Wind farms and immigration: Clegg bids to regain trust

Nick Clegg during his address on day five of the Liberal Democrat conference
Nick Clegg during his address on day five of the Liberal Democrat conference
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NICK Clegg has urged voters to turn away from “the politics of fear” as he sought to regain trust ahead of the General Election.

The deputy prime minister has said he wants to “defeat the politics of blame” as he warned that anger and fear is on the rise across British politics, with everything from immigration to wind farms used to divide people.

Mr Clegg was speaking at the last party conference before the General Election, and with the party continuing to poll below 10%.

The Liberal Democrat leader set out how the party would back people who wanted an end to political tribalism, saying his party was the “only party refusing to trade in fear because we believe what the British people want desperately from their politics is hope.”

He added: “Life is so simple when you know who - or what - to blame.

“That much may even be proved tomorrow, if the people of Clacton give the UK Independence Party an MP.

“But resentment, the politics of fear, doesn’t pay the bills or create a single job.

“Claiming to address people’s acute anxiety about the modern world, it provides nothing but the false comfort of grievance.

“Dressed up as the politics of hope, it is in fact a counsel of despair.”

He added: “A growing pick-a-side politics, in a world of us-versus-them.

“Worried about your job? Your business? Your children’s future? Your way of life? No matter, just blame Europe, Brussels,foreigners, immigrants, the English,the South, professional politicians, Westminster, big business, anybody claiming benefits,even onshore wind farms.

“Life is so simple when you know who – or what – to blame. It’s seductive and it’s beguiling.”

Mr Clegg went on to set out the battle his party faced in trying to secure the income tax cuts the Lib Dems say the Tories are now seeking to claim credit for.

In a bitter attack on the Tories, Mr Clegg said: “The Conservatives couldn’t have been more explicit that it wasn’t their priority during our Budget negotiations where, year after year, it was frequently referred to as ‘your tax cut, Nick’.

“Apparently it’s our tax cut in private, but it’s their tax cut in public.

“I’ll never forget this – Danny and I said: let’s go further and faster to cut people’s income tax. It’s possible now, so why wait? George Osborne turned to me and said: I don’t want to deliver a Liberal Democrat Budget.

“He insisted instead on the Tory bit of the Budget: a cut to the top rate of tax.

“I can’t think of a better, simpler illustration of what sets the two coalition parties apart. The Tories insisting on tax cuts for the few; Lib Dems insisting on tax cuts for the many.”

He exposed more coalition arguments over the proposed mansion tax, telling the conference: “The Conservatives have even told us in the most explicit terms: you can’t have your Mansion tax because our donors won’t wear it.

“So proud are they of this act of brazen self-interest they even wrote to wealthy homeowners boasting about it – in the hope of courting more cash.”

Mr Clegg said he would distinguish his party from the Tories and Labour with commitments to “a fairer society”, telling delegates in Glasgow that the party showed this in its commitments to education, tax and mental health waiting time targets.

He said: “For me, that is what our new commitment to expanding childcare to all two, three and four year olds is all about.

“That is what our new commitment to healthy lunches for all primary school children is all about.

“That is what our new commitment to helping with the travel costs faced by all college students is all about.

“That is what our new commitment to a qualified teacher in every classroom is all about. That is what protecting funding from cradle to college – even as we clear the deficit – is all about”