“This is not a snub. I thought it would be a nice change to get out of the Westminster bubble”: Clegg on his Autumn Statement absence

clegg on levesonNick Clegg has taken my advice.*

Back in July, I offered the Lib Dem leader five unsolicited pieces of advice. Most he’s ridden roughshod over: Vince Cable wasn’t appointed the party’s shadow chancellor for the next election, Jo Swinson wasn’t promoted to the cabinet, and (as far as I know) Nick continues to rule out options other than a full coalition in the event of a hung parliament.

But item number 4 was this:

4. Stop going to PMQs, start touring the country

Focus groups, I’m told, show the public is baffled why Nick Clegg simply sits next to David Cameron without ever speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions. To them, he appears mute, powerless, sidelined. Nick himself is scathing of this weekly parliamentary pantomime: “It is just so stuck in the nineteenth century and it is so stuck in this adversarial, yah-boo culture. It is going to have to change at some point.” He can’t change it now, but what he can do is steer clear of it. The time spent attending PMQs could be much better used. Nick’s aides are, according to the Daily Mail, advising him to ditch his Spanish family holiday volunteer “for a ‘summer of pain’ doing ordinary jobs outside Westminster”, modelled on Paddy Ashdown’s 1993 ‘Beyond Westminster’ tour of Britain. Ignore half that, Nick: you and your family need your holiday. But getting out of Westminster every Wednesday at 12 noon seems like a sound idea.

And, lo and behold, Nick has started skipping Prime Minister’s Questions in the last few weeks. Then yesterday he was absent from the Autumn Statement, deciding instead to travel to Cornwall. As he told journalists:

“This is not a snub. I’ve spent four years dutifully sitting there on the green benches and this year I thought it would be a nice change to get out of the Westminster bubble and say what this Autumn Statement means to people, their families and businesses.”

A much better use of his time.

* Maybe. More likely, he and his advisers had decided to do this anyway. But humour me.

* 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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46 Comments

  • Bill Le Breton 4th Dec '14 - 9:17am

    Stephen, there is another interpretation.

    I have wondered and warned for a couple of years about how we could play the final autumn statement and the final budget of this Parliament, both of which are designed to make commitments necessarily beyond the 2010/2015 Parliament and the life span of this Coalition.

    So there we were yesterday laying before parliament a fiscal proposal for 2015 to 2020. Yes ‘we’. How could our position be distinct from that of Conservatives. Vince Cable rather belatedly asked the OBR if it could analyse ‘our distinct position’. Danny Alexander merely defended the Statement as if it were our position.

    The Party Leader absented himself. But was this really so that he was not so closely associated with a programme he could not fully support – a programme which yet again was a neocon set piece assault on the state.

    Or was it another example of his disappearing trick.

    Disappearing from his Party because unlike Vince, he is actually pretty much onside with the Statement and its full steam ahead strategy for a minimal state. A strategy defined and justified by Laffer later on Newsnight

    It was left to Mariana mazzucatta to fly the flag for an enterprising and unservile state that helps people create opportunity and life chances.

    Absent with your leave, Stephen. Not his finest hour.

  • @Bill Le Breton

    Agree totally.

    I do have a genuine question that maybe someone could answer for me.

    Does parliament vote on the Autumn statement like they do on the budget?

    If they do vote, what are Liberal democrats going to do?

    The OBR has been very clear by stating that only 40% of the cuts have taken place over this parliament and a further 60% of cuts will have to take place over the next parliament if Osborne is going to meet his deficit reduction targets.

    Forecasters are reporting that will take us back to the level of spending in the 1930’s.

    It would appear in the media that a spat is taking place between Vince Cable and Danny Alexander.
    Silence again from Nick Clegg.

    I fail to see how the Liberal Democrats can fight the next election with their own identity in check if they support this Autumn statement and commitment to the level of cuts as set out yesterday by Osborne.
    They would lack even more credibility if they produce a manifesto that contradicts what they previously voted for in the Autumn Statement and the up coming Budget in March 2015

  • Stephen
    It would be nice to think that after 6 months the dear leader has finally twigged and followed your advice from June.

    Bill Le Breton’s comment is probably nearer the truth.

    The upshot of Clegg’s absence was that Danny Alexander did a lot of media stuff yesterday.

