Coffee House

Now Nick Clegg turns on Labour ahead of mid-term review

2 January 2013

9:00 AM

2 January 2013

9:00 AM

Nick Clegg is in a pugnacious mood at the moment. First there was the very conveniently leaked memo in which Lib Dem strategists urged MPs to criticise their Tory Coalition partners publicly. Now he’s gone on the attack against Labour’s spending plans, or lack thereof. The Deputy Prime Minister writes in The Times:

‘The Labour leadership continue to complain about the coalition’s approach, but without providing any credible alternative. They’re learning the tricks of opposition and finding their rhetorical refrains. But where are the numbers? Where are their sums? The country has undergone the biggest economic crisis in living memory, yet they offer no explanation of how they’d get us out of this mess, nor any admission of responsibility for their part in creating it.’

He challenges Ed Miliband and Ed Balls to be open about which cuts they would keep and which they would lose, adding:

‘To oppose everything is to offer nothing, and the country will not be duped. The biggest divide in politics today – here and around the world – is between those who offer leadership and those who only offer dissent.’


In September, Clegg made clear that his pitch for the 2015 election would be ‘are you ready to trust Ed Balls with the nation’s finances again?’ He has quite a tightrope walk ahead of him, as he doesn’t want to alienate Labour to the extent that it would be impossible for his party – with or without Clegg – to form a coalition in 2015. But it is important for the Lib Dems at the same time to show that in going into coalition with those Tories they plan to attack, they were eschewing the easy purity of opposition. His Times piece is largely a list of What the Government Has Done, right up until his attack on Labour in the final paragraphs.

But while there’s not a whisker of dissent with the Tories on the central mission of deficit reduction, Lib Dem HQ wants to see the party’s MPs making it clear on a regular basis that they have been stopping the Tories ‘looking after the super rich while ignoring the needs of normal people’.

This is the strategy that Clegg’s former adviser Richard Reeves was keen to advocate when he was in Number 10. But the Tories don’t want the same gory government-style differentiation, arguing that it damages public perception of how well the coalition is working if the two parties make a point of having a public disagreement over every new policy. Interestingly, they seem more relaxed about dissent and public criticism when it comes from their own MPs, while the Coalition has, until now, remained largely united. That balance could well change over the next year, and next week’s mid-term review will provide a useful opportunity for us to see how a more pugnacious coalition is going to work.

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Show comments
  • barbie

    The problem with Clegg is no body is listening to him anymore, or want to. The polls show the parties demise, slowly and painfully disappearing. Who needs Clegg tell me that? He as become an electorate liablity. His u-turns are legendry, his promises broken, he’s as bad as Cameron. Shame really, power as corrupted him.

  • toni

    Clegg would do better to have a go at IDS whose figures and rabble rousing rhetoric he and his acolytes support, before having a go at Labour.

    Monday 31 Dec 2012
    FactCheck: is Britain a tax credit haven?

    Iain Duncan Smith has had a long hard go at Labour for their
    welfare spending.
    Not for the first time, he says hard working taxpayers are
    paying for the big-spending ways of the last government.
    This time, he’s got the tax credits system in his sights.
    The current – though not for much longer – system was
    introduced by Labour as a way of bringing down child poverty.
    Instead, the work and pensions secretary wrote in the Daily Telegraph today: “It tells a sorry story of dependency,
    wasted taxpayers’ money and fraud.”

    The claim
    “Tax credit payments rose by some 58 per cent ahead of the
    2005 general election, and in the two years prior to the 2010 election,
    spending increased by about 20 per cent.”

    The verdict
    We asked the Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which administers
    work and child tax credits, how much has been paid out since the current system
    started under Labour in 2003 (before that it was the Working Families Tax
    It said that in 2003-04, £16.4bn was paid, and the following
    year – the one that included the general election to which Mr Duncan Smith
    refers – £17.7bn.

    That’s an increase of 8 per cent, not 58.

    And in 2008-9, the HMRC said, some £25.1bn was paid in tax
    credits. In the following year, it was £27.3bn. Which means that in the two
    years prior to the 2010 general election, spending on tax credits increased by
    8.8 per cent, not 20.
    We put that to the department for work and pensions. “It’s
    calculated on the basis of tax credits deflated by earnings. I can assure you
    it’s correct,” a spokeswoman said.

    We’ve asked for the source of that information, and a
    detailed breakdown, but haven’t received it yet.
    Whatever it is, must be a pretty fat adjustment, from eight
    to 58 per cent.
    Out of fairness, we’ll leave it in the middle of the
    FactCheckometer just now.

    The claim
    “Between 2003 and 2010, Labour spent a staggering £171
    billion on tax credits, contributing to a 60 per cent rise in the welfare bill.
    Far too much of that money was wasted, with fraud and error under Labour
    costing over £10 billion.”

