LABOUR are a party of “no ideas, no leadership and no shame”, according to Nick Clegg, as the under-fire Lib Dem leader went on the offensive at the party’s Spring Conference.
Mr Clegg chose to attack the former Government for much of his speech at the opening rally, accusing the opposition of hiding where it would make public spending cuts.
He admitted the Government has had to take “tough decisions”, but was adamant they were necessary to try to resolve the economic crisis.
“And while we are taking the tough decisions to clear up the mess Labour made of our country, they are offering nothing,” he said. “They act like the last 13 years didn’t happen.
“They have gone from being the party of government to the party of no.
“No ideas, no leadership and no shame. No regrets, no apologies and no answers.”
Mr Clegg also attacked Labour on the issue that has caused considerable unease among his own party – the increase in tuition fees.
“Labour oppose cuts when their own plans would mean £14bn of cuts starting next month,” he said. “They haven’t got the decency to tell people where the axe will fall.
“They just won’t come clean, and they won’t come clean on tuition fees either.
“I know how difficult this issue has been for all of us in this party. We didn’t win the election and with two other parties determined to raise fees, we couldn’t deliver our preferred policy.
“But while we have wrestled with our conscience over this – Labour have shown themselves to have no conscience at all. They are the party who introduced fees in the first place. But now they pretend they’d ride to the rescue with a graduate tax when everyone knows that’s effectively what we’ve introduced.”
The Sheffield Hallam MP also pointed to the work of the Lib Dem led Sheffield City Council as an example of how the cities in the North could drive the economy forward.
“Cities like Sheffield will be at the heart of our economic recovery. It will take time and it won’t be easy, but we are building a new economy from the rubble of the old.
“It is places like Sheffield and South Yorkshire where we will make it happen.”
Mr Clegg’s speech finished to a standing ovation but the atmosphere was relatively flat. Earlier a rousing speech by party president Tim Farron, the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, was greeted by several minutes of sustained applause and cheering.
Mr Farron said he was very much part of a “party of the Left” and railed against the policies of Margaret Thatcher’s Government in the 1980s. He urged success in the campaign for a change to the voting system.