    If you recall, 65% in the LDV Survey thought that Danny Alexander was not cut out to be the main LD economics  spokesperson. —
    https://www.libdemvoice.org/who-should-be-the-lib-dem-shadow-chancellor-in-2015-vince-or-danny-heres-what-lib-dem-members-think-42710.htm

    After his media efforts yesterday, I doubt if a single one of those 65% will have changed their mind about Danny’s abilities as a media performer.

    Meanwhile Clegg had gone AWOL.
     “I’ve spent four years dutifully sitting there on the green benches and this year I thought it would be a nice change to get out of Westminster,” he told the Western Morning News on his day trip to Penzance.

    How convenient to be missing when all those difficult questions about the defecit were flying around the TV studios.

    Go back and read Clegg’s statements about the defecit from May 2010 onwards. It was one of his main justifications for the coalition.
    Yet on the day that the deficit chickens came home to roost in Westminster where was Clegg? Clegg was in Penzance.

  • Well guess we just got some answers from Nick Clegg. he has said during his LBC phone in

    “Ed Balls somehow thinks I’m sheepish or ashamed of what this government has done. Do you know what? Far from it. I’m proud, I own it, we co-author it, it is a Liberal Democrat autumn statement just as much as anything else and this economic recovery would not be happening without the Liberal Democrats.”

  • Helen Tedcastle 4th Dec '14 - 10:25am

    Clegg disappearing to Cornwall is a way, he thinks, of distancing himself from the Tories without disagreeing with them openly.

    Vince is doing what any self-respecting Lib Dem would do, proving once again that he is the right person to lead our economic brief in 2015. He’s onto Osborne…

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/dec/03/vince-cable-broadside-autumn-statement-figures

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Dec '14 - 10:48am

    The Autumn Statement was political madness, as Vince Cable has more or less said.

    For Danny Alexander to say that it was “Liberal Democrat at the core” or whatever it was he said, something like that, and it is how it will be remembered, is madness. Danny Alexander’s words will be read as stating that the political motivation behind this statement is the political motivation behind the Liberal Democrats. If we want our party to be destroyed completely, this is the line to go down.

    As I have said many times, there are strong demographic, technological and environmental reasons why state expenditure as a proportion of GDP needs to rise just to keep the balance of what is expected from the state. If it does not rise at that rate, the consequence has to be cuts in service, even if in pure numerical terms it goes up, but not at the needed rate. The Conservative (and, according to how Danny Alexander will be interpreted “core Liberal Democrat”) idea of cutting the proportion of state spending to levels historically below what it has been for many years, means massive and dramatic cuts in what the state provides.

    Talk to anyone who works in the public sector and they will tell you the limit has already been reached. What is being cut now in order to meet budget requirements passed down from the national government is counter-productive, because it is things that will cause more state “fire-fighting” expenditure later on. An example is cuts in training and employment in health and care services, which meet a short-term budget requirement, but in the long run lead to emergency situations which have to be dealt with by hiring expensive agency staff – sometimes the same people that were sacked to meet the original cuts.

    This is why the government is finding all the cuts it is making aren’t working, and state expenditure remains stubbornly high. The Autumn Statement says it wants to go much, much, further down this failed route. It is standing trapped in a hole, digging furiously. If continued, it WILL lead to national disaster. There is NO alternative left but to raise taxes in order to get us out of this hole.

    The misery and uncertainty caused by continuing cuts in the public sector will cause people to batten down the hatches. We are already seeing this with most people not experiencing the economic recovery, with it being a recovery just for a few at the wealthiest end. It is the old line “to save the village we had to destroy the village”, except now it is the whole country, not a village. What is being saved is people like Cameron and Osborne, the rich at the top who have experienced the recovery. What is being destroyed is everyone else.

    It is clear that low taxes are NOT stimulating the economy for most people, as the uncertainty and unhappiness they lead to is causing them to close down on economic activity. As a result of this Autumn Statement, I would advise anyone who is a public sector worker, or who works in a business which is involved in supply to the public sector, not to buy a new car, not to start any building project, and so on, not to do anything that might help stimulate the economy, as their jobs are at risk, and even if they don’t lose them, they will see their pay fall in real terms.

