Nick Clegg’s speech today was a preview of what the Liberal
Democrat argument will be in 2015: coalitions work and we’re the ‘one nation’ party who will ensure that the government is fiscally credible but fair.
This strategy is the leadership’s best hope for the next election. But it is reliant on coalition government being seen to work, something which isn’t going to be the case if the coalition
partners continue to wash their dirty linen in public.
In terms of the coalition, there were a few interesting lines in the speech. Clegg said that the Budget ‘must offer concrete help to hard-pressed, hard-working families: a big increase in the
income tax threshold, further and faster towards £10,000.’ Having ramped up the rhetoric so far on this issue, anything less than a thousand pound increase in the personal allowance
will be an embarrassment to the deputy Prime Minister. He also again stated as fact that there would be elections to the House of Lords before 2015 as well as reiterating Lib Dem support for
‘home rule’ for Scotland.
Clegg’s speech also ensured that the internal Lib Dem row over tycoon tax would continue, mocking Lord Oakeshott’s opposition to it with the
line the ‘only person against the tycoon tax is one of our tycoons’. Oakeshott, an ally of the Business Secretary Vince Cable, is unlikely to take this lying down.
One other thing worth noting is the warm applause that came when Clegg paid fulsome tribute to Chris Huhne. It was another sign of how keen the Lib Dem leader is to keep this former Cabinet
minister on board.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.