Danny Alexander's speech to the Lib Dem spring conference 2010
Danny Alexander, 13/03/2010
Conference “ I have been working on this manifesto for nearly a year now. Since then, my wife has become pregnant with our second child.
I wouldn“t draw this comparison with her, but I can tell you that working on a manifesto has some similarities: my hopes, my ambitions for how things will change once it comes out. The sleepless nights.
But with the due date for our baby at the end of May, I hope to get the manifesto out before then!
This election is a huge opportunity for the Liberal Democrats.
Your hard work, your dedication to our Party and your ceaseless activity to get the Lib Dem word out, means we are poised to make gains across the land. I hope our hard work on the manifesto will help you to close the deal.
Two ideas will dominate this election campaign: change and fairness. Only one party is arguing at this election for both fairness and change: the Liberal Democrats.
Change: because business as usual is not the answer to the economic, political, and environmental crises that we face.
Fairness: because too many people in our society are still held back because of the circumstances of their birth, their sex or their parent“s bank balance.
The dreadful crises we have faced give us the chance to reshape our country.
We believe that change must be built around that one simple, powerful, and very British value: fairness.
Unlike Gordon Brown “ and despite my red hair “ I am not known for my bad language. But fairness is not the only “F word“ I am going to use today.
It sometimes helps to be able to sum up the other parties in a single word, so let me do it for you.
What is the “F“ word for Labour: I say it is F for failed.
And what is the “F“ word for the Conservatives: I say it is F for fake.
Failed “?“?. Fake “?“?. Nothing could contrast more with what we want for the future
The core of the Liberal Democrat manifesto will be short, direct and to the point.
We have stripped away everything that is not essential because the country cannot afford it.
And we have set out in detail “ more directly than any other party “ how we will tackle the crisis in our nation“s finances.
We won“t make a single promise to the British people without saying exactly how we will pay for it.
We have taken some difficult decisions. I know it is not easy to put on hold some long-standing party commitments that we won“t be able to deliver in the next Parliament.
But it is the right thing to do “ because we will not make promises we can“t keep.
But what we can promise is four big steps to a fairer Britain.
But four big changes “ more significant than anything Labour or the Tories will offer - to reshape the country we live in.
A new, fair start for all children at school.
A rebalanced, green economy.
And clean, open politics.
These four pledges are the main subjects of our debates this weekend so let me say something about each.
Fair taxes first. Thanks to Labour and the Tories, the poorest people lose more of their income in tax than the richest. That“s not fairness.
A banker pays only a fifth of his capital gains in tax, while the person who cleans his office gives a third of their meagre wage to the taxman. That“s not fairness.
Our plan is simple: we will make the first £10,000 you earn tax free.
I believe this is the single most radical, distinctive, and fair policy on offer from any party at this election.
That will put £700 into the pockets of almost every working person. £1400 for the average family with two earners.
Real money back in the pockets of people who are struggling to make ends meet.
Over 3 million more of the lowest paid people will pay no income tax at all. That“s fairness.
Every week in the Highlands, I meet families who are facing real financial difficulties. Income falling, bills to pay, children to feed and clothe.
They see all the money going to the banks, hear all the talk of cuts, and ask “who is standing up for me?“
The answer is the Liberal Democrats.
We“ll pay for it by closing loopholes exploited by the wealthy.
Yes, Lord Ashcroft, that does mean you as well. It“s time to stop thinking you can pass laws, buy seats, but not pay our taxes.
I“m not saying that Lord Ashcroft uses his money to buy influence “ but he has had Christmas Number 1 in Belize for the last 15 years in a row.
We will tax capital gains the same as income. End higher rate relief on pension contributions. A new mansion tax paid on the value of homes over £2 million, and fair taxes on polluting air travel.
It is only the Liberal Democrats who are brave enough to tell some of the wealthiest people in the land that “ at a time when millions of families are struggling to get by - they will have to pay more.
The first £10,000 you earn, tax free. That“s fairness.
Second, a fair chance for all children.
Under Labour and the Tories in the UK, a child“s chances in life are more closely linked to their parent“s income than anywhere else in Europe. That“s not fairness.