    The wealthy have a duty to use their wealth to stimulate the economy and help keep it going. This has always been a fundamental principle of REAL authentic Liberals, it is why we have historically supported things such as land tax. Instead, the wealthy in this country are encouraged to use their wealth unproductively, pushing up house prices and the like. To speak out against this is to get oneself accused of being some sort of “class warrior” motivated by “envy”, or somehow to be enemy of enterprise, because we have so much to reward the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and so on of past entrepreneurs who did what British entrepreneurs have always done – dropped the dirty money hard work stuff and become idle rich aristocrats. This is what the Tories have always been about – defending the idle rich aristocrats, making up fairy stories to justify their privilege, telling us we could not live without them and their skills. Liberals used to be people who were against that sort of thing.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    But it is not just Danny Alexander publicly supporting this.

    Nick Clegg just trumpeted the Autumn Statement on his LBC phone in. He said and I quote “The Lib Dems were proud of it, owned it and co-authored it,”

    That reinforces my decision on why I will not be Voting Liberal Democrats whilst Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander holds the reigns of the party.

  • Is this it? Is this the best LDV can do to cover up the fact that Liberal Democrat MPs have presided over 4 and a half years of an economic plan that did not achieve its stated objectives and disproportionately punished the poorest? Record public sector cuts to be succeeded by more record public sector cuts, bringing the public sector to a level not seen since before the invention of the welfare state?

    No wonder Clegg was too ashamed to show his face in parliament.

  • Paul in Wokingham 4th Dec '14 - 11:08am

    George Osborne’s comment that the top 20% of earners pay more tax than all the other 80% combined (which he claimed proves that “we’re all in this together”) seems particularly worth examining. As the treasury’s own figures recently noted, the top decile of earners earn more than the bottom 40% combined, and from a quick glance at the table it would seem that the top quintile earn pretty nearly the same as the rest put together.

    A Conservative might say “Look at all the tax the rich are paying”. Liberals should ask “How do we respond to massive income inequality?”.

    Mr. Clegg didn’t just wake up yesterday and think it would be a good day to visit Cornwall. You don’t just disappear on the day of a major fiscal policy statement. Presumably he was in Penzance to prove that he’s “the model of a modern Lib’ral Democrat”.

  • As Matthew Huntback so rightly puts it — “..This is what the Tories have always been about – defending the idle rich aristocrats, making up fairy stories to justify their privilege, telling us we could not live without them and their skills. Liberals used to be people who were against that sort of thing.”

    Yesterday Caron Lindsay put an article in LDV with a brief film from people who depend on benefits and local council services. These are the very people who will suffer from what Clegg, Alexander and Laws pretend are “core Liberal Democrat” policies in this autumn statement.
    When it comes down to a choice between those on benefits and those on a bankers’s bonus, Clegg, Alexander and Laws line themselves up with the bankers.

  • Tony Greaves 4th Dec '14 - 11:56am

    What a dreadfully sad day yesterday was. All the sacrifices we have made in the past four years – destroying our party in so many parts of the country and smashing the cause of radical Liberalism for at least a full generation – and it comes down to this. Lots of smoke and mirrors launching headline-catching populist measures (some of them distinctly wrong), and the prospect of the destruction of all the public services we used to fight so hard to extend, improve, and maintain, within another parliament.

    Meanwhile the LD score on today’s You Gov is down to 6% and behind the Greens.

    Tony Greaves

  • I’m astonished by the comments I’m seeing from Alexander and Clegg although perhaps we need the full context. Cameron recently got a telling off from the ONS about saying the cuts were largely done and I think Alexander said something similar. This is nonsense. The cuts aren’t half done yet and the low hanging fruit has been picked. If you watched Newsnight it was interesting that on the political panel at the end of the show they had a representative for each party. Former New Labour advisor Mathew Taylor thought the plans unbelieveable, even the Tory Tim Montgomerie didn’t believe them. Miranda Green said something about the main parties not levelling with the public about the situation. I can only assume now that what Clegg and Alexander want is to be rewarded by Tory tactical voters in their constituencies.

  • And, John, at least Laws was a big finance man prior to coming into politics, and Clegg learnt at the knee of Leon Brittan, so hardly surprising that those two speak and act as they do now. More surprising is how they ever came to wield the power they do in the Lib Dems!

