal Democrat activists, he insisted the actions being taken as part of a power-sharing Government were “not easy” but were right.
And, in an attempt to rally the grassroots, he claimed it was the Lib Dems who had ensured the Government was helping people get through the tough times.
“When I recorded this message last year I spoke about how the most important job for Liberal Democrats was dealing with the economic problems we inherited,” Mr Clegg said.
“Twelve months on, that task remains the number one priority for our party and the Coalition.
“We have had to make some very difficult decisions, but they’ve been the right ones for the long-term good of our country. A country that was at risk of falling prey to the international markets has been pulled back from the brink.
“We only need to look at what is happening in countries on our European doorstep to see what we could have ended up dealing with in 2011.
“But that economic rescue mission is not over yet and there is much more we must do. That’s why, thanks to the Liberal Democrats, the Government has been helping people get through these difficult times with measures to make life fairer and easier.”
Mr Clegg pointed to a raft of Lib Dem policies aimed at helping the poorest, including lifting nearly a million low-paid workers out of paying income tax under changes to the personal allowance limit.
He said more than a million children have had a “fairer start in life” through extra support provided in schools under the Pupil Premium funding system alongside free early years education for toddlers.
The Coalition will continue to push forward with major schemes such as the world’s first Green Investment Bank, which will put millions into green jobs and growth, more apprenticeships than the country has had before and funding for struggling areas through the Regional Growth Fund.
The Lib Dem leader said: “Throughout, we have taken big long-term decisions that will change the way our economy works for the better - rebalancing our economy away from the City of London towards stronger, more sustainable growth. And next year we will do more.”
He added: “What we’re doing as a party, and as a Coalition, it’s not easy, but it’s right. We are putting the interests of the country first, and we have taken the first steps towards building a fairer, greener and more liberal country.
“We have worked flat out to restore confidence in the economy and started to transform Britain for the better. It’s an ambition of which we should be proud.
“There are no easy years when you are in government, and we have had to show real strength in 2011. The next year will be one that poses many great challenges for everyone in Britain, but I know we must continue to do what’s right for our country.”