Monday, January 11, 2010

Clegg tells his party to forget their spending commitments

Nick Clegg has been letting his party know that all that talk about free childcare and the right to personal care, well, they just can't have it. Even though it's party policy. You have to be 'grown up' about these things you see.

In tomorrow's Morning Star I argue that;

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has announced that the politics of plenty are over. I assume by this he means plenty of war, plenty of cuts and plenty of sell-offs because he could not possibly be saying that up to now we have never had it so good. Or could he?...

After describing voters as grown-ups, Clegg then announced that he would introduce caps on public-sector pay, scrap the government baby bonds scheme, ditch the commitment to free childcare and their "citizen's pension" and that he would no longer advocate free personal care for the old and disabled. Added to this the Lib Dems would keep tuition fees, at least until the good times roll again.

Clegg described this bonfire of the policies by saying: "We have stripped away everything that is not essential because the country cannot afford it."

There was me thinking that policies like free child and personal care existed because parents and the disabled couldn't afford them. Maybe they aren't part of "the country."...

It's an interesting way to try to give people confidence in your manifesto by tearing half of it up shouting: "This is all rubbish! We were never going to do any of it."
Whilst I tend to agree with Mr Clegg on the Gina Ford parenting thing, more generally he has been a disaster as a leader positioning the Lib Dems in a right of centre space that does not exist as it has a prior occupant, the Tory Party. I fully expect the third party to be electing a new leader after the General Election.

Frankly Clegg's idea that the Labour and Tory parties are pretending as if the economic crisis is not happening is extraordinary. It's hardly credible at a time when they are competing with each other to say how savage they are going to be wth public services. Never-the-less he says he's going to be tougher - Christ that's worrying.

The announcement that Clegg was ditching a raft of Lib Dem policies was met with a mixed reception from Lib Dems. Some bloggers were supportive but others less so. Jennie Rigg, for example, said;
Our Glorious Leader has chosen today to announce that we won't be able to afford all the policy commitments we are committed to, despite the fact that three months ago conference told him we would not be happy about it. Predictably it's the equality-based commitments that are highest up the cancellation list.
Darrell, a Leeds council candidate for the Lib Dems, says that;
Lets be quite clear that there is nothing fair about withdrawing policies meant to increase state support for vulnerable (and least self-sufficient) groups within society while maintaining things such as a ‘multi-billion pound committment’ to the failed war in Afghanistan.
It seems to me that the Lib Dems have squandered the last few years that could have seen them go from strength to strength as an alternative to the two floundering parties of government. Instead their electoral support is flagging, and their politics directionless. What a shame

P.S. talking of being adult about things, it's nice to see someone at The Telegraph thinks the Greens are all grown up now. I assume that's a compliment.


David Cox said...

Sorry Jim, I think you are commenting on the media’s take on what Nick Clegg said. Some policies have been ‘put on hold’ not ‘ditched’; doesn’t the Green Party have both long term and short term policies in the MfSS?

Yes public sector pay increases will be capped - at £400, in other words capped in way that favours low paid public servants. Liberal Democrats have never supported Baby Bonds.

Surely the four core policies are music to the ears of most Green Party members?

Fair Taxes –redistribution by stealth
Fair start for all children at school – helping to create a more equal society
Green economy - very much along the lines of the Green New Deal
Open politics –proportional representation and constitutional reform

Jim Jepps said...

I'm in! Apologies for the delay in responding there's something 'up' on the internet.

I read the last three press releases on the LD site, listened to clegg on the today prog, twice (using iplayer) and browsed LD blogs to see their comments. The only media response I read was the BBC website.

Clegg was keen to get across that he's making the LD promises 'realistic' by dumping everything that was not 'essential'.

I certainly don't argue that nothing the LD's say is correct. Of all three parties they have had the best progressive instincts on issues like ID cards, kettling, taxation etc. and I've mentioned before I have a real respect for the two LD MP's I've lived under (Bob Russell and David Howarth). However, Monday's bonfire of the policies was just that and as a reaction to the financial crisis saying the only area that you'll safeguard is education is horrifying.

I got the baby bonds thing from the LD website cited as a policy that is being ditched, so if it wasn't policy anyway it shouldn't have been there to be honest - but thanks for the clarification.

On your list - of the three biggest parties the LD tax policy is the least worst. Good.

I think the list of policies to be cut actually focus on kids and childcare so I thought the message on education was mixed.

At the heart of the GND is investment. The LD's want to set up a fund to get private funding for public buildings, and will be looking at ways of slashing budgets. We want to stabilise the economy and cut the dole queue not budgets. The GND is a bit more complex than adopting the words 'green economy'

As to PR I don't know if you noticed but Clegg has dropped it. He only wants to abolish 'safe seats' but the statement is clear that the 150 MPs would be elected under either FPTP or STV not PR.

- I hope that doesn't come across as a rant it's only meant to be a list of responses!

David Cox said...

Glad you’re back in. Not a rant, reasoned and coherent argument from you as ever Jim.

Nick hasn’t the power to chuck our policies on the bonfire; he has certainly kicked them in the long grass. It’s got him headlines and worryingly compliments on ConHome. I do think Nick is suspicious of state provision, I think his work in the European Parliament, some of it ironically with some of your European sister Green Party MEP shows this. Which is healthy in some respects – ID cards, but there is a place for the state. After all the old age pension is one of the most enduring survivors of the last Liberal government – a universal state benefit.

Yes the GND (echoes of Lloyd George’s Yellow Book) is about investment, and so is the Liberal Democrat policy albeit spread over several policy areas “use Gordon Brown’s wasted billions to create thousands of jobs today by investing in homes, hospitals, schools and public transport to build the green economy of tomorrow”.

I don’t think we’ve abandoned our commitment to Proportional Representation. I will go away and check.

PS The Telegraph says “The Greens, under her influence, have also changed their economic policies so much that - where once they opposed economic growth – they now say they have the best record for achieving it.” It’s not only Nick at it then!

Jim Jepps said...

Yeah, getting support at the Telegraph is as worrying as Con Home!

On PR he made a very carefully worded statement saying he wanted to "abolish safe seats" and something about the right constituents to sack their MP (which is also green party policy since the last conference, where I moved the motion).

He left out any mention of PR in this formulation. I'm open to persuasion that he hasn't ditched it but the way that section was worded it seemed like a massive back track to allow for different kinds of electoral reform and the phrases didn't fit PR.

I'm actually keen on STV for single seat things, like london mayor, but I don't think now is the time to sweep P:R under the carpet.

Steve Durrant said...

Wow Jim, How long you been writing for our Comrades on the MS?

Jim Jepps said...

I'm in once a week, usually a Tuesaday. Been doing that for about six months I think, maybe a bit more.

David Cox said...

Oh no! first ConHome, now Norman Tebbit has just praised our tax policies.