Nick Clegg’s press conference today

Nick Clegg Glasgow 2014 Liberal DemocratsAt the press conference this morning Nick Clegg said:

We, as a country, have come a long way since the great crash of 2008. Those long nights in May 2010 when we negotiated the coalition as riots took place on the streets of Athens and our economy teetered on the brink seem ages ago now.

It’s been a hard slog – for everybody – but one that is beginning to pay off. The economy is recovering, the deficit is coming down, more people are in work and wages are starting to overtake inflation.

The central question in this year’s election is simply this: who is best placed to finish the job and do so fairly?

There are two huge risks which now loom large: the threat from those whose plans would undo the economic repair job; and the threat from the populists who want to put their own narrow interests ahead of the interests of the country.

The biggest threat to our economy comes from Labour and the Conservatives, both of whom are reverting to type as the election approaches.

Labour say ‘trust us, we’ll fix the economy and raise living standards’. But they won’t. They are a clear and present danger to the recovery. Their economic policy consists of huge borrowing and total denial about their responsibility for what happened last time.

We’ve already had the risible sight of Ed Balls claiming Labour are the party of the centre ground. Here you have the man who, as city minister, let the banks get away with utterly irresponsible behaviour, now claiming he is the guy you should trust with the economic recovery.

It’s like waking up to find a late night voicemail from an ex saying that they’ve changed and it will all be different if only you give them one more chance.

But it won’t be different. Labour will borrow and borrow. Under Labour, we could be paying billions more every year just on the interest on our debt – money that should be spent on schools, hospitals and frontline public services.

On the other hand you have the Conservatives unveiling posters saying we should stay on ‘the road to a stronger economy’. We should. But they don’t plan to stay on the road, they want to stray far from it. They’re trying to sell you an ideological approach to cuts to public services packaged up as continuity.

It’s a con. It’s like a mobile phone salesman offering to renew your existing contract and then cutting the amount of calls you can make.

Take education for example. The coalition protected the schools budget in this parliament because the Lib Dems fought for it. Tory plans mean education will have to be cut by a quarter – a quarter! – by 2020. And that’s just one unprotected department.

They have made a choice to remorselessly cut the money for public services even after the deficit has been eliminated. And their cuts will be even deeper because they have committed to £7bn of unfunded tax cuts and will not ask for a single penny more in tax from the very wealthy.

That’s not sticking to the plan. That is a new plan to shelter the very wealthy and impose unnecessary cuts to public services.

So don’t fall for it. Labour and Tory majorities would be a massive risk to our economy and our public services.

The Liberal Democrats will borrow less than Labour and cut less than the Conservatives. And because we are cutting less and spending less on debt interest we will be able to ensure the NHS has the full funding that it needs.

And only the Liberal Democrats can keep the government in the centre ground and stop the two old parties veering off to the extremes of left and right.

But they’re not the only risk. UKIP, the SNP, the Greens and Plaid all, in their own way, threaten our recovery. They all pedal their own brand of divisive populism based on grievance, blame and fear. They won’t act in the national interest. They all want to put their narrow claims above the needs of the country.

Just imagine a Labour minority government propped up by the SNP or a Tory minority propped up by UKIP?

Or either party constantly having to go on bended knee to a rag tag mob of nationalists, unionists, Greens and Respect MPs to beg for votes. It would be mayhem as everyone scrambles around for a bargain like the first day of the January sales.

Messy. Unstable. Unfair.

The Liberal Democrats may have suffered from entering into coalition in 2010, but we patently did so in the national interest and brought stability to our government when it was desperately needed.

We’ve been attacked from the start by vested interests on the left and right for the very fact of coalition and the compromise and moderation it brings. But I will stand by it even as all the forces of partisanship try to discredit it in the run up to the general election.

I will always defend the values of British liberalism – of compassion, fairness and tolerance – as party politics becomes more fragmented and extreme than before.

Because coalition – the ability to compromise, to strike the right balance between extremes – is what has helped pilot the country through some of its most testing times over the last five years. It has enabled us to start the work of building a stronger economy and a fairer society, so that everyone has the opportunity to get on in life.

A strong coalition government, with Liberal Democrats anchoring it in the centre ground and not lurching to the extremes of left or right, remains the best way to make sure we finish the job and finish it fairly.

