Nick Clegg’s Letter from the Leader: “Our central purpose: Getting the economy back on track”

This week was the week of the Comprehensive Spending Review. Perhaps more importantly for the Coalition’s self-confidence was the erasure from the economic records of the double-dip recession. Nick’s letter this week is bullish about the Lib Dems’ record on the economy: “Creating jobs. Stopping the build up of Labour’s unsustainable debts. Getting the economy back on track”. It is also savage of Labour’s record, not just in government but their last three years in opposition, too: “They don’t have a credible economic plan and it’s no wonder people don’t trust them with their money.”

Combine this with Danny Alexander’s assault on Labour’s pensions policy and David Laws’ publication of that infamous hand-written note by Liam “there’s no money” Byrne, and it’s clear the party is upping the ante in taking the fight to Labour (ironically as Labour continues moving its position closer to the Lib Dems’).

Here’s Nick’s letter in full…

libdem letter from nick clegg

Money, jobs and investment dominated the agenda this week. On Wednesday, the chancellor set out details of the Spending Round: the last set of savings we will have to announce in this Parliament. On Thursday, Danny Alexander followed up by announcing massive new investment in our roads, rail, housing and infrastructure.

And the moment he was finished, I rushed down the road to talk with the leaders of some of Britain’s biggest cities about the next wave of “city deals”, devolving financial and economic power to our great urban and industrial hubs.

Creating jobs. Stopping the build up of Labour’s unsustainable debts. Getting the economy back on track. That’s the central purpose of this government: it was on the day we started and it will be right through to May 2015.

And what about Labour? For three years their central purpose has been to accuse Liberal Democrats of betrayal for our determination to tackle the deficit and rebalance the economy. And now? They’ve effectively admitted we were right: they wouldn’t reverse a single one of the cuts we have made. They finally accept that the difficult work we’ve done to set Britain back on the right path has been worth it.

So if you’ve been on the receiving end of attacks from Labour supporters over the last three years, now’s the time to fight back. They’re the ones who crashed our economy and racked up unaffordable debts. They don’t have a credible economic plan and it’s no wonder people don’t trust them with their money.

Labour want us to be embarrassed about our record in government, but they couldn’t be more wrong. We can be hugely proud of what we’re achieving.

Balancing the books and rebalancing the economy isn’t easy – especially not for the millions of families still struggling to adjust after the collapse of our financial system in 2008. We haven’t relished any of the difficult decisions we have had to take, but we know they were needed. Because even though progress is frustratingly slow sometimes, it is happening.

More than a million new jobs created, and a million apprenticeships started, too.

Tax cuts for every working person, with two million freed from paying any income tax at all. Better protections for pensioners, higher standards in our schools, and help for all those struggling to find work.

We need to get out there and explain that story to everyone we meet. Labour don’t have an alternative. They should be apologising to the country for the damage they did to the economy – and apologising to us for the brutal accusations they laid at our door while we were cleaning up their mess.

Liberal Democrats have done the right thing, in the national interest: cut taxes, created jobs and invested in Britain’s future. There are just two years until the next election so let’s stand up and be proud of what we’ve done.

Best wishes,

Nick Clegg

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* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • “Tax cuts for every working person …”

    Yes. Tax cuts for everyone – including those on well above the average income – and benefit cuts for those on the lowest incomes.

    Nick Clegg is “hugely proud” of that, apparently.

  • Paul Pettinger 30th Jun '13 - 2:19pm

    ‘On Thursday, Danny Alexander followed up by announcing massive new investment in our roads, rail, housing and infrastructure.’ – there was no real boost to capital spending – the Govt is still ignoring the IMF

    Labour should be ‘… apologising to us for the brutal accusations they laid at our door’ – is this the letter of a child vying for victim status or a leader? I’d take Alistair Darling over George Osborne, or indeed Danny Alexander, any day.

    Just another politico trying to hang onto their job.

  • “I’d take Alistair Darling over George Osborne”

    It wouldn’t surprise me if that is a shared sentiment: “ALISTAIR DARLING received a standing ovation at the Conservative conference yesterday ” Scottish Express 9-Jun-13 [ ]

  • jenny barnes 30th Jun '13 - 3:12pm

    Wasn’t the economy meant to be fixed by now? Ready for that nice tax giveaway for a feelgood election in 2015. I’m sure I remember Mr. Osborne saying there wouldn’t need to be any more cuts. I have a suggestion. Next time there’s a coalition negotiation, don’t accept DPM in charge of constitutional no change at all; insist on Vince as chancellor.

