Nick Clegg’s podcast interview with George Osborne didn’t help me manage my anger

I used a car journey yesterday to listen to Nick Clegg’s podcast, Anger Management, yesterday. I was a bit perturbed that he’s only been talking to white men of a certain age so far, but am reassured that this is going to change soon, with Harriet Harman and Elif Safak coming up.

I decided that yesterday’s sunshine was too lovely to be spoiled by listening to the chat with Nigel Farage, so I listened to the Know your Frenemy chat with George Osborne instead.

I still have some time for the coalition and the things that the Liberal Democrats brought to the table that did make life better for people – better mental health care, shared parental leave, extra money for disadvantaged kids in school and the like, ending child detention for immigration, all the green stuff we did and our work on international development. I am also acutely aware of the mistakes that we made, particularly around immigration (the minimum income requirement to bring your non British spouse in for a start) and cutbacks in social security that caused real misery. Sometimes stopping the Tories doing their worst just wasn’t enough.

So the conversation between Nick and George, a reuniting of half The Quad who made all the decisions during the coalition years, was peppered with several instances of Nick telling George how much he’d infuriated him. Hearing about Osborne’s upbringing was interesting, with his Labour voting mum and Conservative inclined father.

They had an interesting conversation about the media with Osborne, the newspaper editor, speaking up for newspapers and for regulation of  social media. 

What infuriated me was the fact that nether of them seem to have the slightest clue about the effects of some aspects of austerity. They would argue that we got through an economic crash similar to the depression without the mass unemployment that we saw elsewhere. Nick certainly pointed out that they cut less than Labour would have done – and he could have added an awful lot less than the Tories would have done alone. However, it was a bit like two pretty privileged blokes really not getting it. Osborne said that the biggest complaint he’d had was from people who were annoyed that their stamp duty had gone up. That says a lot about the affluent company he keeps. He maybe ought to talk to some people who had lost their Motability cars and now find it really difficult to get out.

We also have to remember that as soon as Nick wasn’t holding him back, Osborne’s second 2015 budget made some horrendous further cuts to social security – taking housing benefit from under 25s, taking all the good stuff out of Universal Credit, for example.

That podcast brought back a lot of the more uncomfortable coalition memories for me but it was worth listening to. You can listen to all the episodes of Anger Management here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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42 Comments

  • Thinking about what Osborne did without being constrained by being in the Coalition let’s add the £200m in year raid on local authority public health budgets added to the cuts in allocations. This would have been used on health improvement and wellbeing activities which would have helped both reduce the flow of people into GP surgeries and into A&E.

    With public health allocations continuing to be cut, and with them to become un-ring-fenced when Business Rate Retention comes to local government it’s time to lead a campaign to increase the quantum; remove the potential for the funds to be swallowed up hidden within the continuing local authority budget cuts; and there is an absolute need to revisit the formula for allocation which currently sees such a vast disparity in per capita amount, with a range in 18/19 from £172 to £30………(here in Cumbria we get £37).
    Ian Stewart
    Deputy Leader Cumbria County Council
    County Council Network spokesperson for Public Health and Communities

  • Geoffrey Payne 27th May '18 - 10:55am

    George Osborne more than anyone else in the Coalition was the main driver behind austerity, welfare cuts and sabotaging any action on climate change and regulating the banks that caused the 2008 financial crash. He was one of the worst of the government ministers.

  • Nick Clegg suffered (as do it would appear the majority of European politicians) an inability to appreciate the precarious predicament of the majority of the population. He seems to have no understanding of the reality for the majority, with money worries, education worries, health worries and accommodation worries. Until you have lived one pay cheque away from a world of woe how could you. It’s not his fault he comes from an elite background, but unless the elite wake up to the powder keg they are happily striking sparks over we are heading for a world of pain. We need politicians who have an understanding of the issues facing people, not the issues facing the bubble elite of which they tend to be a part. Until we start to see politicians who understand (in all parties) we will be prone to the snake oil salesmen and easy fix merchants replacing the existing politicians and making things worse.

