In a speech today, Nick Clegg laid down the direction of the Liberal Democrats' election campaign. It is clear that the party will treat the voters as adults, being brutally honest where necessary. He said:
"The Liberal Democrats start this election year with a different assumption [from Labour and the Conservatives]: voters know the game’s up for the old politics.
"Voters will have no time for implausible promises. But neither are they interested in relentless prophecies of doom and despair.
"Faced with these new circumstances, I start from three simple beliefs:
"First, treat voters like grown ups. People know that the country faces one of the greatest crises in our public finances in generations. They know that difficult decisions must be taken. So they want politicians to spell out their priorities, spell out the choices, rather than live in denial about the dilemmas we face.
"Vince Cable and I have gone further than any other politicians in spelling out some of the steps which must now be taken to address the deficit and redirect money to our priorities: a 10% levy on banks profits as long as they are underwritten by the taxpayer; no to the like-for-like replacement of Trident; an end to tax credits to above average income families; cancelling the Government’s Baby Bond scheme; a £400 cap on all public sector pay increases.
"These cuts and revenue raising measures are, in our view, unavoidable if we are to persuade people that we are serious about tackling Gordon Brown’s astronomical deficit, let alone generate the resources we need for our social and political priorities.
"Second, the importance of conviction. I have heard the claim that at a time of crisis in the Government’s finances, values and conviction must take a back seat to the immediate task of balancing the books.
"I strongly disagree.
"I do not believe it is possible to balance the books and transform British society, unless you are guided by strong values which guide you through the difficult choices which now must be made.
"People will support a party that is realistic about the difficult decisions ahead, but guided by optimism and clear convictions about the way forward.
"The party that will win the argument this year is the party which finds a way of marrying credibility and hope, restraint and generosity, discipline and compassion.
"And, third, stick to the big ideas. The coming election will be no ordinary election. For once, the hype about the future of Britain being at stake is true.
"Elections should be an opportunity for us all to ask: where next? - and for voters to choose.
"The next Government will not only need to deal with the immediate crisis in the public finances.
"It must reinvent our rotten political system, heal the social divisions which still thwart the hopes of millions, and put our economy on a new, more balanced, more sustainable footing.
"None of this can be achieved if we merely tinker at the edges. Talk of change is cheap. Delivering big, permanent change is the real challenge. "