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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 December 2007, 16:48 GMT
Nick Clegg's speech in full
Here is the full text from new Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg's speech, after winning the two-month contest to succeed Sir Menzies Campbell.

My election as leader of this party marks a new beginning.

Today is about two things: ambition and change. Renewed ambition for the Liberal Democrats; renewed ambition to reach out to the millions of people who share our instincts and our values, but don't yet vote for us. It's about renewed ambition for Britain.

Because we want to change politics, and change Britain.

I would like to thank Chris for his very warm and very generous words and for the energetic and committed way he has campaigned in what was a very close contest.

Chris, you and I have been rivals in this contest. As of now, we are colleagues again and I look forward to working closely with him for the sake of liberalism in Britain.

I would also of course like to thank Vince for the spellbinding way he has led the party over the last two months. There are few men who have excelled as an economist, a wit and a ballroom dancer.

You have done all three plus being a magnificent politician so thank you very much indeed.

Finally, on behalf of the whole party, I would like to thank Ming Campbell.

Ming, you took over the Liberal Democrats at a difficult time, and you restored stability and professionalism to us which has been enormously important to the party.

Without your work, building on the extraordinary achievements of Charles (Kennedy) and Paddy (Ashdown) before you, I just don't think this party would have the bright future which we now know lies ahead of us.

I am a Liberal by temperament, by instinct and by upbringing.

My own family was marked, scattered, reunited by the tragic conflicts of the last century.

I was taught from an early age that Britain was a place of tolerance and pluralism, with a history steeped in democracy and the rule of law.

I believe that liberalism is the thread that holds together everything that this country stands for. Pull out that thread and the fabric of our nation unravels.

We are a people with a strong sense of fair play and social justice. An instinct to protect the environment for future generations. We are suspicious of arbitrary power, wary of government interference. We want to play an active, enlightened role in the wider world.

And we have always put our faith in the ability of ordinary men and women to change things for the better.

So why is Britain still not the liberal Britain we want it to be?

Look around us: our civil liberties casually cast aside, gigantic, faceless and incompetent government bureaucracies; security and opportunity in short supply, particularly in the poorest communities; families struggling to meet each month's bills, families struggling to balance the demands of work, and the time for a real family life.

Above all, our politics is broken. Out of touch with people. Out of touch with the modern world.

And that is why I have one simple ambition: to change Britain to make it the liberal country I believe the British people want it to be.

I want a new politics, a people's politics. I want to live in a country where rights, freedoms and privacy are not the playthings of politicians, but safeguarded for everyone.

Where political life is not a Westminster village freak show, but open, accessible, and helpful in people's everyday lives.

Where parents, pupils and patients are can take charge of our schools and hospitals. Where fine words on the environment are finally turned into real action.

Where social mobility becomes a reality once again, where no one is condemned by the circumstances of their birth.

Why have we stopped imagining a better society?

Look at what we've got. Labour and the Conservatives have governed in the same way: top-down and centralising.

I simply refuse to believe that the only alternative to a clapped-out Labour government is a Conservative Party that has no answers to the big issues - environmentalism without substance, social justice without money, internationalism without Europe.

The challenge for my party is clear and simple: to define a liberal alternative to the discredited politics of Big Government.

I want to open up my party, open up Westminster, and open up politics for good.

To lead well, a leader needs to listen.

That's why I will hold regular, public Town Hall meetings.

That's why I want to open up the Liberal Democrats to give people who support us, but aren't party members, a say on the big issues.

That's why I will spend at least one day every week listening and campaigning outside Westminster.

That's why I will set up a network of families, who have nothing to do with party politics, in every region of this country so they can tell me what my priorities should be.

If you once voted for us but you think we've spent too much time focusing on ourselves, if you once voted for the Conservative Party but have no idea what they stand for any more, if you once voted for the Labour Party but feel let down by 10 years of disappointment.

If you've given up voting altogether, but still care about the world we live in then a newly united, energetic and optimistic Liberal Democrat party is the party for you.

Friends, this is an unprecedented time of opportunity for liberalism in this country.

If we are to grab this opportunity, my party will need to change.

We must start acting like the growing national political force that we are. More professional, more united, more ambitious.

Liberalism is the creed of our times. The politics of left and right has broken down. Labour and the Conservatives are mutating into each other, united in defence of a system which has let the people down.

Instead, we must start where people are, not where we think they should be.

In short, I want the Liberal Democrats to be the future of politics. Because Liberal Democrats have the courage to imagine a better society.

To break the stifling grip of the two-party system for good. To bring in a new politics of politicians who listen to people, not themselves.

No more business as usual. No more government-knows-best.

I want today to mark the beginning of a real change in Britain. The beginning of Britain's liberal future.

New leader Nick Clegg addresses his party

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