That is why a vote in May for the Liberal Democrats is the only vote for economic security against economic turmoil; for stability against uncertainty; and for the national interest against petty populism. That is the case I will make every week till May 7th. A prosperous, secure future for our country depends on it.

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22 Comments

  • David Ellams 5th Jan '15 - 2:42pm

    I’m a bit disappointed with the silly analogies – desparate ex and mobile phone salesman. Nick told the public, in his New Year’s address, to ignore the mud-slinging. I fear they might!

  • Peter Watson 5th Jan '15 - 3:43pm

    One thing I find confusing about Clegg’s position is, having voted for the spending plans in the Autumn statement (and even claimed ownership of it), how does he pay for that without making cuts like the tories?

  • Joseph Toovey 5th Jan '15 - 4:52pm

    “And only the Liberal Democrats can keep the government in the centre ground and stop the two old parties veering off to the extremes of left and right.”
    Centrism, triangulation, moderation for moderation’s sake – why are these inherently good things? A Liberal vision should not be the same as a Labour or Conservative one, but that should be because it is its own distinct and radical thing rather than simply the middle point between two other sets of opinions.

  • stuart moran 5th Jan '15 - 4:53pm

    was that supposed to make me want to vote Lib Dem again…….appalling speech

  • Sound comment by jonathanfryer 

    Currently, somewhere in the region of 8-10 per cent feel in tune with the LibDems, which is why we must get away from just slagging off Labour and the Conservatives, must stress which very positive LibDem policies have been implemented since 2010, and above all craft a narrative which reaffirms the LibDems as a party of principle, pro-people and pro the environment — above all, not letting the Greens steal a march on us on that.

    http://jonathanfryer.wordpress.com/

  • This is thoroughly incoherent. You can’t in the same breath call coalitions “Messy. Unstable. Unfair” and at the same time demand a new coalition government. You can’t say that your prospective coalition partners are incapable of governing and at the same time say that you want to be in government with them. You can’t be both for and against the same thing — unless you’re Nick Clegg, in which case it’s easy.

  • Steve Comer 5th Jan '15 - 6:00pm

    I agree with all the posters up to 5:34. This was an absolutely dreadful speech. I thought the extract on Radio 4’s PM sounded bad, but the speech read in full its even worse!
    What is Nick suggesting we say on the doorstep? “We’re not as scary as Labour, and not as nasty as the Tories, so vote Lib Dem and keep the bastards boring!”

    The 2005 election platform was denounced by many in the Party as a ‘shopping list’, and the some in the media thought Charles Kennedy was a lighweight. Our Leader and messages from 2005 now look like a beacon of clarity, unlike this crap from Clegg which looks as foggy as the M42 did when I drove along it yesterday.

  • Tony Dawson 5th Jan '15 - 6:29pm

    Surely, the most useful way in which the interests of the people of this country can be served is for there to be a Parliament in which no Party has an overall majority (something over which Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems have very little control) rather than having a coalition government?

    A minority government cannot get its policies through in a fixed term parliament unless it is prepared to genuinely move to the centre ground, rather than embark upon a bullying horse-trading approach as the Tories have done in the present coalition.

  • Eddie Sammon 5th Jan '15 - 6:38pm

    I’m going to have a break from Lib Dem Voice, but before I go I want to say that this is a good speech, but I nearly didn’t read it. People are hurting out here and we want action.

    We all need to be in it together, which is why I’m off to try and do a bit less talking and more doing too!

  • Bill le Breton 5th Jan '15 - 6:39pm

    ‘Peter Watson is puzzled. “One thing I find confusing about Clegg’s position is, having voted for the spending plans in the Autumn statement (and even claimed ownership of it), how does he pay for that without making cuts like the tories?”

    To help the bewildered foot soldiers keep track of what we are campaigning for, The Institute for Fiscal Studies has been reading the Pre Manifesto Paper and Nick Clegg’s Bloomberg speech … (my own pet theory now is that there are half a dozen Nick Clegg’s none of which know of the others’ existence … or recorded commitments. )

    In a 29 page report, the IFS has compared the Con Lab and LD expenditure plans as presently proposed … and the fiscal targets of all three are LESS demanding than the targets agreed by Cons and LDs in the Autumn Statement “jointly authored “ to use the words of the DPM by each of the Coaltion Parties. http://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/publications/bns/BN158.pdf

    IFS finds:

    1. If the Conservatives used up all their room for manoeuvre against their fiscal target
    (i.e. borrowed an extra 1.0% of national income) and gave all the additional money
    to departments, they could reduce this required squeeze on public services between
    2015–16 and 2019–20 to 8.3% (£30 billion in 2015–16 prices).