  • “Balancing the books and rebalancing the economy isn’t easy – especially not for the millions of families still struggling to adjust after the collapse of our financial system in 2008”

    Well you’ve at least successfully proven that. We were told the austerity (pay freezes and redundancies in my family) would be worth it because the deficit would be solved by 2015… except clearly thats not going to happen so forgive me if I for one don’t feel like your strategy was worth it after all.

    As an ex Lib Dem – not a Labour troll so no need to seek sanctuary in that easy accusation to any criticism – i find the hypocrisy about the causes of economic difficulties to be galling. We’re constantly told that under Labour economic problems were the result of government mismanagement without any acknowledgement of outside influence such as ‘sub prime’ or the international banking crisis. Yet when the economy stalls under your stewardship its all beyond govt control and solely down to outside influences with the Euro zone crisis the usual scapegoat. In both cases it was a complex combination of domestic and international forces so please stop being myopic and treat us with the intelligence we deserve. You sound like the point scoring politico you so succesfully – and thrillingly at the time – used to lambast.

  • Paul Pettinger 30th Jun '13 - 8:10pm

    I am very confused Joe – In September 2010 Nick Clegg said ‘Britain in 2010 is anxious, unsure about the future, but Britain in 2015 will be a different country. Strong, fair, free and full of hope again.’

    I can’t tell the difference between double think and ‘oposition [sic] attack lines’ any more.

  • Paul Pettinger 30th Jun '13 - 8:28pm

    Which is all more ironic Joe when you have already tried to blackball me from posting a Lib Dem Voice article on the economy for it ‘agreeing with opposition attack lines’ (26/1/13), when I’m a party member of 20 years. Is the economy supposed to better as a result of the coalition, or am I an ‘opposition attack’ merchant for agreeing with the likes of radicals like Vince Cable and John Maynard Keynes?

  • What are the million jobs as full time equivalents? Are any of them career jobs or are they mainly deskilled McJobs? This government is continuing the last government’s tactic of devaluing the pound as the answer to everything. Its not building a solid legacy for our kids, merely dragging us down the economic rankings. I have no confidence in Gideon or Danny, who with Nick seems to have Stockholm syndrome.

  • Joe Otten said:

    “The suggestion that the economy would be fixed in time for a tax giveaway in 2015 was an early Labour attack line.

    It would be a mistake to judge the government on the basis of opposition attack lines that turned out to be misjudged.”

    Sure, Labour misjudged that one. They predicted that the Coalition would do better with the economy than they actually did do. And so your point is…?

  • A Social Liberal 30th Jun '13 - 10:26pm

    Paul what else can you expect when it has been Lib Dem policy to blame everything on the Labour Party, Telling such half truths as leaving the largest deficit of the G7 countries when we actually had the lowest debt. That they created the biggest deficit in the developed world by overspending.

    The fact that this had to brought to attention of the public by a TORY beggars belief, has the Lib Dem party not have anyone willing to tell the truth – or has everyone believed the party line?

    Here is the Huffington Post article I used as reference

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Jul '13 - 1:37am

    Nick Clegg

    Creating jobs. Stopping the build up of Labour’s unsustainable debts. Getting the economy back on track. That’s the central purpose of this government: it was on the day we started and it will be right through to May 2015.

    Liberal Democrats have done the right thing, in the national interest: cut taxes, created jobs and invested in Britain’s future. There are just two years until the next election so let’s stand up and be proud of what we’ve done.

    Sorry, this doesn’t make sense. If the most important thing is to stop the build-up of unsustainable debts, we should not be cutting taxes. If we need to clear those debts, we need to be raising as much money as we can, which means at least keeping taxes at the same rate. Seeing some of the damage caused by expenditure cuts now, should tax cuts really be a priority?

    Now, looking at some of the detail: “a million jobs created”? I think you will find most people don’t feel there’s been a jobs bonanza. Most people feel instead that getting a job is getting harder, they fear being unemployed, if they are not unemployed themselves, they know others who are, and who are finding it difficult to get back into employment. People will just see this as typical politician’s propaganda – which it is. There’s been a weaselish dropping of the word “private” from the original statistics. As others have pointed out, some of those jobs supposedly “created” are actually just jobs pushed from public to private sector. Often that push means loss of job security, lower pay, poorer quality service.

    But the main problem here is that this is setting us up to be “Coalition v. Labour”. It’s identifying the whole of the government with the Liberal Democrats, which means it’s identifying the Liberal Democrats with Conservative policies. Much of what is here is straightforward Conservative Party assumptions, propaganda for Conservative Party ideas. So this is full of attacks on Labour, but is praising the Conservatives by identifying with their policies. WHEN did the Liberal Democrats as a party ever agree to do that? We ought to be equal in our attitudes to the other two parties, not siding with one while attacking the other.

