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Last Updated: Monday, 18 September 2006, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Clegg: Liberalism works on crime
Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg is seen as a possible future leader
Disputes about what is "tough" or "soft" must stop dominating debate over law and order, says Liberal Democrat home affairs chief Nick Clegg.

Mr Clegg used his platform speech at the Lib Dem conference in Brighton to attack "incompetence" in the Home Office over crime and immigration.

The frontbencher told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he wanted to show liberalism worked in practice.

He has dropped the "tough liberalism" slogan used by predecessor Mark Oaten.

Scrapping laws

Mr Clegg is seen as a potential future Lib Dem leader.

In his platform speech, he said Labour had introduced too many unnecessary and ineffective laws and many of them should be repealed.

He said: "I want to rid everyone of the notion that our values give comfort to terrorists and criminals.

"On the contrary, I believe strong, self-confident liberalism goes hand in hand with the reassurance that the state can, must, and will protect its citizens."

'Rhetoric'

The home affairs spokesman told Today: "I'm not going to indulge in the rhetoric of 'tough vs soft'.

"Tony Blair has paralysed the debate on the criminal justice system in this country by going on and on about how tough he is on crime, how tough he is on asylum seekers, tough on immigration, tough on everything under the sun and accusing everybody arbitrarily of being soft.

"Now we know that behind all that rhetoric was a cumulative record of total, total incompetence, such that almost every aspect of the criminal justice system is not working."

Mr Clegg rejected suggestions that the party was drifting to the right, saying it was not right-win to draw up plans to take two million low earners out of paying tax altogether.




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Nick Clegg addresses the Lib Dem conference



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