    2. If Labour and the Liberal Democrats used up all their room for manoeuvre against
    their fiscal targets (i.e. borrowed an extra 2.3% of national income) and gave all the
    additional money to departments, they could reduce the required squeeze on public
    services to under 2% (less than £7 billion in 2015–16 prices).

    Confused?

    Here’s their detail on the Liberal Democrat pledges – yes pledges again!!!!

    “The Liberal Democrats have pledged to balance the cyclically-adjusted current budget from 2017–18 onwards and have said that ‘from 2017/18, debt must fall as a proportion of our national income every year – except during a recession – so it reaches sustainable levels around the middle of the next decade’. http://www.libdems.org.uk/policy_paper_121

    “The first objective sounds perfectly consistent with the government’s new fiscal mandate. However, in a June 2014 speech, Nick Clegg suggested that only investment that ‘enhances economic growth or financial stability’ would be excluded from headline borrowing when calculating theLiberal Democrats’ measure of the current budget. https://www.libdemvoice.org/nick-clegg-on-the-liberal-democrats-unique-mission-40763.html

    “This could imply a tighter fiscal stance than under the standard definition of the cyclically-adjusted current budget. Deviating from the standard definition of investment spending might be sensible in principle (see chapter 4 of the 2013 Green Budget for further discussion). However, in practice,a deviation from National Accounting measures of investment – where the independent Office for National Statistics determines what spending does and does not score as an investment – could lead to a loss in transparency.

    “Assuming that the Liberal Democrats instead retain the current definitions of what counts as investment spending, they, like Labour, could in principle choose to run significantly looser fiscal policy than is implied by the coalition government’s forecasts and still meet their fiscal rules. But again the potential for significant revisions to be made to public finance forecasts suggests that they might wish to aim to overachieve their target and therefore choose not to use all of this potential room to manoeuvre.”

    It is as well the troops know what we are fighting for … or should that be with?

  • A Liberal vision should not be the same as a Labour or Conservative one, but that should be because it is its own distinct and radical thing rather than simply the middle point between two other sets of opinions.

    I just thought I would repeat Joseph Toovey’s words, because they deserve to be repeated.

  • ” Our Leader and messages from 2005 now look like a beacon of clarity, unlike this crap from Clegg…”
    In so saying, Steve Comer succinctly sums up 10 years of decline for Liberal Democrats.

    2005 up to 23% and 62MPs,
    2015 down to 8% and how many MPs ?

  • “…..there are half a dozen Nick Clegg’s none of which know of the others’ existence … or recorded commitments. ”

    Bill Le Breton may well be correct.
    Can there be any other explanation for there being one Clegg who co-authored the Autumn Statement and told the world he is “proud of it” and another Clegg who told the world that the Autumn Statement was “absolute insanity” ??

    But the really worrying words from Today’s Clegg come at the end of his speech when he said — ” That is the case I will make every week till May 7th. ”

    A chilling prospect.

  • ErnstRemarx 5th Jan '15 - 7:52pm

    Well, I think Clegg’s probably managed to offend every single party that’s likely to be represented in parliament after May. Good for him. I’m sure they’ll all be queueing up to beg him and his handful of beleagured MPs for their support. Not.

  • The IFS report also states:

    “Therefore, as we approach the general election, all of the THREE main parties are in a position where they
    could announce a net loosening relative to the coalition government’s plans and still be on course to meet their fiscal targets.”

    So you could argue that there are at least three George Osbornes (autumn statement George Osborne, current George Osborne and future George Osborne – hoping to be unconstrained by the Lib Dems) and God knows how many Ed Balls there are!

    AND:
    The IFS also say:
    “The choice between higher spending with higher debt and lower spending with lower debt may be one of the key dividing lines in the election between Labour and the Liberal Democrats on the one hand and the Conservatives on the other.”

    If GDP is around £1800 billion and nominal GDP (growth plus inflation) is 4% then you can run an yearly current deficit of around £70 billion without increasing the overall debt as a percentage of GDP. It seems the Tories want this to be £0 – and £70 billion buys quite a lot of public services.