  • Paul “Model of a modern Lib’ral Democrat” …..brilliant!

  • One wonders what all the children”born into the world alive” if their instincts were Liberal, rather than “Con – ser – va – tive”, are thinking now!

  • David Blake 4th Dec '14 - 12:40pm

    Maybe the Liberal Democrat leader should sometimes sit with the other Liberal Democrat MPs.

  • David Evans 4th Dec '14 - 12:48pm

    Sadly everyone knows a leopard can’t change its spots and doing this five months from a General Election (even if we assume it is an acceptance of what should be) is four years and six months too late.

  • @David Blake

    “Maybe the Liberal Democrat leader should sometimes sit with the other Liberal Democrat MPs.”

    The problem with that statement is that we do not really know where the liberal Democrat Mp’s are seated on this issue.

    Apart from Vince Cable that is, who is always prepared to speak out against the Government and is the only credible person left in the party.

    Of course we know where Lord Greaves stand, who is always vocal on these issues which is most welcome as it is comforting to know there are some people in the Lords who live in the real world.

    But apart from these two figures, where does the rest of the parliamentary party stand? When all you hear is silence, one must conclude that they are in agreement with the government.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Dec '14 - 1:54pm

    matt

    Nick Clegg just trumpeted the Autumn Statement on his LBC phone in. He said and I quote “The Lib Dems were proud of it, owned it and co-authored it,”

    Oh dear. Oh dear, dear …

    Words along the lines of “We have contributed to it what we could, though obviously with the balance of the two parties in Parliament it reflects more on the Conservative view and priorities than ours” would have been much better. They would also have been in tune with what Mr Clegg said in the May 2010 general election campaign, when our line very much was the one that over-doing the austerity was dangerous. I do think we need to be clear and say we would put more emphasis on higher taxation and less on cuts. We should have said that with tuition fees, instead of waving our hands around as if we could abolish them cost-free and then finding the Conservatives wouldn’t even go along with the taxation needed to keep them as they were.

    However, having seen what is in the Autumn Statement, I am increasingly coming to accept that the Liberal Democrats did the right thing (I mean in terms of “correct” not “left-right”) by agreeing to the tuition fees with loans system. In doing so, they saved the UK university system. It is clear that if the universities were still funded directly through taxation, we would now be facing the massive cuts proposed here for other public sector services.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Dec '14 - 1:56pm

    matt

    Apart from Vince Cable that is, who is always prepared to speak out against the Government and is the only credible person left in the party.

    Well, there are others. I think the crunch has come, and it is time for them to speak out clearly.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Dec '14 - 2:07pm

    David Evans

    Sadly everyone knows a leopard can’t change its spots and doing this five months from a General Election (even if we assume it is an acceptance of what should be) is four years and six months too late.

    That line only works if the Liberal Democrats are the leopard. Suppose the LibDems are not the leopard, and have just had the spots painted on. Time to wash them off …

    Or, your analogy presupposes that underneath the Liberal Democrats are true believers in Conservative economic ideology, so any rejection of it would just be fake, done for show. I don’t believe this to be the case, after all I am still a member of the party, and was active in supporting it and helping it grow up to 2010, and I most certainly do not believe in Conservative economic ideology, and while I accept I was always somewhat to the left of the party, I never felt myself that removed from its mainstream or uncomfortable within it up till then.

    So, if the Liberal Democrats are to survive, we must make a public show of returning to where we were. If we do not do this, and carry on as “me too” to Conservative economic ideology, we WILL be destroyed, as there is no evidence of any significant support for a Conservative-in-economics-but-a-bit-more-liberal-on-fringe-issues party.

  • @Matthew Huntbach
    “Well, there are others. I think the crunch has come, and it is time for them to speak out clearly.”

    I very much agree with you there.

    This Autumn statement aside for a moment. I have had no literature from the Liberal Democrat MP in my constituency for god knows how long,

    I have however been receiving literature from the Labour Candidate, I can see what he has been up to, causes he is promoting (securing funding for local Mental health initiatives) working with local food banks. He has been talking about National issues rather than just local issues.
    I am getting to see and know what this prospective parliamentary candidate stands for.

    The same can not be said for the current incumbent MP.

