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Letter from the Leader: Get on the inside and govern

June 22, 2013 1:31 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

There are still people who talk about the Liberal Democrats being in power as if it is a new and unusual phenomenon. That's remarkable enough when you think that we have been in Government in Westminster for three years, but it's even odder when you remember how Liberal Democrats have been in charge in Scotland, Wales and councils throughout the country long before 2010.

Today I've been speaking at the Liberal Democrat Local Government Conference in Manchester where I will be highlighting the great work of people like Keith House in Eastleigh, Ruth Dombey in Sutton and Gerald Vernon Jackson in Portsmouth. Those people are just some of the members of our party who have shown how Liberal Democrats have been delivering for people up and down Britain for decades.

They have demonstrated what we are showing at a national level: that the best way to take on vested interests, the best way to challenge the establishment, is to get on the inside and govern.

But we also have to acknowledge that getting into national government has changed some things for our party, and so we need to change too. Partly that means that our national message has to be more consistent than ever before - of course we should always campaign on local issues in our areas, but doing so without saying what we stand for as a party nationally simply won't hold up to the glare of intense media scrutiny any more.

It also means even more scrutiny on the way we draw up our manifesto. Building on the approach we took in 2010 - where we singled out the four most important policies to us on the front page - we will need to be even clearer with people about the commitments which are priorities and the ambitions which we accept may be affected by resources and circumstances.

You can read more about my speech on the Liberal Democrat website but it's also worth seeing what some Conservative MPs have said they would like to see the Government focus on in their own 'Alternative Queen's Speech'. Next time somebody asks you why they should prefer coalition governments ask them who would they rather have in government - the Liberal Democrats, with our focus on a stronger economy and a fairer society, or people who want to abolish the BBC, bring back hanging and introduce a 'Margaret Thatcher Day'?

Best wishes,

Nick Clegg