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  1. Politics
21 September 2011

Nick Clegg’s conference speech – live blog

Minute-by-minute coverage of the Deputy Prime Minister's speech to the Liberal Democrat conference.

By George Eaton

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3:50 And that’s it. More analysis and comment on The Staggers soon.

3:49 Clegg concludes on a visionary, if rather saccharine, note: “Britain is our home. We will make it safe and strong. These are our children. We will tear down every barrier they face. And this is our future.”

3:48 Nearing the end, he calls for an end to Lib Dem masochism: “Never apologise for the difficult things we are having to do. We are serving a great country at a time of great need.” In other words, we’re stuck with Osborne’s deficit reduction plan.

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3:45 Clegg makes light of those resignation rumours: “By the time the two year-olds we help next year come to vote, I’ll be 60 – I might not even be leader! … Or at least that’s what I’ve told Miriam.”

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3:44 Turning to the riots, Clegg declares: “We have to push ahead with the Government’s rehabilitation revolution”. That will please the sixth Lib Dem cabinet minister – Ken Clarke.

3:42 “I’m not backing down. I’m not slowing down,” he says. In other words, don’t believe those Brussels rumours.

3:41 At his most passionate, Clegg hails the Lib Dems’ social mobility agenda. “Making firms work harder to get women on their boards. Breaking open internships. All controversial. All difficult. Not easy, but right.”

3:37 He hails the coalition’s “ambitious carbon targets” and “energy market reform” but avoids mentioning his old leadership rival Chris Huhne, the climate change secretary.

3:36 “Liberal achievements from a liberal party of government,” he cries.

3:34 To more muted applause, he reels off a long list of Lib Dem “achievements”: “Fixed term parliaments. Keeping our Post Offices open. House of Lords reform. Better mental health care. Safer banks. Income tax down for ordinary workers. Capital gains tax up for the rich.”

3:33 Thunderous applause from the Lib Dem faithful as Clegg mounts a passionate defence of human rights and promises that the Human Rights Bill is “here to stay”.

3:31 He moves on to the NHS. “We were absolutely right to stop the NHS bill in its tracks,” he declares. Just don’t remind anyone that he voted for it first …

3:30 Clegg dares Miliband to support party funding reform. The unions should not be able to “buy themselves a political party,” he argues.

3:29 The most shocking thing about Tony Blair being the godfather of one of Murdoch’s children was that no one was shocked, Clegg says.

3:28 Clegg goes on the attack against Miliband again, ridiculing his claim to be an opponent of “vested interests”. “While we were campaigning for change in the banking system, they were on their prawn cocktail offensive in the City,” he says.

3:26 To loud applause, Clegg hails the Lib Dems as the party that is in “nobody’s pocket”. Neither the trade unions, nor the City of London. “We do not serve, and we will never serve, vested interests,” he says.

3:25 Clegg indulges in a spot of banker-bashing. “The masters of the universe turned out to be masters of destruction,” he says.

3:23 The outlook for the global economy has got worse, says Clegg. “We need to do more, and we will do more for growth and jobs”, he promises. But without any new spending, he will struggle to meet that pledge.

3:21 He pays tribute to Simon Hughes, the party’s deputy leader and the government’s advocate for access, for rolling up his sleeves and getting on “with making the new (fees) system work.”

3:20 Clegg admits that the Lib Dems failed to sell the coalition’s tuition fees policy. “We have failed so far to show that the new system will be much, much better than people fear,” he concedes.

3:17 He mounts a highly personal attack on Ed Miliband and Ed Balls – “Gordon Brown’s backroom boys”. He goes on: “The two Eds, behind the scenes, lurking in the shadows, always plotting, always scheming, never taking responsibility.” Don’t put any money on a Labour-Lib Dem coalition …

3:14 Clegg goes on the attack against Labour. Darling’s book is called Back From The Brink, he says, but Labour left us on the brink.

3:10 He sounds a note of defiance: “I won’t rest, we won’t rest, until we’ve won every single one of those seats back and some more besides!”

3:09 The Lib Dem leader is pursuing his differentiation strategy: “Fighting to keep the NHS safe. Fighting to protect human rights.” Just imagine how nasty the Tories would be without us, he implies.

3:07 Clegg poses the question: “Will it all be worth it in the end?” He insists: “It will be.”

3:06 Clegg takes to the stage to a standing ovation but begins on a negative note: “we’ve lost support, we’ve lost seats, and we lost a referendum.”