The next five days will be marked by the informed and intelligent debate that characterises the way that Liberal Democrats do politics.
Because of our commitment to freedom, openness and tolerance we are the only party that uses its conference to let the members decide the policies. The debate isn’t confined to the conference hall. It starts over breakfast and – as anyone who has ever visited the conference hotel bar will know – goes on well into the night. You hear it in the streets and up and down the beach, and at fringe events on subjects that range from care to conflict to carbon. I’m proud to be the leader of a party that takes its conference seriously and trusts its members
Real families are worried about the struggles they are facing every day: putting petrol in their cars, heating their homes, and meeting their mortgage payments each month. This needs to be central to today’s political debates. Make no mistake – it will be at the heart of our conference this week.
We’ll be laying out our plans to ease the burden faced by people across the country, and our strategy to navigate the hard times that are upon us. Making sure that people keep more of the money they have earned in their pockets doesn’t just help them survive the downturn, but it also means that they can spend it elsewhere in the economy, helping to stop it grinding to a total halt.
That’s why we will be focusing on cutting taxes for people on low and middle incomes. We have plans to bring down rocketing fuel bills by insulating thousands of homes, installing smart meters and implementing more affordable tariffs. It’s why we are prioritising eradicating pensioner poverty, and it’s why we will make the UK a leader in green technologies to boost the economy and create new jobs.
Housing will also be at the top of our agenda and we will be setting out our policies to keep people in their homes. That includes action to change the rules to make repossession the last option for lenders. Otherwise thousands of families risk ending up on the streets.
It’s going to be a busy week. We’ll be setting out our truly liberal vision: one that is progressive, green, internationalist, anti-establishment and committed to defending liberty and giving people greater control over their lives.
That vision will be underpinned with detail. When you’re a Liberal Democrat warm words just don’t do. Conference for us is about policy. Policies to reform the DNA database to protect individual’s privacy; policies for earlier treatment for mental health patients; policies to scrap identity cards and use the money to put 10,000 more police on the beat; policies to transform public transport to create a zero-carbon Britain.
The Liberal Democrats are the only party with a blueprint for a Britain that is fair and free. We understand the hardship facing by real people right now, and over the next week we’ll show that only we can deliver the solutions they need.