Clegg points to “clear liberal direction” of government, as Lib Dems highlight Labour’s economic woes

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.”

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  • OK I’m probably biased but I watched the Milliband press conference this morning and he did well because he actually answered the questions asked. Unlike Cameron on the Marr Show on Sunday which was a straight Tory Party Political Broadcast. I’ve always had a lot of respect for Marr and maybe he was just having an off-day but he let Cameron run right over him and answered nothing.

    I don’t think the public are really listening anymore to the blame game coming from the Coalition – a helluva lot of people did well under Labour and that is what they are slowly starting to remember under the current regime.

    People can be really strange and they might accept that Labour was culpable but they are quite capable of deciding that the current ‘medicine’ is a far worse experience.

    But I note that the attack on workers continues with Cameron being reported as planning to extend the period before workers have employment protection from the current one year to two years before they can go to an employment tribunal with an unfair dismissal claim.

    I have no doubt that the LibDems will have no problem in backing the Tory Government on this one as well.

  • There seems to be some doubt as to what the Tory Government bank tax will bring in as some estimate it as low as £1.25 billion. Should be remembered that Darling’s one-off tax was ‘one-off’ simply because he knew that the banks would find ways of circumventing it if it was permanent.

    Having watched how the rish including leading cabinet members managed their financial affairs with the assistance of offshore tax havens I have no problem in accepting Darling’s proposition.

    I wonder if anyone actually has a figure that the banks have saved with the cut in Corporation Tax which has to be set against the revenue raised by the bank tax.

    And I wonder when we are actually going to get the long-promised info on the numbers of bank employees being paid these disgraceful bonuses and the amounts involved. You aren’t even going to name them anymore but they still get protected.

    If you’re on the dole and fiddle a few quid benefit to keep your children warm in the winter you’ll be splattered all over the papers and possibly prosecuted but if you’re a banker you get handed millions in secret from the taxpayers who own the banks.

    And you wonder how the public have seen through your charade so easily.

  • Lorely Burt seems to finished halfway through a sentence. Surely she meant to say, “That’s why this Government has introduced a permanent tax – not just a one off – which will raise £2.5bn a year, while introducing a corporation tax cut which more than nullifies any effect and actually leaves banks better off,”

  • I laughed at the Cameron Growth Conference today with the announcement of new jobs which mainly seem to be in the retail sector.

    I wonder if we got the full time equivalent figures or the usual retail scam of saying they are going to employ hundreds at a new store and when you analyse the figure your find a few dozen full-timers – usually transferred from other branches – and the rest part-time with some only being able to get 5/7 hours a week.

    Obviously the jobs are on minimum wages with minimal benefits – I’m not knocking minimum wages which was a great victory for the LP but I hardly see it being enough for all the civil servants about to be dumped or is it only the lowest grades of civil servants that are for the boot?

    Clegg is wasting his time courting the alarm-clock generation as he has dismissively described hard-working people because the way things are going they’ll all be having a long lie-in as they won’t have a job to go to or it will be stacking supermarket shelves on the nightshift.

    Seems the LibDems have totally lost touch with the working class let alone those on benefits – they have become detached from reality.

  • @matt

    It’s not an idea Matt – it’s an ideology. The one thing I respect about the Tories is that you know exactly where you are with them because they don’t hide what they are about and who they are out to make richer and who they are out to grind into the dust.

    Decent LibDems are just waking up to the monster they so eagerly jumped into bed with. They will pay the consequences while the Clegg clique will jump ship – guess where?

  • The coalition can and will keep blaming Labour, they seem oblivious to who is going to get the blame if this all goes tits up, and it ain’t gonna be Labour.

    The Alan Johnson comment was a gaffe, clearly one to make fun of but in no way a political coup.

    The VAT rise is a gamble, if people cut back their spending, as some are advising them to do, then the VAT figures won’t be met.

    The issues people are going to notice are income and employment, these are two huge fundamental issues for people, these are the important issues, if the coalition get this wrong then everything else is going to be ignored, they have to get the fundamentals right, they have to achieve growth.

  • Malcolm Todd 10th Jan '11 - 11:41pm

    Of course, Minibanjo’s right about “Westminster games”. It actually doesn’t matter whether Johnson knows exactly what a specific tax rate is: the economic and fiscal effect comes from the change you make in the rate.
    Our party should be careful about mocking senior figures for not knowing the minutiae of precise rates of anything. Have we forgotten who thought the state pension was only £30 a week? 😀

  • It seems Nick Cleggs liberal direction has come to mean restrictions on the rights of workers, but carte blanche for bankers to pay themselves what they like.

    You’re tories now.

  • Malcolm Todd 11th Jan '11 - 9:16am

    “And let’s be clear today’s extraordinary case of the police mole who switched sides in the power station protests is as much about the police having money to waste as it is about civil liberties”

    Erm, no. It really isn’t.

  • The Alan Johnson gaffe smells of an ‘ambush’ to me as does the Milliband phone-in.

    What is important about Johnson is what Milliband said when questioned about the gaffe which was he would have Johnson any day of the week rather than Osborne and I can’t think of anyone who would disagree with him. Ordinary voters want a Chancellor who cares about them and not one who might as well be Dracula with the amount of blood-letting that’s goin on.

    I see the bankers are walking scot-free on their bonuses – now there’s a surprise. Another tragedy down to Vince who has had the fuse on his nuclear option well and truly pulled and left him as another Cameron lap dog – move over Cleggy.

    The interesting thing about the police mole is what is going to happen to the earlier cases where the protesters were found guilty?

  • Dan Falchikov

    Can you tell me, exactly, which Labour MP fits into your assertion that:
    “it is about Labour’s utter denial to admit that they are responsible for the mess the country is in”

    Yes, Milliband says it isn’t all Labour’s fault. Most serious economists agree with this, arguing that a mix of global and political mistakes led to the crisis.

    And on another matter – at what point can you claim that your heroic Chancellor – a certain Mr Gideon Osborne – voted against Labour spending plans or indeed even spoke against them? In other words – if economists claim the world recession was a contributory factor, the present government voted with the Labour administration on spending and the Labour party admits it’s mistakes –

    what is the truth behind your post?

  • I think only one likely byelection, Oranjepan. Assuming Eric Illsley (convicted yesterday) is either sentenced for a year or longer, resigns under pressure, or is kicked out by a vote of MPs, there will be an election at Barnsley Central. David Chaytor convicted last week, and Eliot Morley, still to come to court, both stood down at the GE.

  • Clegg states: “We are protecting jobs by cutting red tape for employers”

    Well, in my experience Tories cutting red tape for employers often means a dimunitioin in the statutory rights of workers.

    This latest move apparently involves the length of service before a worker has any legal recourse to an Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal being raised from 12 months to 24 months.

    A crushing attack on the current statutory rights of every worker in Britain and a real blow to Civil Liberties and Human Rights by creating fear and worry in workers who know an employer can get rid of them at any time for no reason and there is nothing the employee can do to complain legally if they haven’t been employed for over two years.

    It’s quite possible there may even be sanctions applied even beyond 24 months but we have to wait for the details.

    Clegg is now going show yellow water between the policies he bklieves in and those the Tories support. Looks from the Sun article that he has already embarced deep Tory blue water on this one although most workers will see it as pure yellow.

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