The Liberal Democrat Difference - Speech to London Liberal Democrats by Simon Hughes MP (7th March 2015)

In a speech to London Liberal Democrats, Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP Simon Hughes revealed the Tory plans blocked by the Liberal Democrats in government, warned why London can’t trust Labour and set out his own 6-point plan to boost affordable homes in London.

The Liberal Democrat difference: the reality of letting the Tories go it alone 

Let’s be proud of the decision we took to step up to the plate and take our place back as a party of Government once more.

Not to be in power for its own sake, but to promote Liberal Democrat principles and deliver Liberal Democrat policies. 

And to play another vital, vital role: to be the only party able to stand in the way of the Tories real desire to go it alone.

The only party because, frankly, the numbers just didn’t stack up for any alternative in 2010.

And by preventing the Conservatives from going it alone, we have made a difference. Not just a difference to the government, but a difference to the lives of millions of people in London and tens of millions more across Britain.

It’s the Liberal Democrat difference. And, friends, what a difference we have made.

But, just for a minute, let’s imagine the Britain of the last five years if we had bottled it. If we had let the Tories go it alone.

We know what they would have done – because they have whinged and whined day in day out as we have frustrated their plans. 

The reality of a ‘go it alone’ Tory government would have been this:

A massive tax cut for the richest by raising inheritance tax threshold to a million pounds. That’s the Liberal Democrat difference.

A housing benefit cut for people while they looked for work. I was proud to lead the charge with many colleagues against that happening and it didn’t. That’s the Liberal Democrat difference.

An unlimited increase in tuition fees as the Browne Review proposed. It’s what many, many Tories wanted and we said no. That’s the Liberal Democrat difference.

The NHS privatised – we know it’s what many Tories believe in their hearts. We didn’t just prevent that, but we massively slowed the increase in the use of the private sector to deliver NHS services that we’d seen under Labour. That’s the Liberal Democrat difference.

We’ve held them to their pledge not to build new runways at Heathrow or anywhere in the South East when they started to go wobbly. That’s the Liberal Democrat difference. 

Schools run for profit. 

Regional public sector pay.

Limiting child benefit to just two children.

Letting bosses fire workers for no reason.

Axing housing benefit for young people.

Scrapping GCSEs and a disastrous two-tier exam system like we had with O-Levels and CSEs.

Repealing the fox-hunting ban.

Scrapping the Human Rights Act.

A so-called Snooper’s Charter.

All blocked. That’s the Liberal Democrat difference.

Don’t think for a minute that they would not have done all of those things given half the chance.

That’s why we were right not to let them go it alone.

And the danger has not gone away. Allowed to govern alone, inevitably on a minority of the vote – perhaps with little more than a third of the country backing them – they would seek to do these things all over again.

That’s why we must fight to win. That’s why we must do all we can to defend the seats we hold. To return the largest possible parliamentary force, once again, to prevent any party from having 100% of the power with so little of the country’s support.

So every time you think about whether you have the time to help in this campaign. Every time you wonder if it’s worth the effort. Just remember the ‘go it alone’ Tory Britain that only the Liberal Democrats prevented and only the Liberal Democrats can prevent again.

 

The choice for London: don’t let Labour wreck things again

Now Labour will tell you that they should be trusted to go it alone. 

Be trusted to run the economy again. 

On their own.

Ed Balls. 

Ed Miliband.

I tell you this. This above all is not the time when two Eds are better than one.

The two Eds clearly responsible for causing the mess in the first place.

The party that not only failed to prepare Britain’s economy for the storms ahead, but also the party of that insulting 75p pension rise and the decision to scrap the 10p tax rate.

What a contrast to the party that has restored the link with earnings and introduced a triple lock on future pension increases and the party that, never mind a ten pence rate, has introduced a zero pence rate for all earnings under £10,500. That’s the Liberal Democrat difference. And what a difference to Labour it is.

And with every day it becomes clearer that the two Eds have learnt so little from their time in office.

Left alone, it could be straight back to the bad old days. 

