Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has launched a stinging attack on his Tory coalition partners by saying Chancellor George Osborne had “buried compassionate conservatism” with his pledges on welfare spending.
Mr Clegg has kicked off his party’s final conference at Glasgow before the general election with a scathing attack on his Conservative coalition partners.
Clegg said the Tory leadership is “in hock to their right wing” and “pandering to Ukip’s ugly nationalism” and claimed that Cameron has been reduced to “a prime minister trapped between being a poor man’s Margaret Thatcher and a rich man’s Nigel Farage”.
The deputy PM told the BBC this would raise £1.5bn on “mansions”, which would be used to reduce the national debt.
The Lib Dem leader also accused Labour of “burying its head in the sand” over the deficit and the Tories of wanting to cut it by “beating up on the poor”.
Mr Clegg told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show it was not possible to “fill the black hole in the public finances either through spending reductions on their own… or by taxes on their own”.
Only his party in government, he argued, could achieve the “stronger economy and fairer society” that the British public wanted.
Mr Clegg said his party’s proposed “mansion tax” – a Lib Dem idea adopted by the Labour Party, which would involve a new levy on properties worth more than £2m – would be collected through new council tax bands, to cut down on red tape. Unlike council tax, however, the money raised would go towards reducing the deficit.
Other tax changes proposed by the party – such as clawing back tax relief on the very largest pension pots – would be used to fund an extra £1bn a year for the NHS for two years.
At an eve-of-conference rally in Glasgow, Mr Clegg urged his party to fight “tooth and nail” to prevent a Conservative or Labour government.
Mr Clegg said: “Imagine again, if you can bear it, what it would be like in 2020, but this time with the Conservatives in government on their own.
“Britain, diminished and divided after a botched attempt to renegotiate our relationship with Europe and a vote to withdraw from the European Union.”
And he claimed a Labour victory next May would mean a return to recession, soaring unemployment and a generation of young people “thrown back on the scrap heap”.
He pledged to introduce a number of measures if the Lib Dems are in government again next year, including:
• Free school meals in primary schools
• Cut-price bus travel for young workers
• Extended paternity leave and free childcare
• “Proper” funding for the NHS
Former party leader Paddy Ashdown, meanwhile, told activists the Conservatives were “reverting to type” and had become the “nasty party again”.
Lord Ashdown added: “Labour will screw the economy and the Tories will screw the weak. Well, here’s our message – we won’t let them do it.”