Nick Clegg has today used his monthly press conference to outline the process by which the Liberal Democrats will unveil their 2015 general election manifesto and the key values that will inform the policies contained in it. Mr Clegg called it "an independent, liberal manifesto from an independent, liberal party" that "will not be written with an eye to what Labour or the Conservatives think or might sign up to." Instead, "it will be written as an answer to one, simple question: how can we build opportunity for all?"
Mr Clegg argued that "more, not less change, is what Britain needs now" as he states that "our manifesto will be about the future not the past" because "Britain doesn't want or need simply 'more of the same.'" Following last Monday's speech, where he outlined the Liberal Democrats two fiscal rules, Mr Clegg said today it would "be wrong to carry on with austerity-as-usual" and that Britain "needs a new wave of energy, optimism and, put simply, liberalism."
The Liberal Democrats say they will spend between now and our Autumn Conference outlining liberal plans and policies from the manifesto. At the "very heart of our manifesto" designed to "build opportunity for all" will be education policy,.
In his opening remarks at the press conference, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg said: "Today I want to talk about the Liberal Democrats' 2015 manifesto. With just 325 days remaining in this Parliament, and the final year's agenda of this coalition agreed and announced in the Queen's Speech it is time to start talking about the future. It is time to set out our distinct Liberal Democrat vision for the next Parliament. For a party in government, the usual election message is simple: things are on the right track. Don't let the other lot mess it up.
As Liberal Democrats, we could put that offer to the British people. It would be very easy to say: don't risk change. But liberals have always embraced rather than shunned change. And more, not less change, is what Britain needs now. Let's be clear: I am and will remain immensely proud of what Liberal Democrats have achieved in government. When history looks back at the 2010-2015 Parliament it will see an unprecedented government tackling unprecedented challenges with unprecedented ambition.
The economy rebuilt. Millions of people freed from paying income tax. More renewable energy than ever. The Pupil premium to help low income children. More childcare and shared parental leave. ID cards scrapped. Free school meals for under-7s. More apprentices. The biggest ever cash increase in the state pension. A Green Investment Bank. Equal marriage. None of these things would have happened without the Liberal Democrats. But our manifesto will be about the future not the past. As we look towards 2015 it is clear to me that Britain doesn't want or need simply "more of the same".
The Conservative party will tell you: everything's fine, let's just carry on down the tramlines of permanent austerity. But once the books are balanced - as they must be, and will be if Liberal Democrats are in government - in my view it would be wrong to carry on with austerity-as-usual. Britain doesn't need more of the same: it needs a new wave of energy, optimism and, put simply, liberalism. Liberal Democrats will put forward in 2015 a responsible manifesto. As I set out last week we have a responsible plan to eradicate the deficit and set a course to bring debt down. But acting responsibly is not the same as carrying on regardless of changing circumstances.
Labour claim to want change, of course. But until they come forward with a coherent plan to deal with Britain's fiscal problems, they're just whistling in the wind. They won't be taken seriously. The way I see it is this: if this Parliament was about repairing the British economy, the next one must be about rewiring it. If the last parliament was about rescue, the next must be about renewal: rescue to renewal. That's why we need to move from austerity to ambition. We need to think boldly and restore a sense of national optimism. Out of the rubble of the 2008 crash we must rebuild a new economy, not just reassemble the old one; we can no longer accept a society of unfairness and inequality of opportunity; we cannot mortgage our children's future by ignoring the threat of climate change; and we cannot have a state where power is hoarded at the centre rather than being returned to citizens and local communities.
So over the summer months, leading up to our conference in October, you will hear from us a drum beat of new, bold, liberal plans, that together will make our economy stronger, our society fairer, and enable people across Britain to get on in their lives. I want to put one thing beyond doubt once and for all: this will be an independent, liberal manifesto from an independent, liberal party. It will not be written with an eye to what Labour or the Conservatives think or might sign up to. It will be written with an eye for what Britain needs. It will be written as an answer to one, simple question: how can we build opportunity for all?
Because for liberals, no matter what your background, your race, your colour, your sex or your sexuality: we believe in you. We don't write anybody off. The task of a liberal party is above all to empower every person to realise their own potential. That will be the guiding principle behind every policy we unveil this summer. Improving education has been fundamental to the Liberal Democrats for decades. We were the party who argued for an extra penny on income tax, to pay for education. And, in government, education has been a priority - tackling the stubborn gap in attainment between pupils from different backgrounds, and raising standards for all children.
We have introduced a pupil premium - straight from the front page of our last manifesto - extra money going to the children who need it most. We are tearing up Labour's unfair system of league tables, that for so long has forced teachers to ignore children at the top and bottom of the ability range. And we have dramatically expanded early years education - so that two year olds from lower income families get a free place at a nursery or with a childminder for the first time."