    To put all the blame on Labour for the deficit is nonsense. Instead of silly party political knockabout like this, we need a SERIOUS discussion on why government spending is rising. We need to acknowledge that the main driving force is not the Labour Party but lengthening lifespans, many people staying alive for longer, requiring more state pension money to be paid out, and more in medical care as older people require more medical maintenance. We need to acknowledge the decline in North Sea oil revenue. We need to acknowledge the disastrous consequences of the running down of council housing resulting in huge housing benefit bills as people are forced into much more expensive private rented housing. As Simon has noted, we need to acknowledge the global financial crash, which quite obviously is a huge factor, and since it is global, not just in this country, can hardly be blamed just on the Labour government.

    Failing to acknowledge all this, and putting all the blame on the past Labour government is carrying on living in never-never land. Pretending all these other issues don’t exist means we won’t do what is needed to tackle them. Instead it gives the impression there’s an easy-peasy way to solve it all, just cut away some of that extra unnecessary spending that was all the fault of Labour and it’ll be fine. This WON’T WORK because most of the extra spending wasn’t fripperies, it was dealing with long-term issues such as the rise in life-span. What is happening is that the knock-on effect of making further cuts is causing a rise in emergency expenditure elsewhere. When you cut £X of government expenditure, you don’t save £X. You lose the money in the tax that the people no longer employed in government jobs would have paid, and in the tax those they aren’t paying to do services for them would have paid. If the result is that the people left in jobs are stressed and fall sick because of that – which it IS – you lose more because of that. If the result is that repairs aren’t made, you lose more in the long-term when you have to put things right. If the result is that children grow up uncared for and poorly educated, we have a less useful next generation, and our decline will continue.

    We ought to be acknowledging the extent to which our economy has gone wrong because so much money had been pushed into pumping up property prices rather than into productive investment. This needs to be reversed if our economy is to get moving, but that requires measure that will be painful to those who own property and make money from property. I.e. people who are tend to be Tory voters. We should be out attacking Tories because their whole philosophy is about protecting income from owning things at the expense of everything else. Instead, all the pain is being borne by poor people, by the people who can least afford to bear it. This is NOT what I joined the Liberal Democrats to promote.

  • andrew purches 1st Jul '13 - 9:25am

    Please,please Nick Clegg,just stop it ! Labour may or may not have created the mess that your coalition government has had to clear up ; it was much more a question of everyone’s inability to control the Banks, the City and every other conniving person in the financial world who caused all our crises and problems, and this administration has not done that much to improve matters. In fact your actions have by and large been quite destructive. The million new jobs are, I suspect, low paid part-time posts in retail or skivvying in the” care” industry for wages that are subsidised by the state in the provision of tax credits. Without these credits being in place, our unemployment rate would be approaching four million by now, and rising. Have you,Nick, or Danny for that matter, questioned the morality or ethicacy of the tax payer paying squillions to median and lower income workers in the private and public sectors in the form of tax credits ? Is this a bribe to keep everyone reluctantly on board, at the expense of denying natural freedoms to the trade union movement and the Labour Party? The deficit is still there,and however much slapstick you put on it by way of disguise,it is still growing – PFI – 1 and 2 and 3 on or off the current account . And the poor are getting poorer by the day,with no real sympathy or compensatory help from this government.

  • It’s funny how the new politics is so much like the old one isn’t it. Whether you agree with them or not (and I doubt anybody has actually seen enough to say at this point) Labour have not “effectively agreed” with the coalition. They have said that due to the projected state of the economy they would not be able to reverse cuts. Their contention is that is the economy had been handled differently it would have been in a better state and the level of cuts would have been lower.

    It is entirely possible to take them on on that point and win, but Nick opts for the straw man every time. New politics has gone the way of no more broken promises. Can we please have a grown up honest debate whatever the others parties do, you might just find voters like it, this one would.

  • Ed Shepherd 1st Jul '13 - 9:57am

    Where I work, wages have been drastically slashed (25% or more) and working conditions are worsening. Redundancies are being made ands the remaining staff are having to borrow money just to pay for their day to day spending. Things getting better? Not from what I see every day in the workplace. It looks like things are getting worse.

  • Richard Harris 1st Jul '13 - 11:49am

    I won’t listen to NC until he hands me enough tax breaks to get my kids university fees paid.

  • Joe Otten :
    Can you clarify if ‘jobs’, with zero contract hours are counted in this jobs increase. I know at least two people who signed up to an agency for data collection in the transport sector. (Monitoring bus routes, timetables, customer satisfaction etc). So whilst they are on the agency’s books, neither have had a phone call for the use of their services. In short, they have had zero work, and by definition zero income from that job.
    Are they counted in your total of 1.3 million of new jobs?