    If Liberal Democrats wait until 8 weeks before the election to start bombarding households with focus leaflets, attempting to differentiate themselves from the current Tory led Government, quite frankly it will seem like opportunistic waffle and have zero credibility with the electorate.

    At this point in time it makes no difference to my vote as my mind is already made up, unless something short of a miracle happens I am voting Labour.
    That wont stop me from hoping though that Liberal Democrat make a drastic change in direction and return to it’s left of center roots and becoming a party that I could vote for again.

    It’s just not going to happen whilst Nick is leading the party and Danny Alexander is the economics spokesman / adviser to the party.

  • matt
    I can understand why some people would decide never to vote Liberal Democrat again whilst NC and DA are leading figures.

    I can also understand why some people could never vote Labour again because they see the poison of Blair is still evident in the approach of today’s Labour Party.
    See this from today’s Guardian —
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/03/leaving-labour-green-party-social-change

    There is now a disctinct possibility that The Greens will outpoll Liberal Democrats in May putting us in fifth place in England and Wales and in sixth place in Scotland.
    In such circumstances, and assuming as many as 24 MPs are elected as Liberal Democrats, I wonder how many of today’s ministers will remain LIberal Democrats?
    The offer of a ministerial jag in Cameron’s Conservative and DUP minority Coaliton on 9th May may be just too much temptation for those who have developed a taste for such things.
    They will not want to get stuck into a decade or two of leafleting and door knocking in a Long March back to Liberal Democrat success.

    It is inconceivable given the evidence of the last few years that those whose real view of the world is Thatcherite will want to soldier on with the likes of ordinary people engaged in community politics.

  • I’m actually furious that the Liberal Democrats have supported an Autumn statement that will lay waste to the state in a measure the IFS describe as “a fundamental reimagining of the role of the state”. I don’t remember this being debated, or even hinted at in any Lib Dem, or for that matter Tory statement, in this parliament. One sort of expects this of the tories, but for the lib dems to support it is an astonishing betrayal of everything I still thought they believed in.
    This country as we know it is going to be destroyed and Clegg doesn’t even have the guts to sit in parliament.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Dec '14 - 7:08pm

    matt

    I have however been receiving literature from the Labour Candidate, I can see what he has been up to, causes he is promoting (securing funding for local Mental health initiatives) working with local food banks. He has been talking about National issues rather than just local issues.

    But has he said how he would have it paid for ?

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    “But has he said how he would have it paid for ?”

    No not as yet, but then I expect Labour to produce a fully costed manifesto for the election campaign. As I am sure all 3 main political parties will do,
    How much credibility all 3 parties will have remains to be seen.

    I think I can safely say that the Labour manifesto will have more credibility than the Libdems.
    How are the Liberal Democrats going to produce a manifesto and future spending commitment that differs to the commitments that they have made during this coalition and will have been voted for in the Autumn statement and the March 2015 budget?
    That is the ludicrous position that the Liberal Democrats have put themselves in by choosing to have a coalition that runs right up to the next election.

  • Stevan Rose 4th Dec '14 - 8:44pm

    “Talk to anyone who works in the public sector and they will tell you the limit has already been reached. ”

    But it hasn’t by any stretch. There is still a tremendous amount of waste in the public sector. Like £10m for encouraging people to register for the vote. Like blocking off 20 mile tracts of motorways for years at a time to install “smart” management a metre at a time. Like paying French, American, and Japanese companies hundreds of millions to deliver IT and facilities management services in government, doubling the numbers of managers involved whilst cutting those actually delivering tangible services and seeing profits from taxpayers swanning off overseas. Like HS2. Like grossly inflated PFI deals. Like a lovely but useless and extravagant pedestrian garden bridge over the Thames. And a 101 other nice little wheezes in every conceivable corner of the public sector. Of course the decision makers often top up their pensions with a seat on the board or a consultancy role later on. Once upon a time a government office would be cleaned by a small team of salaried cleaners reporting to an admin manager. They would earn a comparatively decent wage. Now the team would be smaller, the cleaners would earn minimum wage, there would be contract managers on both sides that didn’t exist before, a helpdesk perhaps, ordering and billing functions. All for a higher cost, and a lesser quality service, and profits being salted overseas.

