Page last updated at 07:18 GMT, Wednesday, 17 September 2008 08:18 UK

Clegg to push tax cut proposals

Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg prepares his speech with deputy leader Vince Cable

The Lib Dems are the only party that can deliver social justice, Nick Clegg is to say in his first major party conference speech as leader.

He will also tell delegates in Bournemouth "they are the only party with a plan" to beat the credit crunch, having put forward tax cut proposals.

Ahead of his speech, he admitted having made a gaffe in a local TV interview.

Mr Clegg said he had got it "spectacularly wrong" when he put the state pension at "about 30 quid now".

'Ivory tower'

He had been responding to a caller to a local ITV news show who challenged him to prove he knew how much the state pension figure was.

The true figure is 90.70 a week for a single person and 145.05 a week for a couple.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg makes 30 pension gaffe

He was accused by Age Concern of "taking his eye off the ball" over pensioner poverty and Labour's Mike O'Brien said it showed the Lib Dem leader was out of touch.

"Nick Clegg has no idea how ordinary people live their lives. Anyone who thinks that pensioners could live on 30 a week must be living in an ivory tower - they simply wouldn't be able to survive.

"Their promise to cut the Child Trust Fund, which would hurt families struggling on modest incomes, is further proof of just how out of touch they are."

Mr Clegg has had an otherwise trouble-free conference despite having to contend with a bigger political drama going on elsewhere, in Gordon Brown's leadership troubles.

The Lib Dem leader succeeded in persuading a party more used to supporting tax rises that tax cuts - for low and middle income earners - are the way ahead.

if you are looking for a party which provides fairness, which provides a bit of hope in these times of real economic anxiety, I think the only party that stands up for you is the Liberal Democrats
Nick Clegg

And he is expected to tell party members later that he wants their tax policy to be the most progressive and redistributive ever put forward by a British political party, as well as describing New Labour as finished, and the Tories as vacuous.

In a new move, 250,000 people in 50 selected constituencies will also receive automated phone calls this evening from Mr Clegg, setting out the Lib Dem position on various policies, and asking for voter feedback.

He said the message of his speech would be that the Lib Dems were "the only party with a plan" to help people deal with the fallout from the present global economic turmoil.

Kitchen table

"Labour has failed millions of British people - they haven't delivered everything they promised in 1997," he said.

"David Cameron promises manna from heaven tomorrow but doesn't really make any choices and says everything people want to hear.

"So if you are looking for a party which provides fairness, which provides a bit of hope in these times of real economic anxiety, I think the only party that stands up for you is the Liberal Democrats.

"We are the only party with a plan, a plan to make Britain fairer for millions of British families who are worried about how they are going to pay for food on the kitchen table, how they are going to pay for a full tank of petrol, are they going to be able to take the children on holiday."

He said his proposed tax cuts were aimed at "taking money from wealthy people who enjoy huge loopholes in the tax system and giving that to low and middle incomes".

The government needed to spend people's money better, "but also, where there is money to spare, give it back in further tax cuts to people who need this help at this very, very difficult time", he said.

Mr Clegg said the "vast majority" of taxpayers would benefit - around 90% - and angrily dismissed any suggestion he was aligning himself with the Tories ahead of a potential coalition after the next general election.

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