Uncosted promises. Unlimited borrowing. Unfair tax rises. 

That’s not what London needs and, I strongly believe, that’s not what London wants.

People in this city know that we face a big choice at this election. 

An election that’s exactly two months away today.

It’s a choice between finishing the job of fixing our economy fairly, or going back to the bad old days of spending money we don’t have and letting the next generation pick up the pieces. 

I’m proud of how much we have achieved as we clear up Labour’s mess. 

The fastest-growing economy in the developed world.

The deficit halved.  

More than 1.8 million people back in work – that’s 1,000 new jobs created every day since the last election.  

Taxes cut for those on low incomes. 

The minimum wage increased. 

The state pension up by £950 a year.  

And if we now finish the job of clearing the deficit fairly, then we can deliver a better future for all our communities here in London.

We can then afford the additional £8 billion a year which our NHS professionals tell us it needs.

We can then afford to increase the money going to help improve the education of each child and young person from low-income families, increasing their opportunities. 

We’ve given every 3 and 4 year old and 40% of 2 year olds 20 hours of free childcare a week and we’ve capped the cost of social care. If we finish the job of fixing the economy, we can do even more.

We can lift more people out of tax, with nothing to pay on the first £12,500, and we can keep increasing pensions ever year in line with whichever is the higher of earnings, prices or 2.5 per cent – that Liberal Democrat triple lock to help the older generation.

We can continue investing in improving our local transport links, like the Bakerloo line extension down both the New and Old Kent Roads and the Walworth Road that I am campaigning for, just as I fought to deliver the new tube stations at Bermondsey & Southwark, when others thought they weren’t needed. As well as a new ‘Brunel’ bridge and pier at Rotherhithe.

And, my personal priority – and, I believe, the priority for people across London: we can deliver the investment needed in new local affordable housing.

And the truth is this: Labour cannot deliver any of this. Because they have no credible plan to finish the job of fixing the economy.

And because we know - from bitter experience – how they let us down before. 

Just remember their record on the NHS here in Southwark.

Just down the road from here is Guy’s Hospital.

When the Tories wanted to close it, I chaired the Save Guy’s Hospital campaign and we won. 

But then Labour got in and what was one of the first things they did? Shut our Accident and Emergency department.

On Tuesday I’ll be at the topping out ceremony for a new Cancer Centre at Guy’s Hospital – that the Liberal Democrat difference.

So Labour don’t just let us down nationally, but locally too.

Time after time, the Labour council here in Southwark side with private developers over local residents. 

Failing over and over again to insist on affordable homes in new developments – not even meeting their own policy of at least a third of all new homes being affordable.  I am clear we should be more ambitious – and aim in every London borough which needs this for half of our new housing to be affordable – and all advertised locally first. 

And we need to go further:

I want the public to have the power to appeal where their council breaks their own affordable housing commitment. 

I want it to be easier for councils to be able to use homes which are left empty.

I want to see developers’ economic viability assessments for housing developments made available to the public from the time of planning applications – so we can be the judge of whether they are fiddling the figures.

And I want to see the National Planning Policy Framework changed to prioritise housing need over housing demand.

Do you really think, based on their record of failure, that we’d see any sufficient and serious action on affordable housing from Labour?

And when Labour fails to stand up to private developers here in Southwark, there’s one Labour councillor who backs his colleagues all the way – Ed Miliband’s candidate for Bermondsey and Old Southwark.

So my message is clear: if you can’t stand up for local people on the council, how are you going to do it at Westminster when Labour’s Whips are breathing down your neck?

So whether it’s on the economy, on the NHS or on affordable housing – you can’t trust Labour. Our job is to make sure they are not in a position to wreck London’s economy again.

So in Kingston, Surbiton and Twickenham, in Carshalton and Wallington and Sutton and Cheam, in Hornsey and Wood Green and Brent, and here in Bermondsey and Old Southwark – we will take on the Conservatives and take on Labour, with all the strength we can muster. 

We are determined to hold our ground. 

We must be absolutely determined to win.

Ends