  • Defenestrate Clegg 1st Jul '13 - 1:36pm

    ”Tax cuts for every working person.”

    ..and VAT rises for everyone, including those out of work, or unable to work.

  • @ Richard Harris

    “I won’t listen to NC until he hands me enough tax breaks to get my kids university fees paid.”

    Why on earth are you paying for your kids’ university fees?

  • “Why on earth are you paying for your kids’ university fees?”

    I can’t speak for him of course, but maybe it’s because he he went to university and had his fees paid by his parent’s taxes and he feels a social obligation to do the same (pay for his kids education). In which case you’re effectively asking him why he isn’t a sociopath.

  • “Why on earth are you paying for your kids’ university fees?”

    Besides, it’s a bit daft. The thing to do (as one of my colleagues has already done) is buy a holiday home in Scotland and register their offspring’s address there, thus avoiding any fees.

  • Simon Shaw

    My take on it is that it is morally unacceptable for the state to subsidise poor wages through the welfare system.

    The tax credit system is cumbersome and could be revised but it will not change the fact that the bulk of social security payments go to pensioners, the disabled and those in work – not the unemployed (makes up approx. 5%, not including housing benefit).

    Of course we wouldn’t necessarily know this from the Coalition – remind me again where further social security cuts will come from if the pension is protected?

  • Joe : You ask :
    “John, I don’t know. Do you?”
    I’m not asking a rhetorical question Joe. I don’t know, and I open the question to anyone that can answer it.? But until we get background details such as [ Job type], [Pay per hour], [Hours available], [Contract terms], etc, we cannot know if these jobs are real, bogus, temporary, or ‘on the books’, but zero hours (i.e. a non-job).
    And let’s be frank, the way that government constantly and cynically, manipulates data, the onus is on them to prove, that there really are 1.3 million new jobs, otherwise belief in the data will be, justifiably, thin on the ground.

  • Joe Otten

    The subject of the ‘1 million jobs’ has been discussed on this previous thread. All is not what it seems – a bit of economy with the actualité it could be said in order to give a headline

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Jul '13 - 5:47pm

    Many self-employed people work on zero hour contracts, they just do the work ad hoc whenever they can get it. This comes back to the problem of the government focusing on jobs rather than work. Job Seekers Allowance needs to be reformed.

  • David Allen 1st Jul '13 - 6:05pm

    Joe Otten,

    “Dave, it’s quite simple. It is silly to condemn the government for not doing something they didn’t promise to do, but that the opposition accused them of wanting to do.”

    You really are having a laugh, aren’t you? Five interacting negatives (“silly” “condemn” “not” “didn’t” and “but”) mixed up with a conditional clause, all preceded by the priceless comment “it’s quite simple”!

    Why is it that these days, right-of-centre politicians take no pleasure in simple logical arguments which are truthful, but delight in the kind of complex obfuscation which only top lawyers can achieve, and which earns them top money?

    Let’s walk through this little debate once more. Jenny Barnes said that according to coalition forecasts, the economy was “meant to be fixed by now”. And so it was. Joe Otten argued that this faulty forecast by the coalition was somehow to be considered immune from any criticism, because Labour had in some way apparently misjudged their response to the forecast. A complete non-sequitur, of course, but presented with sufficient opacity to fool the unwary.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Jul '13 - 6:09pm

    Joe Otten

    It is a common refrain that these 1.3m new jobs are low quality, low paid, etc, etc. Do any of you have any evidence for this? On the face of it, it seems a very churlish response to some good news.

    I’ve seen enough analysis of the “one million jobs created” figures to suggest there’s a considerable amount of sleight of hand in them. As I’ve already said, the dropping of the word “private” in what is here, when it was in the original figures is part of. Moving a job from the public sector to the private sector is NOT creating a job, yet the casual reader of this would assume a real new job had been created, not just the status of an existing job changed.

    Also, I’m sorry Joe, but people I know who work in various areas of public service work tell me just this – when a job is passed over to private contractors, it IS done by people who are cheap to employ and who lack the skills and commitment of the more experienced people who used to do the job when it was in the public sector. I have heard, for example, of parks and gardens being wrecked, because the skilled horticulturalists who used to do the maintenance jobs were sacked, and it was handed over to contractors who employed people who knew little about this sort of thing and so just chopped things down at random.

