20 Sep 2010

Clegg to defend coalition compromises

Nick Clegg is set to defend the coalition deal with the Conservatives to his party today at the Liberal Democrat conference, saying it is the “right government for right now”.

Nick Clegg to defend coalition compromises (Reuters)

In his keynote address at the Liberal Democrat party conference, the party’s leader Mr Clegg will say he made the right choice in striking a deal with David Cameron after the inconclusive general election.

At the party’s annual gathering, held this year in Liverpool, he will say: “Some say we shouldn’t have gone into government at a time when spending had to be cut.

“We should have let the Conservatives take the blame. Waited on the sidelines, ready to reap the political rewards. Maybe that’s what people expected from a party that has been in opposition for 65 years.

“People have got used to us being outsiders, against every government that’s come along. Maybe we got used to it ourselves.

“But the door to the change we want was opened, for the first time in most of our lifetimes. Imagine if we had turned away. How could we ever again have asked the voters to take us seriously?”


Liberal Democrat activists at the party conference have been expressing concerns over the coalition deal recently, as cracks have begun to appear.

Yesterday at the conference, Mr Clegg faced repeated questioning over the alliance with the Tories.

One Liberal Democrat member, Linda Jack, asked why the government cuts would “disproportionately affect the poorest”, and another, Jill Hope, asked why the Lib Dems are “being blamed for some of the cuts while the Conservatives are being praised for the policies we brought to the coalition.”

Mr Clegg responded: “What I think is taking some time is for the way that coalition politics is portrayed to catch up with the reality of coalition politics.”

Over the weekend, Mr Clegg announced a crowd-pleasing plan to crack down on tax cheats, but the rumblings of discontent continue.

Last week, Liberal Democrat cabinet minister Vince Cable openly criticised government policy on immigration.

Mr Clegg is set to reassure the party faithful today that the deal is “the right government for right now”.

“The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives are and always will be separate parties, with distinct histories and different futures,” he will say.

“But for this parliament we work together to fix the problems we face and put the country on a better path. This is the right government for right now.”

He will admit the years ahead “will not be easy”, and blame Labour for leaving the country in this state.

He will add: “But you do not get to choose the moment when the opportunity to shape your country comes your way. All you get to choose is what you do when it does.”