The Coalition is desperate to get us to believe in an acronym. It suffers from a bad case of TNA- There is No Alternative to the cuts announced in Chancellor George Osborne’s Government Spending Review. To this is added a myth: the British economy under Labour had reached meltdown with an imminent threat of a Greek style collapse , a run on the pound and rising interest and bond rates. Nick Clegg told Radio 4 listeners of Desert Island Discs that he had searched his conscience about the cuts and had concluded there were ‘no pain free alternatives’. Unfortunately for Nick Clegg, his timing was poor. Almost at the same time a British Nobel Prize winner of Economics, Professor Pissarites said the the Government was taking ‘unnecessary risks’ with the economy and that the risks of a crisis in bond rates were minimal.
Consider the use of terms. Philosophically, the chances that there is no alternative to any decision is highly dubious. In most instances there are alternatives as in this instance. Clegg does not deny there are alternatives but he insists they are ‘not pain free’. Note that Clegg does not deny alternatives but states they are not pain free. We might think that if this is so what course of action would cause us least pain. This type of analysis, a choice between disagreeable alternatives and an issue of judgement, we might be able to accept. Not TNA but a choice between difficult choices. Now you are talking. You admit that there are difficult choices, you might accept that the risk of the collapse of the British economy is minimal and that you together with George Osborne have opted for one of them.
There is something of Uriah Heep in Nick Clegg. He is at pains to tell us that he searched his conscience. This statement differentiates him from others who might be thought not to have a conscience. He may have searched it but one is bound to remind him that he found it wanting on this occasion – it let him down!
It is the philosophy of the Right in politics that it is in favour of small government, the diffusion of power from the centre, low taxes and the denial of the enabling powers of the state. Perhaps on this occasion Clegg found his conscience wanting because at heart his soul belongs to a Right wing Tory philosophy. Indeed it a fit of honesty a few days ago he admitted it. If this is so it would not be insulting to the intelligence to admit that you cannot put a cigarette papoer between the politics of David Cameron and Nick Clegg. I am inclined to argue, being somwehat sceptical in outlook, that he will at some time join the Cons taking some power greedy Lib Dem members of the Government with him and splitting the Lib Dems. We could write the speech he might make at an e4mergency meeting of the Lib Dem Parliamentary Party.
This speech will begin with the words, ‘As you know I am a Lib Dem supporter to my very core (he shows his membership card). I am bound to conclude that there is no TNA. I have searched my conscience and found that, as I suspected, there is no TNA. Applause, a few mutters and stewards standing by the emergency doors.