    How many of the people at the top of our party, making and presenting its policy, have worked in the sort of ordinary jobs most people do? How many have been teachers or nurses or social workers or health visitors and so on? What I’m saying comes from almost everyone I know who works in this sort of job. If our party was run at the top by people who had more typical life experiences, we wouldn’t be getting all these mistakes in policy and presentation being made. I fear we have too many at the top who are the typical wonk type. Oh, they know all the theory, but none of the practice. They are drunk on the current fashionable theory, that of the private sector know-how fairy dust, they pass it around between themselves, they look up to the academic theorists who spout it out, and the more unbending and orthodox and extreme you are about it, the better a wonk you are supposed to be. Back in the days when I was growing up, the fashionable theory was socialism, but it was just the same – too many wonkish types saying silly things and making bad policies because they had little experience of real life and were too hung up on dry academic theories which by then had become stale and their faults obvious to all except the wonks. That’s why I never called myself a “socialist” and had no time for those who did.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Jul '13 - 6:30pm

    Joe Otten

    It is a common refrain that these 1.3m new jobs are low quality, low paid, etc, etc. Do any of you have any evidence for this? On the face of it, it seems a very churlish response to some good news.

    The real problem here, however, is that if you grossly exaggerate what has been achieved, and use trickery so that what it appears you are saying, and how you would want it to be perceived, is somewhat different from the facts underneath, you are doing yourself no favours. Instead, if you have real good news, you are burying it. Exaggerate too much, and people won’t believe even those parts of it which are true. If you then resort to clever trickery and slippery arguments to try and explain yourself, it will just make you look worse, it will make you look like “typical politician” who people now so despise.

    Our party used to do well because we looked like ordinary people who were saying things that linked in with ordinary life as most people experienced it, people trusted us and supposed what we were saying was true. We have lost all that, but it won’t help us if we make it worse by continuing to use campaigns based on clever ad-man’s stuff. It doesn’t work, it just causes us to look alien and out-of-touch.

    As I have already said, if you go on about “one million jobs created”, people WON’T BELIEVE it because they know from their own experience how difficult the employment situation is right now. “One million jobs created” gives the impression of some sort of jobs bonanza, jobs there for all, and do you know how insulting that comes across to anyone who is desperate for a job and can’t get one? Or someone who is stuck on the sort of low-paid part-time job that has been created, because the better paid and more skilled full-time job they had before has gone? I tell you, if this boasting about “one million jobs created”comes across as a sick joke in the prosperous parts of south-east England where I have links – and it does – how much worse must it sound in poorer places?

    If we had been more modest and careful in what we were saying, it would come across better. If we had found a way to acknowledge that the current government, being mainly a Conservative Party one, isn’t that wonderful and isn’t our ideal, it would come across better. Instead, this is a campaign which looks like it is planned to destroy us, to tie us down as cheerleaders for the Conservative Party, surviving only on those few places where we have the Coalition coupon.

  • John – even if they are the estimates for the increases in zero hour contracts are a small proportion (c.70,000) according to

  • Tour de force Matthew!

    If only everyone had your passion…….

  • Simon Shaw

    From the mouth of the Beloved Leader

    “That’s why this government’s aim is that by the time of the next election, our debt problems will be solved; our debts falling as a proportion of national income. We will have wiped the slate clean for a new generation”

    I believe the words ‘will be solved’ is fairly unequivocal – perhaps it was a pledge?

  • Simon Shaw

    Oh sorry, I missed that bit in the Chancellor’s forecast when he said that the National Debt would be falling and our debt problems will be solved. Not sure what that last vacuous phrase means but the first one is pretty clear

    I think Dave Allen’s take on it is pretty accurate – to be where Clegg said we would be in two years time we would definitely be seeing the benefits of austerity now – in fact we are seeing nothing of the kind.

    On a final point, you may be right ‘most’ people don’t do the jobs that Matthew says – in fact ‘most’ people don’t do any job but you are being a tad pedantic here as you can clearly see what Matthew is saying. How many of the people at the top of Government have ever had the job that could be defined as ‘ordinary’.?

    How many of them have ever collected Unemployment Benefit or had to worry when the next pound is coming from?

    I have experienced those things when after graduating and when starting my first job – I am lucky enough to have a good job now but I bet a lot of people have experienced a lack of money at some point in their lives – have Clegg, Cameron, Osborne, Alexander et al ever experienced that feeling?

  • Hywel says :
    “John – even if they are the estimates for the increases in zero hour contracts are a small proportion (c.70,000)”
    Government estimates are all very well Hywel, but facts are the real deal. No-one believes government stats and estimates, and I think that’s the main point to be derived from this. We want detailed facts, not government manipulated stats. And until we get facts, 1.3 million is a figure we must assume is plucked from thin air, or some civil servants dubious spreadsheet.