Our plan will give every child the individual attention they need to reach their full potential.
We will cut class sizes to help every child do better.
We are the only party that will spend more on schools - targeted at the children who need the most help.
Head-teachers will be freed to spend that money on what they think will make the most difference. Whether it is smaller classes, more one-to-one tuition, or after school classes.
Even in the depths of the recession, we will find new money for education “ by scaling back tax credits to better off families “ because it is so important to the future of our country.
Third, a new, rebalanced economy.
Labour and the Tories have been so in thrall to the City, they ignored the rest of the economy and caused the longest recession on record. That“s not fairness.
The Liberal Democrats, with Vince Cable as chancellor, will break up the banks so that they can never again wreck the economy. And until the break up is complete, our new banking levy is the only credible proposal in British politics to make them pay for the guarantee we give them.
We will build a balanced, sustainable economy “ growth that lasts. In our first year in government, we will invest to create new jobs and boost the recovery.
And crucially, that investment will be green.
Labour and Conservatives ignored the environment and pushed nuclear energy, dirty coal, airport expansion. That“s not fairness for future generations.
By investing in new, low carbon industries we can keep people in work while we protect our planet too.
And, of course, we will repair the nation“s finances. This year, government is spending £178 billion more than it raises in tax. Even when the recovery gets fully underway, that gap is predicted to be £78 billion.
If we don“t close that gap over the next few years, our economy will be ruined. We will set out “ in detail “ our plans to guarantee that won“t happen.
Our measures include: the banking levy, scrapping the child trust fund, no like-for-like replacement of Trident, capping public sector pay rises, scrapping ID cards and biometric passports.
I could go on “ but I am sure Vince has much more to say on this later.
But I will add that it says something when the Financial Times thinks you“re the most credible party on reducing the deficit.
The Liberal Democrats have the best plan for fixing the economy. We are the best guarantee this country has of future financial stability.
Fourth, clean and decent politics.
Under Labour and the Tories, the broken political system has given government“s total power with a small minority of votes. That“s not fairness.
They have conspired to create a corrupt system of expenses, and then allow those who break the rules to hang on in office. That“s not fairness.
They have hovered up power from communities and councils to the centre. That“s not fairness.
Our plan will put power back where it belongs: with the people.
A fair voting system to end safe seats and ensure representative government;
Giving people the power to sack their MPs if they break the rules;
Power taken from Westminster and given to communities;
An end to big money in politics.
Reforming politics is essential to make the country fairer.
On top of these steps, our manifesto will also set out how a Liberal Democrat government will:
“ Protect the NHS frontline, using the health savings we find to safeguard services.
“ Immediately restore the link between pensions and earnings, so pensioners don“t fall further behind when growth returns.
“ Use the amount of money we would save by scrapping ID cards to put 3000 more police on the beat.
“ Cut desk jobs at the MOD so we can pay our brave service men and women a decent living wage.
Conference, I have known Nick Clegg for 15 years and have worked with him closely since he became our leader “ as his chief of staff and on this manifesto.
I can tell you that of the three party leaders, he is the best qualified of them all to be Prime Minister. He is plain-speaking, tells it as he sees it, and most importantly his politics is motivated by his deeply held belief that this country needs to be fairer. His leadership is what our country needs.
He has been clear from the start that these difficult times mean we must be clear about our priorities:
A fair start for all children.
A rebalanced, green economy.
And clean, open politics.
I want to be clear about one thing: those four steps are a unified package. They must be implemented together if we are to get the fairness we want in Britain. All for one, and one for all.
The more Liberal Democrat votes, the more Liberal Democrat MPs, the more power we will have to deliver our package for a fairer Britain.
The next election isn't between Brown and Cameron, much though they would both like to pretend that it is.
It's between the old way of doing politics and the real change represented by Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats.
I know we are ready to lead this country. In fact, I believe we are the only party with a clear plan that can lead the country out of the mess we are in.
If you want change, vote for the only Party that will bring about change. Change that works for you “ vote for the Liberal Democrats