Nick Clegg used a prime-time slot on this morning’s Today Programme to make clear his view that the public will take a “more rounded view” of the Lib Dems’ achievements in government by the next election. As BBC News reports:
[Mr Clegg] said the effect of the spending cuts would be “difficult”, adding: “But I think at the same time there are signs that the repair job we are doing on the government finances and the general creation of greater confidence in the economy might also start showing itself as well.
“I think it will be a crucial year – a crucial year, yes, of some very challenging circumstances for millions of people in this country, but I hope the beginning of a real turnaround as we move forward and as we successfully implement the repair job on the economy.” …
Asked whether the Lib Dems had been unsuccessful in implementing their manifesto commitments since forming the coalition, he replied that they had gone into the arrangement with the Conservatives “with our eyes wide open”. He said policies such as electoral reform, raising the point at which people pay basic-rate income tax and introducing a “pupil premium” to help children from the worst-off families had been largely due to his party’s efforts. Mr Clegg added: “I think this shows a clear liberal direction to this government, on the whole.”
He said: “These are the big benefits in British life which I acknowledge in a sense don’t present themselves immediately to people. Over the course of this parliament I believe people will take a more rounded view of what this government is doing.”
You can listen to a brief excerpt from Nick’s interview here:
Lib Dem MPs attack Labour’s financial legacy: they “left the country in an economic shambles”
Nick’s party colleagues have also mounted a staunch defence of the Lib Dems role in the Coalition, and in particular attacking Labour’s shadow chancellor Alan Johnson for his embarrassing failure to know the rate of employer’s National Insurance contributions.
Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Treasury Committee, Stephen Williams MP noted acerbically:
“For Alan Johnson, the man who Labour wants to run Britain’s economy to be plucking the rate of employers’ National Insurance contributions out of thin air is utterly incredible. Britain is facing the highest debt levels in peacetime history, yet we have a Labour party that’s completely clueless on basic economics. Jobs will not be created by the fantasy economics conjured up on Alan Johnson’s abacus. Labour left the country in an economic shambles. They have made no apology, they have no regrets and with a self-proclaimed novice at their economic helm, it’s little wonder they still offer no alternative.”
At the same time, the party also pointed out that it would require an increase of over 3% in employers’ National Insurance Contributions — from 12.8% to almost 16% — to generate the same amount of revenue as the Coalition’s 2.5% VAT rise (£11.9 billion). Labour have said they would raise employers’ NICs by 1% as an alternative to increasing VAT, even though this would generate just £3.8 bn revenue.
With Ed Miliband today trying to sweep Mr Johnson’s gaffe under the carpet — labelling his shadow chancellor’s ignorance of tax-rates as a ‘Westminster game’ — Mr Williams added: “To dismiss a massive misunderstanding of how much employers have to pay as a parlour game is not only worrying, it is also a shameful indication of how Labour’s economic strategy for Britain is based on finger-counting and guess work.”
Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Business Innovations and Skills Committee, Lorely Burt MP, also highlighted Labour’s failure to get to grips with the financial crisis they presided over:
“When Labour was in government they lost control of the country’s finances and refused to do anything that would upset the City. The Coalition is making sure that bankers recognise their obligation to the taxpayers who helped bail the banks out. That’s why this Government has introduced a permanent tax – not just a one off – which will raise £2.5bn a year.
“Until Ed Miliband ditches his brand of ostrich economics and faces up to the role his party played in getting the country into a financial crisis he does not deserve to be listened to.”