  • Peter Watson 1st Jul '13 - 10:21pm

    @bcrombie In Alexander’s defence, I believe he joined the Oxbridge PPE political class from relatively modest roots. Now if you’d said Laws …

  • Joe, it might be a common refrain because that is what people see with their own eyes. Seeing as the Government has tax data it should be able to put some data behind this claim. When they dont publish the data, that tends to be because its unfavourable. I’m a Lib Dem, I just wince when our own politicians make inflated claims that underline how out of touch they are.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Jul '13 - 11:36pm

    Simon Shaw

    Just to make the point, Matthew, that most “ordinary people” do not work in the public sector. So they have never been teachers or nurses or social workers or health visitors.

    One could make a similar list of private sector jobs. I put this in the specific context of a discussion on privatising jobs, so it was relevant to list public sector jobs. These are hardly unusual jobs, and quite a high proportion of the population does work in the pubic sector, in part because the sort of work done there tends to be the sort that requires more person-power.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jul '13 - 10:52am

    Joe, you have missed my point.

    I don’t believe the way this is presented will get the message across. The fact is that people will read this as suggesting there is a jobs bonanza, and they will get angry about it because they have themselves found it difficult to get a job, or have people dear to them in that situation. This sort of ad-man’s “it’s all wonderful super-duper” stuff just doesn’t work, especially when people aren’t feeling wonderful super-duper. There’s no point in trying to argue with me about it, if it is to work it has to convince people who aren’t interested in politics, and who are feeling unhappy about this government, and who will probably throw any sort of leaflet with this headline on it in the bin within seconds thinking “what a bunch of out-of-touch people who just say any old rubbish if they think it will win votes”.

    And, as I keep saying, there is a very clear tone in this of tying us up to Conservative Party economic assumptions. It makes no distinction between the Coalition and the Liberal Democrats, and paints politics now as “Us v. Them” where Us is the Tories-LibDems and Them is Labour. It makes it seem as if we have given up what we used to stand for and are now just cheerleaders for the Conservatives.

    The basic facts could have been presented in a different way, I might then have been supportive of the campaign. As it is, it’s more of the same we have had since the coalition was formed – the people at the top of our party seem determined to present it in a way that confirms the attacks being made on us by our opponents.

    I’m sorry, but the whole tone of this campaign which presents the current government as a Liberal Democrat one, and which puts us up towards fighting the next election on the grounds of defending the Conservative-dominated government with knockabout anti-Labour attacks, of the simplistic type which ignore so many of the real factors leading to the deficit crisis, is almost the breaking point for me. I’ve moved from someone who was basically supportive of the Liberal Democrats, and willing in public to defend the party’s position in the coalition, just unhappy about the way it is being presented, to someone who now doesn’t want the Liberal Democrats to win. If our general election campaign is like this, I’ll move from my current position of not being motivated to work for the party to being actively opposed to it.

    Perhaps the party feels it does not need people like me who have put so much time and effort and money into building it up, so perhaps its message to me is “Leave, and good riddance”. Well, that WAS the message a senior aide to Nick Clegg put in an article in the national media last year, and Clegg never repudiated him for it. Well, let’s see how well it does when it has lost so many of those who were once its keenest volunteers.

    I am begging and pleading now for it to change its tune, because I do not want to be forced out. I do not want all I have spent so much of my life building up to be destroyed. But if our general election campaign is like this, I will not stay silent, and I will want to contribute to the party being destroyed in that election. It is either that, or we become like the National Liberals of old, a permanent minor ally of the Conservatives, gradually becoming absorbed into it as the Co-operative Party is absorbed into Labour. I joined the Liberals because I felt them to be a more effective opposition to the Conservatives than Labour, I did not join them in order to become a supporter of the Conservative Party.

  • David Allen 2nd Jul '13 - 12:51pm


    Well your latest post is certainly clearer to read. It is therefore easier to see the flaws in your argument.

    Jenny said that the “economy was meant to be fixed by now”. She was right. Osborne did say the economy would be fixed within this parliament. It won’t be. I don’t suppose Jenny thought she was saying anything terribly novel or informative, but, it was a true and fair comment. End of argument, basically.

    Jenny did also comment that, since Osborne had thought he could get the economy fixed by 2015, he had also thought he would be able to have a giveaway budget in time for the election. That was certainly a widely believed possibility, as discussed by various independent commentators at the beginning of this parliament, and also put forward by Labour.

    It is impossible to know, now, whether a giveaway 2015 budget was ever an option in Osborne’s mind. It is impossible to know, because the economy is still in dire straits, and so a giveaway budget would be virtually impossible to achieve.

    You commented that Labour “misjudged” the situation when they advanced the possibility of a giveaway budget. Yes, they did misjudge the situation, because they failed to foresee quite what a pig’s ear Osborne was going to make of things!

