Nick Clegg has urged his party to go further in claiming credit for Conservative policies and to demand national approval for their part in the Thatcher years.
Mr Clegg told delegates at the party conference that it wasn’t enough to point out how Liberal Democrats had worked hand in glove since 2010 with the Tories to destroy jobs and working conditions, to lower incomes, demonise benefit claimants and blame the poor.
“That is all happening now”, he said. “But, delegates, don’t forget. We were also around during the 1980s when Mrs Thatcher tore up the post war consensus and shredded moral values. Did we as Liberals oppose her? No.
Oh, yes, we moaned a bit but never forget – we didn’t mean it. We secretly applauded the crushing of the unions and the closure of the pits. We welcomed the windfall from the sale of national assets. Let us remind the people of Britain – we too are Tories. We played our part in making Britain what it is today.”
Mr Clegg is worried that as the economy recovers his party will not be accorded its true role in holding up the Cameron government. “They simply couldn’t have done it without us”, he told cheering delegates. “For years voters thought we were closer to Labour. Remember Tony Blair asking Roy Jenkins to work on electoral reform? Remember Paddy Ashdown secretly meeting Blair to discuss coalition? All clever ruses to fool the public.”
He said at last he was free to tell the truth.
“It’s an uplifting experience to come clean,” he said. “I urge you to do the same. Go out and proclaim that without us standing on the sidelines protecting our salaries and seeking preferment and patronage, the Thatcher years may never have happened. Tell them how we could have worked with Labour and the unions to wreck her economic policies and retain social cohesion in Britain. But we resisted temptation. Fellow Lib Dems, we did so in order that today I can stand here and without a moment’s doubt, boast that this is now one of the most unequal societies in the developed world. It is a centre of low pay and massive national and private debt. It is a country utterly reliant on a corrupt financial sector. London is not only richer than anywhere else in Europe, it is leaving the rest of the UK far behind.”
In a rousing finale he got the delegates to bellow the answer he wanted to each question.
“Who cut benefits to the disabled?”
“Who closed early learning schemes for our children?”
“Who ended tax free child savings for future generations?”
“Who forced families out of their homes in London?”
“Who brought in the bedroom tax?”
“And who cut taxes for the rich?”
“We did. We did. We did….”