  • Christopher Curtis 27th May '18 - 2:47pm

    In many ways, the emotional resonances around the coalition have more impact than the detail of policy, compromise and even what it actually did.
    Clegg, Laws etc. came over as very much closer to the old Etonian Tories than they did to “ordinary people” including many Liberal Democrat supporters: they spoke the same language, made the same assumptions and seemed to have the same priorities. Policy differences looked like arguing over details rather than disagreements based on deep principle.
    I have a lot of time for Nick Clegg: he’s a very able politician and always worth listening to, but he’s absolutely nothing like me and I don’t think he gets where may people are coming from.

  • David Becket 27th May '18 - 3:10pm

    Without us it could have been worse, but with us it should have been better.

  • Malcolm Todd 27th May '18 - 3:40pm

    David Becket 27th May ’18 – 3:10pm
    “Without us it could have been worse, but with us it should have been better.”

    Very well put indeed.

  • @ Geoffrey Payne “George Osborne more than anybody else was the main driver behind austerity……
    Errr…. not quite. Don’t you remember a certain David Laws proclaiming public expenditure should be reduced from 40% to 35% in July 2012? It wasn’t a case of he had to do it – he believed in it….. He wanted to do it…… As did a certain Sir Daniel…..

  • paul barker 27th May '18 - 4:48pm

    I actually think that Nick Clegg might well have made a good PM, even a very good PM but that wasnt his job. As a Leader of the 3rd Party & , de facto, Liberal England more generally, he was a disaster. He has to take a lot of responsibility for Brexit.
    We were all too anxious to do stuff, to make small Reforms when our real job was to crack the system open. We forgot our Strategil Goals.

  • @ Paul Barker “As a leader of de facto Liberal England”…… And the southern English wonder why the Scots and Welsh get a tad brassed off with them sometimes.

  • Richard Underhill 27th May '18 - 5:51pm

    My personal red line would have been not a referendum on the electoral system for MPs but actual progress in the coalition negotiations. I tried to campaign for the different system proposed, only to see Tory former leader saying on TV that Paddy Ashdown was against it, which derived from Blair – Ashdown talks. A fair electoral system should have been a red line. It was not. The issues have been debated often enough over a long enough period.

  • Richard Underhill 27th May '18 - 6:02pm

    The popularity of Remain in Northern Ireland has increased to 69% (Peston on Sunday).
    One million Labour Leavers have changed their mind according to Alistair Campbell.
    A people’s vote should happen, but probably after the Commons has voted on the outcome of the negotiations.

  • David,

    I believe George Osbourne was the main driver, but he found a number of happy little helpers within the Liberal Democrat ranks and a larger number who went along with him as long as their pet project got the nod. As to the “true believers” in a small state they in my opinion had a similar outlook of knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

  • Steve Trevethan 27th May '18 - 6:48pm

    Might it be helpful for us to put thought, discussion and effort into reviewing our Party’s systems, theories and practices relating to communications and the powers of the membership to guide the leadership?

  • Lee Thacker 27th May '18 - 7:05pm

    “Without us it could have been worse, but with us it should have been better.”

    @ David Becket. That’s absolutely brilliant. Someone needs to put that on a mug or t-shirt.

  • I agree with frankie and CC – except for the last sentence. I felt that neither of the two of Nick Clegg or Chris Huhne would have made a good leader of the party and that proved to be the case after its near destruction. Social Liberals campaigned against the excesses of the coalition and set up libdems4change with this in mind but were marginalised by the likes of Ashdown et al. Another one that slipped through the net was the abolition of the AWB, damaging the terms and conditions of agricultural workers. Abolishing it was opposed by Andrew George.

  • It seems to be very easy to criticise the coalition, but never to criticize the cause of the problem, namely the Labour Party, who spent ALL the money when they were in power, and instituted PFI’s to saddle the future with debt, rather than pay for it at the time (they spent, we pay). So the austerity was Labour’s fault – thanks Gordon / Tony! And if Labour had been in power after 2010, I think that austerity for the people would have been far worse than it was under the coalition.