  • @Joe Otten
    The ONS figures also include people on government workfare schemes. Take those out, as well as the FE workers, and the true figure is well below a million.

  • Simon Shaw

    Does it really matter?

    Clegg and Osborne said the economy would be fixed by the end of this Parliament with the debt being paid off. We are midway through 2013 and we are seeing no indications of this improvement will happen so the comments are, in essence, correct.

    We are performing badly when compared to other countries who have an independent currency (ie not in the EU) and remeber it was also Osborne and senior LD who said we were on a way to a Greek situation and bankruptcy. The old canards of ‘maxing out the credit card’ and ‘household budget’ also came out to play.

    So, perhaps Jenny and Dave were a little preemptive in their comments but in the end uit seems that they are more accurate in their predictions (as was Ed Balls and various Nobel Laureates by the way when this policy was launched in 2010)

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jul '13 - 2:51pm


    Clegg and Osborne said the economy would be fixed by the end of this Parliament with the debt being paid off. We are midway through 2013 and we are seeing no indications of this improvement will happen so the comments are, in essence, correct.

    Yup, I certainly recall that when the coalition was formed there was a lot of public commentary along the lines that by 2015 the economy would all be going fine, and the Liberal Democrats would be basking in the public approval that would bring. The rosy optimism with which the coalition was promoted at the start was all part of this. Sure, the public commentary about how well the economy would be doing thanks to the Conservatives taking the lead in government was coming from the political right, but well they would say that, wouldn’t they? There were no words of caution coming from the Liberal Democrat leadership, despite the austerity-first approach of the Conservatives being vey different from the lines the Liberal Democrats had used in the general election.

    The forecasts made at the time by the new government clearly suggested the promised turnaround would be very visible by now (as Ed Balls recently reminded us). The state of denial from the Cleggies here about all this, or their lines that it’ll all look rosy in two years time, just wait and see, says enough. Unless there’s a big internal change in our party between now and 2015, all I can say is “It’s your party now, see how you do with it, and don’t expect me to help you out”.

  • Peter Watson 2nd Jul '13 - 3:11pm

    @Simon Shaw “UK business confidence ‘at six-year high’”
    Can you remind me what happened 6 years ago after they were last feeling so confident? 😉

  • Simon Shaw

    So you are saying we are feeling the best since the crisis? – well break out the champagne for that. We are seeing some signs of improvement but after the last 3 years of non-existant growth I would hope so – it doesn’t mean that we are out of the woods and there are no signs of a magical recovery.

    Another point, if we were paying back our debt, so in effect running a surplus – something that has only happened at the height of the Lawson boom and the early parts of this century since the 70s – would constitute a fixed economy. It would have required significant growth in every year since 2010

    It is so far out from the reality to be ridiculous and worthy of scorn – saying it is not going as quickly as expected is a massive understatement

    Finally, we are doing better than countries who have no control over their own currency, so in effect are unable to devalue massively as the pound has been since 2008. Also, we have been indulging in QE in order to offset some of the problems. Whether this is a good idea or not is debatable but it has surely avoided some of the issues since in the Euro countries.

    Remind me again what was your party’s policy on joining the Euro until 2008? Do you think being in the Euro as it stands now would be a help or a hindrance

  • David Allen 2nd Jul '13 - 7:31pm


    I think the confident prediction by Osborne was that he would eliminate the structural deficit by 2015, and have the economy in a demonstrably healthy state in plenty of time for the next election. Jenny’s quick three-word summary “fixed by now” was a little short on detail, of course, but, remember that we are now nearly two-thirds of the way through this Parliament. If people were going to believe in May 2015 that the economy was in rude health, they would surely have needed to see it clearly bounding forward by now. Which it sure isn’t.

  • Stuart Mitchell 2nd Jul '13 - 7:35pm

    @Joe Otten
    Clegg’s “million new jobs” also includes 300,000 jobs created in the second quarter of 2010. Labour were still in power for part of that quarter, yet Clegg is trying to take all the credit. There had been strong jobs growth in the previous quarter, too – and unlike what has happened since, this was not happening against a backdrop of hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs lost.

    The fact is that jobs were being created at a much faster rate during the first half of 2010 than they have been since. Instead of slapping themselves on the back and throwing around dodgy statistics, the government should be asking themselves why the economy is creating fewer jobs now than it was when they took over.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jul '13 - 10:56am

    Stuart Mitchell

    Clegg’s “million new jobs” also includes 300,000 jobs created in the second quarter of 2010. Labour were still in power for part of that quarter, yet Clegg is trying to take all the credit.

