It’s now twelve months since I became leader of the Liberal Democrats. More than ever it’s clear to me that people in Britain desperately want something different. They are looking for hope, and for change.
It’s no real surprise. Households across the country are facing a tight Christmas and a difficult New Year. It looks like 200 families are going to lose their homes every day in 2009, and a million could lose their jobs.
But the Government still isn’t listening. Labour is forcing us deeper into their downturn, refusing to take responsibility for the mess they have got us in. “Responsibility” is also the new catchphrase for the Conservatives. “Being responsible” is the new “do nothing”.
While energy bills continue to rocket, while private debt continues to spiral, and while more and more small businesses close, the other two parties are back in their corners. Political point scoring is at an all time high. Punch and Judy have put their gloves back on.
I have never tried to hide my despair of Westminster. People in this country are governed by processes that feel totally alien to their lives; by the puerile and archaic pantomime that so often dictates the Commons; by a system that keeps power hoarded up in Whitehall.
Our politics is broken. It isn’t just our economy that’s in tatters, or as the Prime Minister would insist, the global economy that’s the problem. And the source of our woes isn’t that our society is bust - a Conservative mantra I find particularly grating. This country is full of people who support those around them and who care about the communities they live in.
It’s true that we need to reach out to the groups and individuals who are being left behind, and who feel alienated as a result. And it’s true that we now need to rebuild our economy. But we won’t manage either until we overhaul the way we do politics.
That means radically decentralising power, taking the price tag off power, and giving people much more control over their own lives.
A new politics is central to a better future, and to bringing about lasting, positive change. That future rests on investing in a new, green economy; it rests on overhauling childcare and targeting funding to the most disadvantaged children, so that every child has the best start in life.
And it rests on helping families through the difficult days ahead by putting more of their money back in their pockets. That’s why my party have plans to cut taxes for people on low and middle incomes, paid for by closing the loopholes enjoyed by big companies and making the wealthy pay their fair share.
The only way we are going build a fairer, more robust Britain, is through doing things differently. That’s the Liberal Democrat agenda. And that’s what will be keeping me busy for the next twelve months.