  • It would be really useful to have a list of all the LibDem achievements during the Coalition that were subsequently negated by the Tories when they gained power on their own/in alliance with the DUP. If there is such a list can LibDem Voice please publish it, and if there isn’t can someone compile one.

  • Let’s talk of the future and not remind Labour voters of the recent past

  • William Fowler 28th May '18 - 7:16am

    Have I missed something, by the end of austerity the debt will have been doubled, benefits system is still one of the most generous in the world, the currency has plunged right down, unemployment is low… Osborne and co engineered a very soft landing for the UK compared to Spain and Greece – UK would have been in a good position were it not for Brexit messing things up. The really big problem will be the effect of servicing that mind bending debt when the next economic downturn happens and govn revenues disappears again, there isn’t any flexibility left in the fiscal system.

    LibDems get blamed for coalition failings but looking at things the wrong way round, there wasn’t much choice after Labour all but bankrupted the country and the idea that repeating Labour policies with a few extra taxes is going to work is kinda laughable.

  • Steve Trevethan 28th May '18 - 7:46am

    Might the behaviour of many in the finance sector and the protectionism extended to them be significant factors in the problems post 2008?

  • Neil Sandison 28th May '18 - 9:14am

    David Becket has summed it up .But we also gained something else .We are no longer government virgins ,We have shared high office and responsibility which means we know wish list politics does not work and you get cruelly punished if you are caught out making undeliverable policy promises which you cannot deliver in office. Corbyn has not learned that lesson yet. We need to temper aspiration with common sense because all governments are coalitions as Mrs May is finding out to her costs over Brexit.

  • William
    The economy was already out of recession when the coalition took over and drove it into a dip with “austerity” (actually just small state ideologues using a global crisis to advance their dogmatic belief system). Plus the debt was created by keeping the sinking banking system afloat, not by spending money on infrastructure. When there is another crisis it again will be caused by the increase in personal rather than government spending. Look at the history of crashes and you see the same thing over and over again. Things like share prices build up, the markets overheat, debt increases, and then bang, the balloon pops. This is mostly because on paper interests payments (debt) is indistinguishable from profit until someone blinks and tries to panic sell. There were big crashes in the early 70s, 80s and 90s all when Labour were not in power and all global as was the 2008 crash when Labour was in power. There were also regular crashes in the 19th century before anything resembling a welfare system existed and in fact welfare systems were introduced into western economies (in Britain by Liberal, not socialist, governments) to counteract endemic poverty. This is not a intended as defence of Labour, but simply as an attempt to briefly convey reality v small government utopianism .

  • William Fowler
    “Labour nearly bankrupted the country” – too much reading of the right wing press and / or websites?

  • Nigel Quinton 28th May '18 - 10:56am

    What David Becket said. “Without us it could have been worse, but with us it should have been better.”

    It is way past time for our leadership to openly acknowledge the truth in this statement and properly apologise for our failure in government.

  • That’s why we have or should have cabinet decision making. One person cannot have all the knowledge and experience to make all decisions. Collective decision making from a wide range of backgrounds goes for better decision making.

  • Bill le Breton 28th May '18 - 2:14pm

    If Labour in the 2005/10 parliament were so reckless why did we vote for all their spending plans (including the decision that in the face of the tax revenue declines resulting from the Global Great Financial Crisis it was not the time to cut expenditure but to allow borrowing to rise) and stand on a manifesto in 2010 that had identical deficit retrenchment proposals to those of Labour?

    The Tories used their platform following the 2010 election to trash Labour’s reputation on financial management and we supported these tactics despite the fact that these financial scares undermined the confidence propelling the on-going recovery, reduced the economy to a near standstill for three years, caused a further £200 billion of Quantitative Easing to be undertaken under our watch and, over the life time of the 2010/15 Parliament, oversaw a half a trillion pounds in lost output.