    The Tories started this blatantly nonsensical economic journey. Labour took it to new levels, accelerating the waste. This Government has still not learned. It identifies NHS managers as waste when actually they keep the hospitals running, whilst studiously ignoring double management layers on all outsourced services. It allows itself to be bamboozled by the vested interests within the public sector that exist to manage bloated contracts instead of cutting out the middle man and delivering direct.

    The danger is that cuts are applied to the end services whilst continuing to put huge profits in the pockets of the middle men. Remove the middle men and release billions whilst preserving services. Dismantling accumulated waste built up over 20 years will not be easy or quick though.

  • David Evershed 4th Dec '14 - 8:52pm

    The Autumn Statement is not owned by Conservatives or Lib Dems it is a coalition document.

    This is the point of having a coalition. The Government does things that neither coalition party is entirely comfortable with but accepts collective responsibility (except Vince Cable who does not even accept Lib Dem collective responsibility).

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Dec '14 - 9:11pm

    Stevan Rose

    Like grossly inflated PFI deals.

    Er, yes, and I remember when I spoke out against these things when I was a councillor in the 1980s I was denounced as some sort of old-fashioned socialist dinosaur who was against PFI because I had some sort of irrational hatred of private business, and I didn’t realise that PFI was bound to be super-duper wonderful, because it was bringing in all this private-sector know-how that was the answer to everything.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Dec '14 - 9:17pm

    David Evershed

    This is the point of having a coalition. The Government does things that neither coalition party is entirely comfortable with but accepts collective responsibility.

    But you have completely missed my point. If Clegg and Alexander had just taken that line, and made clear it was a compromise they weren’t entirely comfortable with, I’d have been ok about it. My concern is that they DIDN’T take that line, and instead took the one which suggested they were really very comfortable with it, and it was what Liberal Democrats would have wanted even if they weren’t in the coalition and so having to compromise.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Dec '14 - 9:21pm

    Stevan Rose

    Once upon a time a government office would be cleaned by a small team of salaried cleaners reporting to an admin manager. They would earn a comparatively decent wage. Now the team would be smaller, the cleaners would earn minimum wage, there would be contract managers on both sides that didn’t exist before, a helpdesk perhaps, ordering and billing functions.

    Er, yes, and when I opposed the privatisation of these things and all the extra bureaucracy of contracting it out, I was denounced as some sort of old-fashioned socialist dinosaur who couldn’t see that doing all that was brining in that magic private sector know-how again, and competition which would drive up quality etc etc

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Dec '14 - 9:21pm

    Stevan Rose

    Like paying French, American, and Japanese companies hundreds of millions to deliver IT and facilities management services in government, doubling the numbers of managers involved whilst cutting those actually delivering tangible services and seeing profits from taxpayers swanning off overseas.

    Ditto.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Dec '14 - 9:25pm

    matt

    @Matthew Huntbach

    “But has he said how he would have it paid for ?”

    No not as yet, but then I expect Labour to produce a fully costed manifesto for the election campaign.

    Well, there you are then, that is why the political right gets away with their nonsense.

    If the left is not honest about the costs of these things and the need to find ways of paying for them, the right can get away with claiming that any proposed tax rises are just down to jealousy and envy. They can get away with boasting about how wonderful they are for increasing tax allowances, and not be held to account for the consequences of there then being not enough money to pay for vital services.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    To be fair Matthew, We have heard more from Labour on how they will raise funds by raising some taxes ie the Mansion Tax, 50p Tax rate, Removing Winter fuel allowance for well off pensioners, Freezing some in work benefits as well as Child Benefit
    Admittedly, This would only raise a fraction of the amount of money and Labour will have to reveal much more on what it intends to do over the coming months.
    The difference is though we are seeing some indications on what the Labour Party would do differently,
    It is a stark difference to the Tory policy which is to cut the deficit by using spending cuts alone and no tax rises as set out by Osborne in all interviews that he has made to the media and in his Autumn statement which apparently has the Liberal Democrats stamp all over it and to quote Nick Clegg ” we own it, I co-authored it”

  • At least with what Labour have said so far, we can differentiate to some extent between Labour and the Conservatives approach to deficit reduction.
    The same can not be said for the Liberal Democrats, I have not heard any differentiation from Tory / Conservatives, well to be fair their was a small amount of coverage given to Vince Cable. What we did see from the party in the media was Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the treasury and the parties economics spokesman in full support and favor of the Osborne approach.
    Indeed as you have mentioned in your previous comments, Danny’s approval seems to indicate that this would be the Liberal Democrats approach regardless of coalition with the Tories and being the economics spokesman for the party, that is exactly the message that is going to go out to the electorate.

