10 Mar 2013

Nick Clegg: Tories are like a ‘broken shopping trolley’

Nick Clegg tells the Lib Dem Spring Conference that the option to pull UK out of the European Convention on Human Rights “won’t be on the cabinet table so long as I’m sitting round it”.

In a speech to the Brighton event, he attacked his cabinet colleagues the Conservatives for “mixed messages” and Labour for its economic record.

His defence of the convention was greeted by warm applause from delegates. They follow Home Secretary Theresa May’s remarks yesterday that the option of leaving the convention should remain “on the table”.

He accused the Conservatives of considering the option of “actively take away rights enjoyed by British citizens just to appease their backbenchers”.

Broken shopping trolley

Mr Clegg described the Conservatives as “like a kind of a broken shopping trolley. Every time you try and push them straight ahead they kind of veer off to the right hand side.”

He said pulling the UK out of the Convention was something only one other European country has done – Belarus.

That’s not a lurch to the right, that’s a swerve all the way towards Minsk Nick Clegg

“That’s not a lurch to the right, that’s a swerve all the way towards Minsk.”

Mr Clegg promised to the conference that his party would protect the government agenda from a rightward lurch.

“Make no mistake, no matter what the issue: safeguarding the NHS, creating green jobs, stopping profit-making in schools, preventing a return to two tier O-Levels, the Liberal Democrats will keep the coalition firmly anchored in the centre ground.”

Leadership defeat

In his closing remarks, Clegg urged his party to get back out there and “tell our side of the story”.

Mr Clegg’s speech follows a defeat for party leadership after Liberal Democrat activists overwhelmingly rejected so-called secret courts legislation.

The party’s spring conference ordered their MPs and peers to oppose the plans, saying they were contrary to “core” Lib Dem values.

Lawyer Jo Shaw announced in the hall that she was resigning her membership in protest – joining human rights barrister Dinah Rose QC.

The Justice and Security Bill was given its third reading in the Commons last week, despite a rebellion from some Tories and Lib Dem MPs and continuing opposition from civil rights campaigners.