    Of course it destroyed Labour’s chances in 2015, but the Leadership in supporting this trashing of Labour’s reputation on fiance turned their back on the single most important lesson from the 1979 to 1997 Tory Governments that Liberal Democrats can only do well enough to gain power in a balanced parliament when sufficient voters no longer fear a Labour Government; thus destroying us a Parliamentary force during the most significant parliamentary period since the second world war.

  • Little Jackie Paper 28th May '18 - 3:01pm

    Frankie – Indeed, that seems to me to be a key point. The exact moment I knew that REMAIN would lose the referendum was when Osborne came out and said that leaving the EU would mean lower house prices. At that point it was clear that REMAIN’s leadership really didn’t understand what they were being confronted with.

    I make no partisan political point here, but we (and by that I mean Society at Large) seem incapable of moving on from an idea of a class-based politics that is likely long gone. What we have now is an underclass, an overclass, a comfortable class and a coping class. It is the latter that saw the brunt of austerity. The coping class might well not be poor – if you are coping then all is well and good. I think that this is partly why fees was so devastating, it was basically another thing that makes it harder to cope.

    So we saw it with the EU. The comfortable class saw sangria retirements and cheap au pairs, the coping class saw wage arbitrage. What one makes of it is another matter, but until politicians of ALL stripes move to an understanding of the coping class then politics will just go round in circles.

    I do, of course, realise that it’s not always easy – in many ways the the triple lock pension was a very difficult policy to defend yet it was still popular.

    But on the substance I think you are absolutely right – the rise of the coping class is the point. Many politicians seem to have sort-of realised the issue but have not been able to make ‘alarm-clock Britain’ or the ‘squeezed middle’ or the ‘just about managing’ into an actual policy programme. The rewards for anyone that does so are probably large.

  • Katerina Porter 28th May '18 - 5:03pm

    It was unforgivable the way we latched on to ‘it is all Labour’s fault’ when people at the top must have known it was not true. As Glenn says the debt was needed for Gordon Brown to save the banks. Austerity surely had a lot to do with ideology and reducing the state, and it has done huge damage to our whole social structure and governance. It may have also had effect on life expectancy which has been improving in measurements taken since 1921. Between 2006 and 2010 Britain was about in the middle of European countries. Between 2011 and 2015 there was a general reduction in growth – except in Denmark – but Britain was bottom, even below Greece.
    Surely we should declare that although there were benefits to what we did in coalition there was too much damage with which we were complicit, and (hopefully?)we are a different party now .

  • Glenn,

    Denis Healey, the Labour chancellor at the time had to go to the IMF in the 1970’s for a bail out, so what you say about Labour is wrong. The Blair and Brown governments allowed a huge build up of debt (government and personal) and took a very relaxed approach to the city, which stoked the conditions for the crash (Vince warned about this at the time. Traditionally Labour have been the party to spend beyond its means and then let another party, or a coalition, sort out the mess. So the reality is that Labour have been the cause of economic issues in the past, and if Corbyn ever gets elected, it is highly likely it will happen.

  • Paul D B 28th May ’18 – 5:16pm………………..The Blair and Brown governments allowed a huge build up of debt (government and personal) and took a very relaxed approach to the city, which stoked the conditions for the crash (Vince warned about this at the time. Traditionally Labour have been the party to spend beyond its means and then let another party, or a coalition, sort out the mess. So the reality is that Labour have been the cause of economic issues in the past, and if Corbyn ever gets elected, it is highly likely it will happen.

    How were Labour supposed to exclude the UK from the world wide cheap money situation; increase interest rates?
    They may well have had a relaxed attitude towards the financial institution but the Conservative opposition repeatedly demanded an even lighter regulation touch.In addition, just months before the ‘crash’, Osborne promised to match Labour’s spending plans and immediately after the crash fabricated the nonsense about ‘not mending the roof, etc.’.
    As for ‘Labour always spending beyond it’s means’, I suggest you check the figures. Labour have, historically, been the more fiscally prudent of the two major parties; however, the myth about overspending has been told so many times that it has become a ‘truth’.