  • Opps previous post said
    “I have not heard any differentiation from Tory / Conservatives”
    Obviously that was meant to be Liberal Democrat/ Conservatives.

  • Stevan Rose 4th Dec '14 - 11:32pm

    @Matthew Huntbach. I was never denounced for opposing privatisations. I led an in-house bid team that won on quality and price. It was re-run a year later excluding the in-house bid because that was deemed unfair competition since the internal team had no management overheads and unfair knowledge, experience and understanding of business operations. The number of managers running the work doubled, the number of technicians reduced. I know if no-one at the time or since that has ever attempted to explain this except as politically motivated. Labour should have reversed this but instead within weeks invited the leaders of the new supplier cartel to Downing St. to destroy what remained. The first betrayal of many.

    Personally it was the best thing possible for me; I took redundancy and set up in business myself. A rocky road at times but fairly stable now. For the country it has been an unmitigated waste of billions of pounds. At times with this government you notice tiny acknowledgements of previous errors, where the need to save cash has led to slight reversals, the engagement of bright commercial lawyers to screw the suppliers, services taken back in-house on a small scale. But there is no high level enthusiasm to cut this type of waste. One possible benefit of a need to reduce the deficit may be to bring back common sense. I believe one Department has TUPE’d staff back into the civil service so it is not impossible. Lib Dems could take the high ground by pushing savings via this route.

  • “I am not sheepish or ashamed, far from it,”
    “I am proud… we own it, I co-authored it.”

    The above are quotes from Nick Clegg on the Autumn Statement, so I guess trying to distance themselves from the Tories is not going to be a LibDem tactic. “‘Colossal’ spending cuts to come, warns IFS” – Clegg is really making it easy for Labour in their marginal LibDem seats

  • David Evans 5th Dec '14 - 12:27am

    “I am not sheepish or ashamed, far from it,” “I am proud… we own it, I co-authored it.” – Nick Clegg. It is clear there is no shame in the man for the destruction he has wreaked and continues to wreak on the Lib Dems. Anyone who still pretends that waiting until after May is the best solution is sadly deluding themselves. He will lose us votes in the run up; he will lose us votes when he opens his mouth in the leadership debates; and ex-activists will not return if he is still there.

    He has made sure there is nowhere else to go. If there is no courage in our MPs ranks, I hope they enjoy their comfortable peerages, because there will be little left other than that going forward, and the destruction will be down to each one of them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Dec '14 - 10:41am

    matt

    Indeed as you have mentioned in your previous comments, Danny’s approval seems to indicate that this would be the Liberal Democrats approach regardless of coalition with the Tories and being the economics spokesman for the party, that is exactly the message that is going to go out to the electorate.

    Yes, and as a member of the Liberal Democrats, I am saying it is not MY approach, nor is it the approach of most other members I know. So it it fair to call it “the Liberal Democrats approach”? I am a believer in liberal democracy, not Leninism, so I do not hold with the idea that The Party Line is whatever The Leader says it is this week.

    However, I think it is up to the Liberal Democrats as a whole to say this – I mean as in the members of the party. As has been discussed elsewhere, there are too many of them who tend to take the line “Oh, we’re local activists, we don’t know much about economics, we just leave that to the party leadership”.

    I have been devoting time and energy to constructive criticism of the leadership – and I have always tried to be constructive, it is my way – for years now, in the hope that I can persuade my fellow members to see that Nick Clegg is a poor leader, is damaging our party, and if they wish to see it survive, they must replace him.

    Ultimately, it will be up to the party to decide is it the “Liberal Democrats” or is it the “Nick Clegg Fan Club”. I had hoped this decision would be made before the 2015 general election, but it looks now as if I will have to wait until after. If after the 2015 general election, it looks like it will remain the NCFC, then I will not be able to remain a member. I have nowhere else to go, it is sad to see that there does not seem to be a significant group of people in this country who share my views and are willing to push them using the democratic mechanisms available.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Dec '14 - 10:53am

    Stevan Rose

    The number of managers running the work doubled, the number of technicians reduced. I know if no-one at the time or since that has ever attempted to explain this except as politically motivated. Labour should have reversed this but instead within weeks invited the leaders of the new supplier cartel to Downing St. to destroy what remained.

