Equidistance 2.0 – Clegg attacks “fantasy world politics” of Tories AND Labour

clegg cameron milibandThe Coalition may be limbering up to announce its mid-term review, billed as Coalition 2.0, early in the New Year. But it looks like Nick Clegg is going from something of a pre-emptive strike, perhaps closer to Equidistance 2.0, in a speech tomorrow. The Observer reports today that he will up the ante of anti-Tory rhetoric, saying:

“The Tory right dreams of a fantasy world where we can walk away from the EU but magically keep our economy strong; where we can pretend that the world hasn’t moved on and stand opposed to gay marriage; where we can refuse to accept the verdict of the British people and pretend the Conservatives won a majority of their own.”

Two-and-a-half years after the Coalition was born, it looks like it won’t now be so hard to “find anything to bloody disagree on in the bloody TV debate.”

But he’s not letting Labour off the hook either, arguing that the Opposition:

“lives in a different but no less destructive fantasy world where their irresponsible borrowing can be remedied by borrowing more; where every budget reduction can be opposed without explaining where the money should come from; where games can be played with political reform and EU budget policy without long-term damage to their credibility.”

We may be on the verge of entering 2013. But politicians’ eyes are increasingly focused on 2015. And Nick Clegg wants to use the next two years to ensure voters are in no doubt that the Lib Dems are different to both the Tories AND Labour.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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13 Comments

  • Bill le Breton 16th Dec '12 - 1:17pm

    If the Coalition is to publish Coalition 2.0, have I missed something? Where has been the Party involvement? Where has been the use of Party activists to seek the views of their constituents at parish, principal council ward and constituency level.

    What a wasted opportunity … Nick is going to talk about governing from the centre tomorrow … is that the centre of the left-right divide … or the centre as in London SW1A 0AA – both are inappropriate locations for Liberalism to campaign from.

    News on ‘It’s the economy, stupid’: First, New Governor of the Bank of England getting close to recommending NGDLT targeting and looser monetary policy – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9741052/Bank-of-England-could-get-new-growth-target.html

    Second, Exit polls predict 2/3rds majority for Abenomics in Japan – you got it, NGDPLT targeting and looser monetary policy – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20745165

    We could get this economy moving by June, without necessarily increasing borrowing by a £1.

  • Tony Dawson 16th Dec '12 - 1:17pm

    I agree with Nick! :-)

    Now is the winter of our discontent. . . . .

  • You can’t be equidistant between the Tories and the Labour Party. You are in a coalition government which rightly or wrongly you entered into. The public now expect you to work with the Tories until 2015, if you try and attack and distance yourselves from your coalition partners you’ll just be seen as untrustworthy, backstabbing opportunists which is exactly what that kind of behaviour would make you guys.

    You entered into a partnership with the Tories, the public expect you to be trustworthy and stick with it. If you were going to turn on the Tories you should have done it when the tuition fees vote was happening, ended the coalition and had fresh elections over it, you can’t do it now.

  • Peter Watson 16th Dec '12 - 3:31pm

    This does not sound like equidistance and certainly not change.
    Criticising the right of the tory party and the whole of the Labour party is maintaining the Lib Dems position right next to Cameron’s ideology-free opportunistic wing of the tory party. “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”

  • David Allen 16th Dec '12 - 4:48pm

    “If the Coalition is to publish Coalition 2.0, have I missed something? Where has been the Party involvement?”

    This isn’t about the Party, it’s about Nick. The Observer think he is doing a bit of strategic repositioning, and perhaps they’re right. I don’t believe in strategic repositioning. If you are an honest politician, you either believe something or you don’t. The Vicar of Bray doesn’t deserve anybody’s votes.

    The questions for our very own Vicar of Bray is, why are you making this move, and, is it intended to be permanent or temporary?

    Stephen Tall gives the charitable explanation, to the effect that we need to develop a credible position for the 2015 election which is not totally embedded within the nether regions of the Prime Minister. But if that’s true, Bill le Breton’s question is entirely apposite. Why hasn’t Nick given the Party a voice in how this is to be done?

    The alternative explanation is that Clegg wants to save his own skin, and that he wants to save the Orange Blue Project. He knows that Orange Toryism has failed, that the party is rejecting it, and that the party should therefore choose new leadership before 2015 in order to move forward with credibility and conviction. Clegg wants to fight against that, partly as a matter of career ambition, and partly because of his genuine faith in the Orange Blue Project to which he, Laws, Alexander and Marshall have been central.

