October 24 2014 Latest news:
Annabelle Dickson, Political Correspondent
Thursday, April 24, 2014
Nick Clegg chose the Eastern region as the stage to fire the starting gun on the Liberal Democrat European election campaign, telling activists that there was “a lot at stake” in next month’s polls.
The deputy prime minister spent the day in Essex talking to party members and also answering questions during a radio question and answer session.
The Lib Dem leader arrived more than an hour late to Colchester Town Hall following the fatality on the line at Witham.
He admitted that UKIP - which has polled strongly in the lead up to the elections so far - had been riding high, along with parties in other European countries “delivering a similar message of isolationism in response to widespread fear”.
But he said: “You have to take people’s fears seriously. You should not sneer at people’s fears. I take them seriously and I can’t think of any alternative, but patiently explaining if we did what people like UKIP advocate - far from addressing people’s fear, you would only make people’s livelihoods and sense of insecurity worse by increasing unemployment.”
But added: “I think there are a lot of people out there who do not want to wrap themselves in the European flag, but they do believe, as I do, that it would be an act of huge self harm to leave the European Union and me and my party are speaking up.”
During a heated radio question and answer session at Colchester United Football Club he came under fire over the raising of tuition fees following the report from independent think tank the IFS said the trebling of university tuition fees to a maximum of £9,000 a year in England may not save taxpayers any money.
But Mr Clegg rebutted the criticism of the policy saying that as the party which had come third, he had to compromise and he also claimed that the move had allowed more people from a variety of backgrounds to go to university.
He said that Colchester had been chosen as the setting as there was “something particularly resonant about having the debate about modern Britain in such an ancient location”.
“It is important to come to a place like Colchester, which has such a rich history, and say actually it is in keeping with our British history that we remain an open country, one that works with others, we are open to the world. Not least because of the jobs that are at stake in the Colchester area. Many many jobs in Colchester are dependant on our place in what is actually the biggest economy. That is why it is important to come and make the case, as I will be elsewhere in the country, to say that we care about jobs, and our ability to affect the things that are important to people in this part of the world, then it is important that we remain part of the European Union.”