    Yes, I am well aware of this, and of course I am not saying we should do nothing to try and save money that way. My biggest regret over the time when I was Leader of the Opposition in Lewisham, promoted as “New Labour’s flagship borough” was that I did not then speak out more forcefully against the sort of thing you highlight. So much of this PFI and contracting out stuff seemed to be to be so much like you put it. I certainly did voice my concerns. However, I was new at the job, and had no-one helping me do it, I had to learn all about how it worked by myself. I was intimidated by the attacks that came when I did try to voice my concerns, those attacks being very much on he lines I put – that I was just some sort of nostalgic old-style socialist who could not see that privatisation and competition and private sector know-how was the future and would make everything better, and only those who lacked the intelligence to see that would oppose it.

    Nevertheless, I think it would be very foolish to suppose all the savings that would be required to be made to meet the huge future cuts proposed in the Autumn Statement. It would be as foolish as the supposition, that took place in earlier rounds of cuts imposed by national government, that the savings could easily be made by the sort of contracting out and fancy management which you now say caused more expense and not less.

  • chris j smart 5th Dec '14 - 11:00am

    For the first time in 4 years or so I do believe that this is the first time that Clegg supporters have been totally silent.
    Not a single comment unless you include David Evershed’s statement on collective cabinet responsibility. They must be in hiding along with the leader of this once great party. Whilst it may take the party many years to recover it’s honour and regain the trust of the voters it is never too late to do the right thing and start acting on the aspirations and promises of the 2010 party. A groundswell of revulsion from the party faithful would be a good start.

  • I so agree with Paul in Wokingham that we should be looking at the massive income inequality which results in these taxation figures. I believe we should be taxing those earning more than £100000 per year at something in the region of 75%on a TEMPORARY basis in order to prevent the weakest in our society from bearing the burden of recession. When we have achieved whatever it is we need to achieve then that heavy taxation would be abolished.
    In the meantime the party could look at taxation and the benefits system and come up with a vision which is liberal in concept and democratic in implementation . I do not believe that universal benefits are justified in our present economic circumstances so I donate my winter fuel allowance to others who need it more. More should be given to those who have to choose between heating and eating and nothing at all to those who’s private pension allows them to live in comfort.
    I have also been fascinated by the suggestions I have read in several Lib Dem forums that it is the companies that have contracts with Local Government that are paying their employees such low wages that they need money from Central Government in order to scrape a living. Not just a Gilbert and Sullivan world but an Alice in Wonderland one too.
    If we do as badly in next years elections as it seems we will perhaps we could take time out and see exactly what sort of society we would like to create as Liberal Democrats. The pity of it is that in our first taste of Government we have not been able to do this, but people within the party and outside it expect us to have done exactly that. The Tories lured us in with promises of electoral and constitutional reform knowing full well that the great British public would find that completely irrelevant in the middle of a recession and now we are stuck with putting sticking plasters on Tory cuts.
    What a terrible shame.

  • Clive Trussell 5th Dec '14 - 5:48pm

    Nick should answer questions going round all main local radio stations- as LBC.

  • This is totally bizarre….

    Midweek

    “I am not sheepish or ashamed, far from it,”
    “I am proud… we own it, I co-authored it.”

    Sunday

    Mr Clegg told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “I just think the Conservatives are kidding themselves and seeking to kid British voters if they are claiming that it’s possible to balance the books, deliver unfunded tax cuts, shrink the state and support public services in the way that everybody wants. It just doesn’t add up.”

  • Peter Watson 7th Dec '14 - 11:56am

    @peebee
    I don’t think that Clegg’s statements are totally contradictory.
    Perhaps he is proud of the spending plans and tax cuts that he co-authored, and already has a whole raft of planned Lib Dem public service cuts to pay for them. I don’t remember any announcements of them though.
    Or perhaps it’s a cunning ploy to find out who, if anybody, is listening to him by seeing which comments are reported.

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