    In order to fight effectively, Clegg is no doubt willing to make a temporary tack to the left. After 2015, he can of course swing back to his natural home on the Right.

  • @ Peter

    It is criticising where the tories would be if they were in oposition and where the Labour party are in oposition. If the Labour Party were in coalition then their leadership would be supporting cutts and the left of Labour would be arguing that we could borrow our way out of a debt crisis.

    The logical place economically is where the LibDem Leadership is mainly getting the government (lower taxes for the bottom of the income scale but still gradual real terms cuts, which is an increase in cash terms) thoughthere is scope for improvement. In reality the Labout and Conservative leadership would end up close in net position (Labour more taxes on the poor but with more handouts, the tories would be more tax cuts higher up the income bands).

    Criticising the Labour party when the leadership is playing to it’s extreem wing and criticising the Tory right wing that the leadership would pander to if in oposition is a fair position to take.

  • paul barker 16th Dec '12 - 7:51pm

    There are decent people we can work with in both labour & tories, the big difference is that the current tory leadership are willing to make enough compromises to keep the coalition going; so far the labour leadership have mostly kept to the sort of unprincipled attacks that make opposition easy. At some point labour will have to say something real about what they propose to do , post 2015 & when they do we can look at it.
    Right now there is no labour position to take a distance from.

  • Peter Watson 16th Dec '12 - 8:05pm

    The Observer article states, “While the two parties will present a new coalition agreement in the new year, Clegg will make clear the programme will be the product of creative tension rather than shared goals.”
    If true, this could be a great step forward. My greatest disappointment about the last couple of years is the way that every coalition policy has been enthusiastically presented by the Lib Dem leadership as a great thing, even when it contradicts party policy, previous positions, manifesto commitments and public promises.

  • @ Peter

    I agree it needs to be clearer where the priorities are. Coalition makes it hard to see wich party cares most about which policies (and which they have to go along with due to the deal making nature of the situation). For example it needs to be clear that the economic situation is top of the agenda but the other causes are important but secondary.

    The tory back benchers have been able to make some mud stick by saying that Lords reform was the Libdems obsession which noone cares about when the economy is top of the agenda.

    Though they have shot them selves in the foot by using the same attack on the equal marriage act. People can see that it is an easy thing to fix and does not really distract from the economic programme particularly if it is not dragged out by silly ness. Perhaps the Lords reform should have been proposed after the equal marriage…

  • Peter Watson 16th Dec '12 - 10:18pm

    @Psi “Coalition makes it hard to see which party cares most about which policies (and which they have to go along with due to the deal making nature of the situation).”
    That is certainly the case with this coalition, but I don’t think it is inherent in coalition government. In my more charitable moments, I believe that the Lib Dem leadership has been swept up in a notion of cabinet collective responsibility which forces them to hide any dissent from the agreed policy presented to the public, no matter how bitterly and valiantly they might have fought their corner in private. Unfortunately, every time I hear Clegg, Alexander or Laws, I find it hard to believe that they are not enthusiastic believers in everything they are doing in government.

  • Simon Hebditch 17th Dec '12 - 9:12am

    It is all quite simple – you cannot have either equidistance or differentiation when the Lib Dems have signed up to a common economic policy and strategy until 2018. The Lib Dem leadership has indicated its preference post 2015 – a continuing alliance with the Tories.

  • Peter W – surely, the point is that all 3 parties are now split between neo-liberal economics supporters and a variety of other approaches, most of which oppose much of the economic approach of this Government. Even some Tories are not neo-liberals, and Labour and the Lib Dems are profoundly split. Of course Clegg, Laws and Alexander are in the former camp (how could Clegg not be, when he learned a lot about political economics at Leon Brittan’s knee? There has been no announced Damascene conversion, and his constant emphasis on clinging to “the centre ground” in politics strongly implies that he believes a neoliberal approach to be that). While they continue with that economics, they will continue to look like the Tories, and genuine differentiation will be difficult to achieve. What happens may also be somewhat dependent on how far Labour are able to make an obvious and genuine break with the nuLabour neoloiberalism. At present, their efforts seem somewhat timid!

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