Nick Clegg’s New Year message on You Tube

Nick Clegg has delivered a confident New Year message which encapsulates a coherent Liberal Democrat message. It is on You Tube – click above to see it. The text is below. It is interesting that his message includes a mention of TV advertising aimed at kids. This was the thing that Nick mentioned when asked by Alex Wilcock (during the leadership campaign – at the bloggers‘ interview) for one thing which he would ban.

2008 will be a momentous year for the Liberal Democrats.

We have before us an unparalleled opportunity. We must reach beyond the stale two-party system to the millions of people who share our liberal values, and change Britain for the better. Let us show what that means in the local elections that face us this spring.

Putting British families back in control of their everyday lives will be at the heart of everything we stand for.

In control of their time, not fighting to make space for family life between the demands of work and the burden of bills.

In control of what their children are exposed to on TV, not constantly struggling to protect toddlers from the pressure of advertising.

In control of their own privacy, not forced to submit personal information to a massive government identity database.

Giving power and responsibility to families – of every shape and size, of every background – is the only way to make sure everyone has a fair chance in life.

I will not tolerate a country in which the poorest people die 13 years sooner than the richest, lone parent families are twice as likely to get attacked or burgled, and the poorest pupils are twice as likely to fail their GCSEs.

I believe no-one should be condemned by the circumstances of their birth. And I am certain that is what the British people believe, too. We are a nation with a strong sense of fair play, and natural justice.

The challenge for our party is to persuade those people that their home is with the Liberal Democrats. We will do it by putting social mobility – a fair deal for every family – at the heart of our message.

That means investment in education, so every child gets the best start in life. I will campaign relentlessly for a “pupil premium” to bring spending for the poorest children up to private school levels.

It also means cutting taxes for low and income families, and reforming tax credits so that no family is ever again plunged into debt by crippling repayments enforced by an incompetent government.

We all know the Conservatives don’t have the answers. They would block opportunity, not promote it.

They talk about social justice, but want to return to a Victorian-style voluntary system. They talk about families, but only want to help married couples. They talk about tax cuts, but don’t say where they’ll find the money.

The Liberal Democrats are different. Under my leadership, we will campaign for opportunity for everyone, with people, families, and communities in control of their destinies.

So we will campaign for flexible working, shared parental leave, and flexible benefits for all families. We will campaign for sensible restrictions on advertising aimed at toddlers – my own children remember the adverts far more clearly than any of the programmes they watch. We have lost the virtue of cherishing innocence, as childhood becomes ever shorter.

Protecting very young children from unwanted commercial intrusion into their lives is part of the same instinct that seeks to protect adults from unwanted state intrusion into theirs.

So we should campaign tirelessly to stop the expensive, invasive and unnecessary Identity Cards scheme in its tracks.

The child benefit and learner drivers’ data loss scandals mean there is a looming crisis of public confidence in the government’s capacity to look after their personal information. So let 2008 be the year we bring down the Identity Cards scheme.

I urge you to join with me to make this happen: so we can truly give British families control over their own lives this year.

Together, we can make Britain the liberal country the British people want it to be.


Nick Clegg
Leader, Liberal Democrats

Iowa: Edwards has the "mo", while Huckabee bombs

The latest poll in Iowa shows the three leading Democrat Presidential candidates – Edwards (who has the “mo” currently), Clinton and Obama – in a dead heat.

For the Republicans, Romney is out front and Huckabee has bombed a bit.

It’s great fun watching all this. Nothing seems to be for certain – they’re all flipping up and down all over the place.

Diddlysquat – Labour’s achievements on UK electoral reform after ten years

Nicholas Watt in the Observer reports that Gordon Brown has responded positively to Nick Clegg’s proposal for a constitutional convention. But we’ve been here before:

The Liberal Democrats will be encouraged next month when the government publishes a paper on electoral reform, likely to be a key Lib Dem demand if Clegg holds the balance of power in a hung Parliament after the next general election.The paper will outline the pros and cons of the current first-past-the-post system for Westminster elections and the various alternatives.

Come off it! The Jenkins commission produced the “paper” to end all papers on electoral reform, but Labour did diddlysquat about it.

And, oh, look who will be handling the announcement of said “paper”. Step forward Jack “Boot” Straw, Putting him in charge of electoral reform is like having Joseph Mengele in charge of a maternity unit.

