In his New Year message, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has laid down a challenge to other party leaders to tell people what they really believe in, rather than what they think people want to hear.
The Leader of the Liberal Democrats said: “As the countdown to the next General Election finally begins, I have a simple question for the other party leaders: what do you believe, really believe?
“People don’t want leading politicians clinging on to power for its own sake, or just telling people what they want to hear. There’s got to be more to it than that.
“If we as Leaders want people to turn out to vote at all at the next General Election, we have got to show people our convictions, not just dividing lines, our beliefs, not just soundbites.“
The full text of Nick Clegg's message is below:
“I have a confession to make: 2009 tested my belief in politics to breaking point.
I remember once looking round the House of Commons during another Punch and Judy session of Prime Ministers Questions. In the real world, youth unemployment had just reached its highest level ever, our brave soldiers were facing extraordinary dangers in Afghanistan, the bankers were still gorging themselves on bonuses, and the economy was in the middle of the worst recession in generations. And what were the politicians doing? Yelling and guffawing at each other as if the world outside didn’t exist.
So I don’t blame anyone for feeling a sense of despair about our clapped out political system. You are being taken for granted by the people in charge. Big money is hollowing out politics with some rich donors not even bothering to say whether they pay full British taxes or not. And to top it all the expenses scandals exposed some MPs as spivvy property speculators and tax evaders rather than public servants.
This whole set-up has to change. That’s what 2010 should be all about. Big, permanent change for the better.
People’s faith in politics may be dented, but I still believe in our ability to learn from the mistakes of the past, and set things on a new course.
2010 must be the year we press the political reset button.
But that will only happen if we do things differently. More of the same won’t produce anything new.
Of course both Labour and the Conservatives have learned to parrot the language of change. But where’s the proof they mean it? Despite all the hot air about fixing politics they have both voted against giving people the right to sack MPs who’ve seriously broken the rules. Both have refused to clean up the rotten system of party political funding. Both refuse to give you your say by introducing fair votes to the House of Commons. And both refuse to shake up the City of London, so that bankers can never again play Russian roulette with your savings.
Some people say, what’s the point of voting when the same old parties always win? I say: vote for what you believe in. If you like what the Liberal Democrats stand for, vote for it. If you want real change, not phoney change, vote for it. If you think things should be different, vote for it.
At the end of the day, politics should be about what you believe. What kind of Britain do you want to live in? What kind of world do we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in?
So as the countdown to the next General Election finally begins, I have a simple question for the other party leaders: what do you believe, really believe?
People don’t want leading politicians clinging on to power for its own sake, or just telling people what they want to hear. There’s got to be more to it than that.
I have one belief above all others: a belief in fairness. Under my leadership the Liberal Democrats have been working on new ideas to make Britain the fair country I believe most people want it to be. We want to raise standards in all of our schools by giving specific help to the children most in need, and by making class sizes smaller. Soon we will be publishing new ideas to turn our economy away from its over dependence on the City of London to a new, green economy where hundreds of thousands of new jobs will be created as we rebuild our transport, energy and housing infrastructure. Above all, we are now the only party with a detailed plan to make taxes fair – removing all income tax on the first £10000 you earn, paid for by asking people at the top to pay a bit more.
If we as Leaders want people to turn out to vote at all at the next General Election, we have got to show people our convictions, not just dividing lines, our beliefs, not just soundbites.
I hope in the coming months even more people will get a chance to find out what I believe in, and the beliefs of the Liberal Democrats. If enough people share our convictions, our beliefs, then 2010 really can be the beginning of something new. “