There is now a Lib Dem mantra designed to show how Government has been materially improved becaus of its involvement in the Coalition. What we have, it might be supposed, is really a Lib Dem administration. The party can come up with a long list of its achievements. One by one Lib Dem policy dreams have been put into place. It is necessary side for the purpose of this argument to recognise that there are policies that those of us on the left can support: higher personal tax allowances, improvement of tax credits for the very poor. the triple lock on increases in the state pension, the Pupil Premium to help some disadvantaged poor children. Good on you, say I.
Do these policy changes make people less poor? Yes, they do in a way. However, alas and alack, the imposition of VAT dwarfs these advantages and the poor will get poorer. I will not dwell on the LiB Dem opposition to any VAT increase in the General Election campaign except to comment the they were against it. We all remember the poster. They were against increases in tuition fees too and then suddenly they were not.
But what is the heart of the matter. Remember, the Lib Dems were against cuts in public expenditure on the scale propsed by the Tories. Now they are not. What they tell us now is that these cuts are necessary and like Pilgrims Progress to the promised land they bring us all closer to full employment, rising living standards and sunshine. Trust us, you will see how wise we are it is said.
The Lib Dems no longer command trust. But are they right? Certainly the OBR has consistently produced economic forecasts that suggest they might be. We are days away now from a reckoning. The first quarter GDP figures for the for 2011 is soon to be announced. It may be that over the last six months the British economy may not have grown at all, or if it has it will be at some miserable annualised rate. Unemployment may be rising not falling, inflation will continue to work its way up and not down and real incomes will be squeezed further. I do not know whether the OBR will be asked for a revised forecast but even if they are not asked, it is highly likely that some other respected forecasting institute will make a good fist of doing it. And what will be observed? I anticipate it: a rising budget deficit and no chance of the Coalition’s economic objective of eliminating the deficit by 2015 being achieved.
Is this not the real charge against the Lib Dems? Not the cavilling daily objections to their nonsense BUT one overriding error. On the essential and over-reaching issue of how to keep the economy growing and the public deficit falling THEY ARE PLAIN WRONG. The Lib Dems have sold their soul for a mess of potage to find it uneatable. The electorate will not forget it and a day of reckoning is close.
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It is rumoured that David Cameron insisted on approving a draft of Nick Clegg’s Lib Dem Conference speech. Of course I am neither able to affirm or deny this. Perhaps, if true, the conversation went something like this.
Sit down Nick, do. This speech of your’s. I have some suggestions and I have made some amendments. Andy can help you with a redraft. Thanks Dave, I’m grateful. (pause). There is a lot of this red ink, Dave. It will take me some time to absorb it. It’s pretty simple really, we have agreed that neither of us is going to engage in criticism of each other. If we do, the game is lost. We can argue in this room for as long as you please but once outside the Coalition speaks as one. Or to be more accurate, you and I speak as one. If we don’t we are going to have a growing anarchy in both our parties with everyone feeling they can policy cherry pick. Well I understand that but we do need to have safety valves with room for a few mavericks to sound off. Of course so long as it is understood that the mavericks do not represent the Coalition.
And another thing Nick don’t overstate your claims. What do you mean? Bashing the bankers, Nick. Tone it down. We need them- whatever I or you say in public – to move us out of this depression business. We have a world leadership position in financial services. We need these City guys to motor us forward. No future in widget production Nick. And another thing, don’t make too much of the benefits of closing off tax evasion. That idiot Danny Alexander keeps talking about tax avoidance. That’s legal Nick. You and I and most of our friends practice it. I’ve looked at the figures. Every Government goes on about closing tax loopholes and they try to no avail. Nothing in it Nick. We must not look like idiots. How did you put it Andy? The first rule of politics is never to believe your opponent’s propaganda, and the second is not to believe your own. (laughter).
Look, Nick, I think of us as friends as as well as colleagues. There is no future for you in your sandal and beard brigade. They will drop away. What will be left is you and me and our friends. They can go their own way. They will be happier in a wilderness. But not you Nick and not me.We can go on for a very long time. Keep it simple. Be brave and rely on Labour to shoot itself in its own foot. They are good at that.
It’s a big gamble, Dave. A very big one. They could get rid of me if things turn out badly. Come, come, Nick. The’ve never had it so good.
Filed under Alan Budd, Andy Coulson, BBC, Big society, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, George Osborne, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Labour Party, Lib Dem blogs, Lib Dem Conference, Liberal Voice, New Stateman, Nick Clegg, OBR, Politics