    It seems relatively clear to me that unconstrained the Tories (egged on by their right wing) will cut high income/wealth taxes as that is the source of their donors and vested interested. We will cut taxes as we have shown for low and moderate earners. My view is a “middle out” rather than trickle down economics is better. Unconstrained Labour (egged on by their left wing) have a tendency to throw money at public spending like confetti as (public sector in particular) trade unions are their donors and vested interests.

  • ErnstRemarx 5th Jan '15 - 11:05pm

    “Unconstrained Labour (egged on by their left wing) have a tendency to throw money at public spending like confetti as (public sector in particular) trade unions are their donors and vested interests.”

    That’s simply crap. If you look at GDP and deficit between 97-2010, you may care to note that for the most part it fell, and the economy (such as it was) functioned well. The deficit only went up substantialy when the neoliberal chickens came home to roost – which was a product of neoliberal economics. In other words, the banks screwed up the economy, and not the Labour government of the time, no matter how hard you might argue it otherwise.

    Furthermore, in the period since 1979, there have been something like 2 Tory governments that ever produced a surplus, so this idea that running a deficit is only a Labour thing is yet more crap, as is the idea that public sector unions overly influence Labour governments. You might care to engage your brain and check out how many of the Tories labour relation laws were repealed under ‘new’ Labour – as if you didn’t already know.

    It’s posts like yours that persuade people that the LibDems are very comfortable partners to the Tories. You exhibit very much the same traits.

  • Is the speech so bad that they have now removed the sound – or is it just my computer playing up?

  • Tony Dawson 6th Jan '15 - 8:22am

    @ErnstRemarx

    “, the banks screwed up the economy, and not the Labour government of the time, no matter how hard you might argue it otherwise.”

    An the people who gave the banks unconstrained freedoms to package up junk products, which only the Tories wanted to outdo, were….er…. the Labour Party. Or, rather, the Labour Government. Banks in other jurisdictions did not behave in this manner. Only in the US and UK, home of those ‘George Bush lover’s Blair and Brown, did this disgrace happen to this extent.

  • Pete Dollimore 6th Jan '15 - 8:40am

    >> They all pedal their own brand of divisive populism

    It’s just possible that the writer had been working on a press release in support of cyclists recently …

  • Michael 5th Jan ’15 – 8:23pm
    The IFS report also states:
    “The choice between higher spending with higher debt and lower spending with lower debt may be one of the key dividing lines in the election between Labour and the Liberal Democrats on the one hand and the Conservatives on the other.”

    The key phrase is — “..Labour and the Liberal Democrats on the one hand and the Conservatives on the other.”
    Yet the Clegg speech only really entertains the possibility of a Conservative dominated Coalition.

    How different from his stated position in May 2010 when he said it was the people who decide.
    In May 2010 he said Brown had clearly not won a majority and therefore Brown had to go.
    In 2015 he seems to be saying Cameron clearly will not win a majority and therefore Cameron has to stay.

    Clegg no longer thinks it is the people who should decide, now he thinks it is the Conservatives who should decide except on the odd occasion when they throw him a titbit to keep him tame.

  • ErnstRemarx 5th Jan ’15 – 11:05pm
    I agree with you that it is simply crap (for want of a better word) to say —
    “Unconstrained Labour (egged on by their left wing) have a tendency to throw money at public spending like confetti as (public sector in particular) trade unions are their donors and vested interests.”

    Michael has obviously been listening to too many people like the Tax Dodgers’ Alliance and the IEA.

    I am only 62 years old, but in all that time I have never witnessed a single example of a Labour Government being “unconstrained” and certainly have never ever witnessed a Labour Government acting because it has been “egged on by their left wing”.
    IF ONLY THEY HAD !!!

    Every Labour Government in my lifetime has been very constrained and totally dominated by right wing interests both from within and from outside the Labour Party. The fantasy that Labour Governments have thrown money at the public sector is nothing more than a cruel joke.

    The last Labour Government did threw money at Trident and foreign wars.
    The main benificiaries of that was the private sector arms manufacturers and the sort of regime that now keeps Tony Blair in private jets and enough lawyers to stop the Chilcot Report ever being published.

    It’s posts like yours that persuade people that the LibDems are very comfortable partners to the Tories. You exhibit very much the same traits.

  • Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have had Vince Cable making the speech? It would have motivated Lib Dem foot soldiers and probably confounded Labour on their own territory.

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