Nick Clegg says there would have been “no recovery” without the Liberal Democrats, as he lambasts the main political parties at the Liberal Democrat spring conference.
He told party members: “There is still a long way to go and many people are still feeling the squeeze. But after a period of grave uncertainty, the British people can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“I hope that makes each and every one of you feel proud: there would be no recovery without the Liberal Democrats.
Don’t let anyone airbrush out our role. Nick Clegg
“No recovery if we hadn’t decided to enter into coalition in order to provide the country with strong government. No recovery if we hadn’t held our nerve and stuck to the plan.
“No recovery if we had allowed the coalition’s economic strategy to be solely about cuts.
“Sorting out the nation’s finances is essential but equally as important is investing in the foundations of lasting growth.”
Mr Clegg added: “Don’t let anyone airbrush out our role.”
Mr Clegg said that the Liberal Democrats must remain in government following the next general election in order to prevent Labour or the Conservatives dragging the country “backwards”.
An ungenerous, backwards looking politics has emerged in Britain. Nick Clegg
“Whichever way you look at it, left or right, if either of them get into government on their own, they will drag Britain in the same direction: backwards,” he said.
The deputy prime minister’s ire was not reserved solely for the two leading political parties, however, as he accused Ukip, which looks to be his party’s main rival at the next election, of intolerance.
Though he did name Nigel Farage of Ukip specifically, Mr Clegg said: “An ungenerous, backwards looking politics has emerged in Britain.
“The politics of blame has found an acceptable face: it wears a big smile and looks like someone you could have a pint with down the pub.
“So I’m drawing a line in the sand. I am going to defend the tolerant and modern Britain we love, and I am going to start by showing people what’s at stake at the upcoming European elections: do you want Britain in Europe, or out?”
Mr Clegg started his speech by listing what he “loves” about Britain.
His list included insomniacs listening to the shipping forecast, even if they are miles from the sea, the fact that “every problem can be solved with the same solution… tea” and as soon as they sun comes out Britons are out in their shorts, even when it is “obviously still really cold”.
He also listed more serious reasons, including that Britain is a place where you can be gay and married and that Britain doesn’t “look the other way” when there is trouble in the world.