Jenkins and his "azalea" repeats

Is Stephen Tall writing for Jasper Gerard. Last week, Stephen pointed out that Simon Jenkins spouts out Liberal Democrat policies for months but then, rather inexplicably, lays into Nick Clegg. Today Jasper Gerard makes the same point with some venom. He compares Jenkins to a gardening correspondent:

In my editing days on another newspaper, I discovered that the gardening columnist filed exactly the same piece on a given week as he had the year before and the year before that. The second week of June? Ah, prune your azaleas. Third week of January? Haste to the potting shed.

I enjoy a similar glow of familiarity whenever I read an article by Simon Jenkins on the Liberal Democrats. So last week, he dismissed Nick Clegg, their new leader, much as he had dismissed Ming Campbell and, for all anyone can remember, Archibald Sinclair and Lloyd George. Being a classier scribe than the gardening correspondent, Jenkins at least changes some names and explains why in this particular week he is, reluctantly, turning his withering gaze on the party.

Nick Clegg appeals for co-operation to fix "Britain’s broken political system"

Nick Clegg has appealed for co-operation from Gordon Brown and David Cameron to fix “Britain’s political system”:

Our system of government is the stage on which the battle of political ideas takes place. That system must be fair, accessible and strong. In its present state, I do not know a single person who would use those words to describe it. Members of Britain’s political establishment need to ask themselves why voter turnout has fallen so far and so fast, why mass membership of political parties is becoming a thing of the past, and why people feel not just that the political system is rotten but that it operates in a way that prevents them from changing it.

Nick describes our political system as the “most centralised, ossified and unresponsive system of government in Europe today”.

Nick makes a heartfelt plea:

So, if Gordon Brown and David Cameron are serious when they say that they want to cooperate, here is the litmus test. They should join the Liberal Democrats in establishing an independent British Constitutional Convention that would bring together representatives from all political parties and from every corner of British society. Its remit would be the construction of a consensus on the reforms needed to reopen the political system and revitalise public trust.

There is nothing new in the proposal for a constitutional convention. Ming often suggested it, mainly based on his experience of the Scottish convention. But Nick Clegg has very attractively packaged this proposal and coupled it with a real challenge to the other party leaders:

So here’s my invitation for David and Gordon: join me in forging a new consensus on the future of British government. No gimmicks, no gestures – just hard work and real action. Are you ready?

Well done Nick Clegg! Let’s hope something gets moving as a result of this initiative!

Disturbing events in Kenya

After a glimmer of hope, events have taken a disturbing turn in Kenya, as highlighted by Lord Steel:

This afternoon with 21 seats still to be declared the Commission was giving the lead to Raila Odinga by 4.3 million to President Kibaki’s 4 million. Later these figures changed to 3.8 million each – giving Mr Odinga a lead of under 40,000 votes with no other constituencies announced. “Mr Odinga has been clearly ahead throughout the two days of counting until now.

Northern Rock – inflation anyone?

A long time ago, when I had hair and my student grant was sufficient to fund a sumptuous lifestyle in the Union Bar, I dabbled in a bit of economics. I vaguely remember something about M1 and M2, and the increase of the money supply causing inflation.

So I did wonder if injecting an extra £25 billion (or is it £50 billion?) into the “money supply” via Northern Rock might not do an awful lot of good for the inflation rate.

It is nice to finally find someone in print speculating on the same subject. Simon Hoggart in his Diary today says, while commenting on the police pay situation:

As for inflationary pressure, what on earth is Northern Rock going to create?

Mind you, presumably £25 billion is peanuts in the scheme of things (e.g government expenditure of £600 billion-odd annually).

I welcome input from someone who knows what they are talking about on this subject. There usually seems to be someone with a PhD in most subjects floating around.

US Presidential race: Ron Paul ahead with British internet searchers

It’s worth buying the print version of the Guardian today to see the centre spread on “The world according to Google”, which is illustrated by some fascinating graphs. The accompanying article is available here and links to some of the graphs on Google’s own website.

It is interesting that Ron Paul (above) is winning the US Presidential race, according to Google searches in Britain. In December he got about three times as many search hits as all the main Democratic candidates put together. I also notice that Mr Paul has done very well on the Newsvine presidential poll in my right-hand sidebar.