  • Bill le Breton 28th May '18 - 6:53pm

    Katerina is right to point to the performance of the Danish economy immediately following the Great Financial Crisis. She could also have pointed to Poland and Sweden.

    What do the three have in common? They control their own monetary policy. As of course does the UK. Yet our monetary authority and its overseer the Chancellor of the Exchequer (or from 2010 to 2015, the Quad) failed to keep monetary policy lose enough to convince people that they didn’t need to rush into safe assets, to postpone investment projects and instead to underpin the existing growth level (5% in the summer of 2010) of aggregate demand.

    I think she will agree that performing at the bottom of the league on growth over those years instead of matching Denmark, Poland and Sweden amounted to a lost income level of £500 billion. That’s why austerity was an expensive political folly.

  • Paul D
    There were numerous recessions before Labour were ever in government. There were also serious recession in 1980-81 and then in 91-92. . It’s also a simply matter of record that Britain was out of recession before the coalition took office.

  • Bill le Breton 29th May '18 - 10:45am

    Important Twitter thread by Mark Copelovitch which I hope you can reach here: https://t.co/u2skW766PD

    “It (the Britain was living beyond its means trope) has been repeatedly & thoroughly debunked. As a country issuing one of the world’s reserve currencies, a floating XR, and not especially high debt/GDP, the UK faced no serious fiscal constraints. The “markets” were not demanding austerity” … and neither Osborne or Cameron or Clegg or Laws have ever been “called to task or pushed to explain the outcome”.

  • Katerina Porter 29th May '18 - 11:39am

    Today, Tuesday, there is a good page and a half in the New York Times with the effect of austerity on poverty, and also how much is put on local authorities to take the blame.

  • Geoffrey Payne 29th May '18 - 2:13pm

    I normally agree with Bill Le Breton, but not entirely on this occasion. Britain had a worse recession than most of our EU partners because our economy was much more exposed to the banking sector than anyone else, and the Labour government made the fatal mistake of implementing light touch regulation which made the crises worse. As a result we had to bail out the banks at enormous cost to the taxpayer.
    Vince Cable was good at pointing that out at the time and was remarkably popular for doing so. This helped the Liberal Democrats get their highest share of the vote since 1983 in the 2010 general election, putting us in Coalition with the Tories who also believed in light touch regulation and it is clear from David Laws book on the Coalition that Vince Cable was not trusted by Nick Clegg on economic matters and so we ended up with the austerity we got.
    Other EU countries later suffered more than we did, the so called PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain) as they were tied to EU interest rates because of their membership of the Euro, whilst we had interest rates of 0.5%.

  • Bill le Breton 29th May '18 - 3:02pm

    As you well know Joe, the interest rate is the last thing that should guide you on the state of monetary policy.

    Low rates can mean that monetary policy is or recently has been too tight, just as high interest rates can mean that monetary policy is or has been too loose.

    see Bernanke for example “low interest rates are not the same as loose policy” here:

    http://www.businessinsider.com/bernanke-on-milton-friedman–milton-friedman-on-the-fed-today-2012-10?IR=T

  • Sandra Hammett 29th May '18 - 3:10pm

    Completely agree with Nigel Quinton.
    There’s a sizeable amount of members who like to see something along the lines of an ackowledgment/apology regarding our failures during the coalition and there is an even greater number of voters who would like to hear one.
    If we claim honesty among our core principles we should be prepared to demonstrate it and allow people to make their own judgments, isn’t that the very essence of liberalism.

  • Sandra Hammett 30th May '18 - 12:24pm

    Until we do make a visible effort we will continue to be ignored by the vast majority. Let’s hope we can be heard in time to make a difference.

  • OnceALibDem 31st May '18 - 7:17pm

    “He did a fabulous job. It is so easy to be a critic Caron but you have never been in Nick’s position.”

    There are criticisms Caron has faced (a lot of which are unfair FWIW). That she is overly crtical of Nick would be an unexpected one 🙂

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