Nick Clegg's Letter from the Leader sensibly flags up the speech he made this week to mark his five years as leader, giving people the chance to watch it on video.
He emphasises the role the Liberal Democrats played in moderating the Conservatives' planned cuts to welfare. Some of us may well not be happy with the reality of a sub-inflation rise in benefits, but there is some credit due for holding back a much worse onslaught.
Anyway, here it is in full. The last sentence is interesting - basically he says have a good Christmas and don't talk too much about politics. I suspect that's because he knows, as I wrote on Liberal Democrat Voice the other day, that Paddy is going to have our noses to the grindstone after the holidays.
This week it is five years since I was elected leader of our
party. It feels at once like it was yesterday and a lifetime ago!
announcement of the result and my acceptance speech all passed in something of a
blur. The memory that really sticks in my mind is of the next day, when I
visited a school in Simon Hughes' constituency.
I remember one of the
students asked me what I'd do if I became Prime Minister - "theoretically of
course" he added, hurriedly. And he was right: I've only got as far as Deputy.
But we have as a party absolutely defied the expectations that were set for us
five years ago.
They said we would be wiped out at the election. They
said we couldn't be trusted with the economy. They said we were a fringe party
only interested in fringe issues.
We've proven none of that is true.
We've proven we can govern, and govern well, even at a time of upheaval and
crisis for Britain. We've proven we're committed to delivering a stronger
economy and a fairer society enabling everyone to get on in life.
most of all we've proven that Liberal Democrats can anchor a government in the
centre ground, moderating the forces of tribalism that you would expect to
dominate politics at a time like this.
I believe Britain needs that
moderating force more than ever. That's the argument I made in a speech this
week to mark my anniversary and set our course for the rest of this
I won't try and repeat the whole speech in this letter. You
can read it here or watch the video.
But there's one example I used
that I want to repeat - because I think it shows exactly what I mean by
"anchoring" the Government in the centre ground. It's an example of how the very
fact of coalition means positive compromise - it means reasonable ideas go ahead
and extreme ones fall by the wayside.
This autumn the coalition decided
to go further to reform benefits to help support people back into work and
reduce the costs of the welfare state. That's the right thing to do.
Conservatives suggested we cut an extra £10bn from welfare, take away child
benefit from families with more than two children and take away housing benefit
from everyone under the age of 25.
But when our two parties sat down to
agree a plan, instead the coalition stuck to the centre ground. We agreed to
increase benefits by 1% a year, in line with public sector pay rises - not
freeze them - delivering savings of just about a third of the proposed £10bn.
And we rejected completely the more extreme reforms that had been put on the
table, protecting young people and larger families from cuts.
you're asked what Liberal Democrats are doing in Government - tell this story.
Welfare reform is important to reduce the deficit and help get people into work.
But if you want reasonable welfare reform, not indiscriminate welfare cuts,
we're the party you want on your side.
But that's enough from me. Enjoy
Christmas and don't spend too much time talking about politics!