Mr Clegg unveiled his intentions today; indeed he unveiled his ambitions to create a Liberal Party that is again fit to govern this land.
Mr Clegg was splendid on the rebound as he addressed the membership in Liverpool, demonstrating the mettle that all hoped might be shown in one so young for the post of leadership. How fitting it would be if the moment when the party embarked again on the path to government took place in my own home city of Liverpool.
Indeed, floating around the conference gathering places, I noted how much of the city was recognisable; yet also how within the shell of the docks and the great city buildings so much reflects this modern age of prosperity and technological advance.
Mr Clegg set out the dilemma with which I remember struggling so hard during the mid-point of my political career. The world has experienced some 150 years of party politics since then; and Mr Clegg seems able to draw on experience of success and failure in such circumstances. Yet, as he articulated so magnificently, the issue is not one of success but of principle. If it is necessary to treat with one of the other two parties, which will best accede, and indeed, concede on the principles of reform and good government? Mr Clegg therefore states he will not accept the baubles of power from either party if they do not also offer the ballast of principle.
Within the halls of Liverpool, I heard a theme emerging from Mr Clegg's lieutenants, Mr Cable and Mr Huhne. Both are now gentlemen of high esteem and Mr Cable was received with special warmth following his temporary tenure of the leadership. Mr Huhne, far from being estranged from his rival for the leadership, holds the office of shadow Home Secretary and seems intent on propelling the party to great achievements, pointing out that voters will turn to a third party at a time when the two other parties seem bankrup of ideas and bereft of achievement.
Especially heartening to myself is a new tone of fiscal responsibility, set out both by Mr Clegg and Mr Cable. Both are intent of avoiding the socialist error, epitomised in the policies of Mr Brown and Mr Darling. Socialist policy is to take from the poor to give to the poor; for they are too craven in the presence of the rich to demand they pay their just dues. All my life I remained concerned with this problem; taxation may be necessary but it is a dangerous weapon. A tax of one kind may prevent one person from earning to their utmost; a tax of another kind may harm another's livelihood. One hears that in the present age poor families have to divide their households, abandon their partners and place themselves at the mercy of the authorities to sustain their families.
These were hard matters to grasp and even our dear Queen, with her great compassion for the poor, could draw on no practical experience of daily living to aid her comprehension of these concepts. Mr Clegg and Mr Cable are therefore right and I most fervently hope they hold to their intentions.
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