European elections: Clegg urges Lib Dems to combat 'EU myth-makers'

 

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg: Leaving EU would be "economic vandalism"

Nick Clegg has pitted his party's "optimism and openness" against the "fears and falsehoods" of isolationists at the launch of the Liberal Democrat campaign for the European elections.

His said the UK Independence Party's plan to leave the EU was a "dangerous fantasy" which would cost British jobs.

But he also criticised Labour and the Conservatives for going "missing in action" instead of challenging UKIP.

Only Lib Dems would fight for the "best of British values", the deputy PM said.

The European elections take place on 22 May, with the Lib Dems widely predicted to give a worse showing at the ballot box than in 2009.

Mr Clegg, whose party is recognised as the most pro-European of the largest three at Westminster, recently took part in two televised debates on the issue with UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

'Scaremongers'

Mr Clegg, who served as a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2004, launched his party's campaign in Colchester, Essex, where he was introduced by the local Lib Dem MP Sir Bob Russell.

Start Quote

There is a choice to make. You have to pick sides”

End Quote Nick Clegg

The Lib Dem leader said: "For far, far too long, the isolationists have got away with peddling their myths, their fears, their falsehoods, without any challenge whatsoever, pretending that every problem in the world would somehow disappear, like the morning mist, if only we were to pull ourselves out of the EU.

"It is a dangerous fantasy, because as night follows day, I can tell you without any fear of contradiction that if we were to pull ourselves out of the EU, there would be more people out of work."

He compared leaving the EU to an "act of monumental economic vandalism".

"That is why we should now draw a line in the sand as the leading party of in in British politics, and say to the isolationists, to the myth-makers, to the scaremongers: 'Enough!'

"David Cameron and Ed Miliband are missing in action, sitting on their hands, scared of their shadows, frightened of their own internal party divisions, unwilling to make the case for an open, outward-facing, engaged Britain in the modern world.

"So we have to do it, and we will do it, as the leading 'party of in' in these European elections."

'Battle joined'

The EU was not "perfect", he continued, and needed reform, just as Westminster and Whitehall need reform.

But Mr Clegg argued that remaining in the EU would safeguard millions of British jobs, help the police fight cross-border crime, and make it easier to "confront the biggest challenge of our era: that of global climate change".

"Being in means acting in accordance with the best of British values: open-hearted, generous, engaged," he said.

Mr Clegg concluded by telling party activists: "Battle has been joined. There is a choice to make. You have to pick sides.

"So I say to you: go out and campaign with all the gusto and determination that you can muster, go out to campaign against the politics of fear, falsehoods and pessimism of the other side, and instead go out and campaign for the politics we believe in, of optimism, of openness, and of jobs."

UKIP says leaving the EU will improve prosperity by cutting bureaucracy and that it will allow the UK to regain control of immigration.

The Conservatives are promising an "in-out" referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017 if they win the 2015 general election. But Labour has said such an event is "unlikely" if it is in government.

 

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  91.  
    08:51: Social care debate BBC Radio 4

    On the Today programme, Chris Ham, of the King's Fund, says there is a growing consensus that health and social care should be integrated. They are currently funded separately - but councils, which are responsible for social care - are warning they are struggling to cover their costs. Merging the two is a key plank of Labour's health pledges ahead of the election. With the NHS facing funding pressures of its own, Prof Ham warns against "robbing Peter to pay Paul".

    Social care
     
  92.  
    08:43: Calls for MP to be replaced

    The Conservative MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset is facing calls from within his own party to be deselected as a candidate in the general election.

    West Somerset Council's Conservatives group have passed a vote of no confidence in Ian Liddell Grainger.

    In the voting papers obtained by the BBC he was described as "back-stabbing" and using "unethical manoeuvres".

    He is yet to comment but the body in charge of selecting the candidate says it has "every confidence in him".

    Ian Liddell-Grainger MP
     
  93.  
    08:35: Call for stronger parliaments

    More should be done to strengthen parliaments in developing countries. The International Development Committee says a strong parliament "will inevitably ensure greater transparency and better use of state revenues including official development assistance".

    The committee's new report on parliamentary strengthening recommends the Department for International Development puts parliaments at the heart of its governance work.

     
  94.  
    08:30: 'Ethnic kinship' vote fraud warning
    polling station

    The elections watchdog is warning that a lack of campaigning by mainstream political parties in British Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities makes those areas vulnerable to electoral fraud. The Electoral Commission says there is a political "void" in some communities.

    It suggests this void is being filled with "ethnic kinship networks" which could undermine the principle of free choice for voters.

     
  95.  
    @chhcalling 08:25: Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris

    tweets: Went to a restaurant and had some Greek yogurt for breakfast. Alas I couldn't find a German to pay for it.

     
  96.  
    08:20: Ministry of Defence savings
    Ministry of Defence property

    The Ministry of Defence will have to sell off more military land and assets to make savings in the coming years, the defence secretary is indicating. Michael Fallon is expected to say in a speech this morning that his department's finances are in better shape than they once were but savings still need to be made.

    He will say the emphasis should be on supporting frontline troops by selling off more of the MoD's large estate.

     
  97.  
    @benatipsosmori 08:11: Ben Page, Ipsos MORI chief executive

    tweets: 100 days before 2015 election vs 2010 GE15 #politics pic.twitter.com/r8eH9eCIUa> some big differences for opposition party now!

    Vote share chart
     
  98.  
    08:05: Westminster today
    Palace of Westminster

    What will Ed Miliband choose to go on at Westminster's big event, Prime Minister's Questions, and what will David Cameron have lined to up to respond?

    PMQs is at noon, right after Northern Ireland Questions in the Commons. The House of Lords will continue to consider the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill.

     
  99.  
    07:58: What next for Boris Johnson? Tim Donovan Political Editor, BBC London
    David Cameron and Boris Johnson

    London Mayor Boris Johnson (pictured on the right) has been touring northern towns, posing with a Kalashnikov in Kurdistan, and is to travel to Washington soon.

    People cannot help but notice that he is busy and the activity is hardly confined to life behind a desk at City Hall where his writ has a full 17 months to run. So what lies in store for London Mayor Boris Johnson?

     
  100.  
    @ChrisMasonBBC Chris Mason, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: BBC Westminster Election Countdown Clock (err...whiteboard) crisis: someone's used a permanent marker again:

    bbc board
     

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