The leader of the Liberal Democrats has claimed that only his party can form a government that listens and understands the needs of the voters.

In his first speech to the autumn conference as leader, Nick Clegg launched a stinging attack on David Cameron, accusing the Conservative leader of arrogance, condescension and conceit.

He branded the Labour party “a cross between Shaun of the Dead and I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue” and claimed:

“They’re so desperate to protect their own jobs, they can’t be bothered to protect other people’s.

“They’re the living dead, no heart, no mind, no soul.”

Mr Clegg’s speech, which was well-received by delegates, contained the eye-catching claim that he could cut £20bn out of public spending and give it back to voters through tax cuts.

“I want this to be the most progressive – most redistributive – tax plan ever put forward by a British political party,” he said.

“Using just a little of the money the government wastes every day. To help people in their everyday lives.

“That doesn’t mean cutting help for the poorest, of course.

“It doesn’t mean stopping vital investment in hospitals and schools.

“It just means taking a cold, hard look at all government spending and asking a basic question:

“Is it working?

“Every family in Britain is tightening their belts for the hard times ahead. It is time for government to tighten its belt too.”

The Lib Dem leader outlined four key economic policies:

Action to stop unjust repossessions before tens of thousands of families find themselves on the streets; an end to “the free-wheeling, bonus-driven, short termism” of the City; interest rates that take house price changes into account and tax cuts.

“The money must go direct to people on low and middle incomes,” he told conference.

“The very wealthy, the super-rich – should be paying more not less.

“I will never support the Tory idea that you cut taxes for millionaires and the benefits somehow trickle down.

“That’s not what struggling families need. They need their money back.”

Despite the woes of the government, it was David Cameron that the target of most of Mr Clegg’s derision.

“Cameron’s only aim was to make the Conservatives inoffensive,” he said.

“Problem is, once you strip out the offensive parts of the Conservative party, there isn’t much left.

“Cameron’s hope is to become the Andrex puppy of British politics.

“A cuddly symbol, perhaps, but fundamentally irrelevant to the product he’s promoting.

“You have to admire, I suppose, the sheer gall of someone who worked for Margaret Thatcher claiming he cares about poverty.

“But that arrogance.

“That born-to-rule conceit.

“That sense he’s already picking out curtain patterns for Number 10.

“That’s not what Britain needs.

“Power must be earned, not inherited.”

Mr Clegg also boasted that the Lib Dems were “The first to fight for women’s rights, gay rights, human rights.”

Treasury minister Angela Eagle today dismissed the Lib Dem tax plan.

“The truth is Lib Dem sums don’t add up,” she told the BBC.

“They offer a menu without prices.”

Conference season continues next week when the Labour party gather in Manchester.