Liberal Democrats blocked Tory plans to introduce a controversial regional pay regime in the public sector, party leader Nick Clegg has told activists.
And he urged voters to give the Lib Dems a role in the next government too - to ensure Britain had a moderate government which avoided the excesses of the Labour and Conservative parties governing alone.
In his speech to the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow, Mr Clegg highlighted plans to provide free school meals for all children in reception classes and years one and two,
He said he wanted to extend the policy to include every primary school child - if the Lib Dems were still playing a role in government after the next election.
But he insisted he was equally ready to form a coalition with either Labour or the Conservatives. And Mr Clegg listed a series of Tory policies which he had blocked, including plans set out by George Osborne, the Chancellor, in his 2012 Budget to move to a system of regional pay which would have meant workers in parts of the North received less than those in the south for doing the same jobs.
Critics had warned this would entrench regional inequalities. Mr Clegg said: “Sometimes compromise and agreement isn’t possible and you just have to say ‘no’. Inheritance tax cuts for millionaires - no. Bringing back O’ levels and a two-tier education system - no.
Profit- making in schools – no. . . . regional pay penalising public sector workers in the north - no.” He told activists the party had proved wrong critics who said they would be torn apart by internal divisions after agreeing to a coalition with the Conservatives. But he appeared to suggest he had been hurt by some of the personal abuse and comments he had received since becoming Deputy Prime Minister.
“Trust me, there were days I thanked my lucky stars that my children were too young to understand some of the things that were written and said. But every insult we have had to endure since we entered government, every snipe, every bad headline, every blow to our support: That was all worth it – because we are turning Britain around.”
The Lib Dem leader urged party members to be proud of achievements such as the pupil premium, a policy which provides extra funding for schools with pupils from poorer backgrounds, and the increase in the income tax threshold - which has effectively provided a £700 tax cut for many working people.
Publicity material produced by the Conservatives for their annual conference later this month lists the tax cut as a Tory achievement.
But Mr Clegg reminded delegates that Conservative leader David Cameron had opposed the idea in television debates that were held during the 2010 General Election campaign.
He said the Lib Dems had a contribution to make after the next election.
“The country is finally emerging from the biggest economic crisis in living memory. The absolute worst thing to do would be to give the keys to Number 10 to a single party Government – Labour or the Conservatives.”
Labour would ruin the economic recovery while Conservatives would create “the wrong kind of recovery” which only benefited the rich, he claimed. And Mr Clegg said Labour believed it could win the next election simply by attacking the Government without revealing what it would do instead if it took power.
“I have a message for Labour today: you can’t just duck responsibility for the past – refuse to spell out what you’d do in the future – and expect people to give you a blank cheque.”
He was speaking at the close of the party conference in Glasgow in which delegates backed the Government’s economic policy, but condemned the housing benefit changes popularly known as the bedroom tax.