    Yes, this is another example of the dubious nature of these figures, alongside the trickery involved in claiming the change of legal status of Further Education workers is “creating jobs”, which Joe has admitted. I’ve seen other criticism of the claims which suggest further slipperiness, but this is enough. Once a few big holes have been found in the claims – and we have two here – that’s enough. People won’t believe the rest, they’ll assume it is all more of the same, just more politician’s porkies.

    Our party has already lost the confidence of many who used to vote for it, the line that we were somehow more trustworthy and honest than the others, which Clegg fronted in the 2010 general election campaign has been utterly destroyed. I’ve argued myself that many of the attacks made on us are unfair, that we were forced into a corner by what the election results and the distortion of the electoral system gave us. But if we are now viewed as a party that cannot be trusted to tell the truth, as one that will say anything to win votes – and we are – that’s all the more reason to be ultra cautious about anything which could be raised as further evidence against us on those lines.

    As I keep saying, this is not about a clever public school debating society, or a barrister trying to win a case by exploiting a legal loophole, it is about trying to win over the public. So these arguments that Joe Otten and others are trying to use, that on technical grounds if you look at this and that set of statistics and use this and that legal definitions, it is all t rue, won’t work. They will lead to more contempt for our party. The people of this country are fed up with these clever-clever arguments, whether from financial salespeople or professional ad-men or from politicians. They have been fooled too many times in the past, it has made them very sceptical.

    I am appalled that this campaign with its very dubious basis and its presentation style that will just damage is further is being put forward as the main thrust to promote our party as we move to the general election. I am appalled at its top down nature, pushed on us as “The Party Line” which we must all obey, following its instruction precisely, Leninist style. Is there no-one in pur party who is strong and influential enough to be able to step in and say “Enough is enough” and stop all this?

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jul '13 - 1:33pm

    @Simon Shaw

    And there we go, you are just proving my point.

    Let me repeat AGAIN. There may well be good news here, but playing loose with the figures and exaggerating them will mean your target audience switches off. The reality is that right now people are finding it hugely difficult to get jobs. So even if you can come up with clever schoolboy arguments “Nah nah nah nah nah, look, I’m right”, if your main argument is exaggerated in the ad-man’s “it’s all super-duper wonderful” way, they won’t believe it because the headline about all these jobs being created just doesn’t fit in with their own experience.

    This is not a schoolboy argument between left and right, it’s about how we go about promoting our party. I think we’ve got it all wrong since the coalition was formed, and we’re getting it wrong here. I’ve explained in detail why. Our party’s support in the polls has crashed since the general election, and yet we’re continuing with the presentation mistakes that have damaged us. Please don’t give me the “mid-term blues” stuff, because how come our support has halved and the Tories hasn’t, and why should we be the ones to suffer when we have a government which due to the sizes of its two components is much more Conservative than Liberal Democrat?

    I’ve made it clear since the formation of the coalition that I accept the reason why it was formed, I’ve defended its formation, and I’ve fiercely attacked those who’ve thrown insults at our party for it, accusing us of betraying what we stand for and making fairy-land suggestions that somehow with 57 MPs we could have had a government which is
    completely Liberal Democrat in policy, and we are just bad people because we have chosen to to have it. However, I think if we push a publicity line that does not distinguish between us and the Conservatives, and that sets us up as cheerleaders for the mainly Conservative government we have now, we will lose half our vote permanently and put ourselves in a position where we never can recover.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jul '13 - 1:34pm

    and we are just bad people because we have chosen to to have it.

    Or, rather “bad people because we have chosen NOT to have it”.

  • Peter Watson 3rd Jul '13 - 2:38pm

    Matthew makes a lot of excellent points about the wrongheaded way our leaders have chosen to publicise the information. Pointing to an increase in total employment of about 600000 over the last 18 months would allow them to make a positive statement (though they would still face challenges about zero-hour contracts and the type of jobs being counted). By shouting about the magic number of “a million jobs” (especially when the “private sector” part of the claim is conveniently forgotten), because of the sleight of hand it requires, as soon as a couple of big holes are highlighted the rest of the argument loses credibility.

  • Simon Shaw

    Of course noone would want to see the return of the high employment of the Thatcher years but at the same time it is justifiable to ask what this ‘job creation’ means in reality.

    What is the number in FTE rather than just ‘jobs’ – have the jobs that have been lost been replaced by higher quality jobs. what number of zero hours contracts, what number are transfers from the public sector, what is the regional split?

    Once you start using it as the centrepiece of a whole campaign then you should be prepared to answer these questions – not just try to fob them off.

    As Matthew and Peter say, there is good news in here but the communication has to be based on robust numbers and not be just a PR exercise built on sand

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