    The verdict
    Mr Duncan Smith’s got his sums wrong on this one.
    The total amount spent on tax credits, from 2003-04 to
    2010-11, was £175.636bn, according to HMRC.
    But because that includes the first year of the coalition
    government, we took the last year – 2010-11 – off, during which £28.542bn was
    That meant that under Labour, from when the scheme started
    to their last year in government, £147bn was spent, not £171bn.
    We also asked HMRC how much had been lost through fraud and
    error in the tax credits system under Labour. It was actually £11.16bn, not
    £10bn, so Mr Duncan Smith’s only £1.16bn out there – which is better than his
    previous effort.

    It’s also worth pointing out that of the £11.16bn lost to
    fraud and error under Labour, just £1.27bn of that was actually down to fraud.
    Or 0.7 per cent of the total amount spent on tax credits.

    The claim
    “It will come as no surprise therefore that fraudsters from
    around the world targeted this benefit for personal gain. ”

    The verdict
    Actually this did come as a surprise. Fraudsters from around
    the world coming to the UK exploit the tax credit system? Sounds serious.

    But when we asked HMRC how many non-UK nationals were
    responsible for tax credit fraud, it said: “The tax credit system doesn’t
    record nationalities of claimants, so we don’t have those figures.”


    Please don’t try to deceive us. We are not stupid. Nick Clegg is NOT in a pugnacious mood. Politicians don’t have moods, they only have PR. If he tells you he is in a pugnacious mood then it is only because he has been told to tell you that. And you are only telling us because he has told you and wants you to repeat it.

    It is all a game. The Spectator continues to play the game, perhaps hoping that those on the team who are able to profit from Westminster connections will be able to do so before it all goes belly up.

    Perhaps the reality, that we are being constantly deceived by those in positions of influence is too frightening or dangerous to face.

  • paulus

    Well thats a change he has been attacking the government he is apart of (no typing error) since he joined it.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Nonentity makes a small noise signifying nothing. Clegg imlies ‘Our ‘Balls’ is better than your ‘Balls’. Nothing here to worry their Client State.

    Move on…

  • William Blakes Ghost

    How ironic that Clegg should mention leadership when the western world is facing the worst political leadership crisis in many centuries. Obama? A Joke, Europe? A disaster of leadership not seen since the 1920’s (the lot that facilitated Hitler’s rise) and as for the three stooges in the Westminster Freakshow?

    Never has this country faced so much with so little leadership! Cameron, Clegg and Miliband couldn’t lead a bunch of alcoholics to a brewery! Worthless narcissists the lot of them and probably the most two faced pointless waste of space of them all is Nick Clegg. He’d be more gainfully employed cleaning the toilets at Cannon Street Station.

  • Hobbes

    The sound I hear is Clegg driving his party right off the political cliff. By attacking both Tories and Labour he’s pretty much driving the final nails in the coffin come 2015. Then again, he’ll probably dump the Libs for some cushy EU job at that point, and we all get to laugh as the Libs -cease to exist- as a political entity. Well done Nick!

  • Austin Barry

    Clegg whines:

    ‘The country has undergone the biggest economic crisis in living memory, yet they offer no explanation of how they’d get us out of this mess, nor any admission of responsibility for their part in creating it.’

    Clegg would be more honest if he had said, ‘biggest economic and immigration crisis in living memory’ .

    But, of course, he won’t, because he believes that we are all enriched by relentless, culturally suicidal diversity – and because he doesn’t want to be a hostage to fortune when, in December, the next tidal wave of immigration roils in from Bulgaria and Romania, courtesy of his EU chums.

  • anyfool

    Clegg is a fool, he should of attacked Labour from the onset, instead he went out of his way to manufacture a seeming opposition to the Tory party section of a coalition they in theory had joined to govern for the sake of the country, so this cretin is left with the prospect that if they turn the country round the Tories will get all the kudos, if it fails they will be castigated by the Tories for preventing them from delivering recovery.
    He has lost his far left loonies and there is no more converts to be had from the centre right which left him with the soft center and left and appealing to them by way of saying we tried to to stop the Tories while at the same time working with them will never work with anyone let alone a group who still think there is a secret haul of cash to be had from somewhere to save their precious Utopian vision, he only chance was to start firmly persuading these people that it was Labour who has caused all the problems before the coalition and not blame the coalition for problems it inherited, now he is going to try to pin the blame on where he should have done 30 months ago, all any in Labour needs to say is, you have already blamed the Tories for this so why are we to blame and for once since there creation they will be speaking the truth.

    • Robin Hood

      The last over long sentence on this comment makes no sense at, does that make you any anytomfool?

      • Chris Morriss

        Anyone who writes “should of” should have been too ashamed to write any comment here.

        • Turdicus

          Yes these minor grammatical errrors usually happen when you write as you think,
          Better not to think while writing as a lot on here appear to do.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Ha ha ha! But the country will be duped! Look at Labour’s polling lead. Labour propaganda works and they have a huge army of parasitical rent-seekers who believe that anything their famous money tree can’t fund can be provided for by “taxing the rich”. Even this site is not free from their propaganda whilst the media at large are just reporting Tory and LibDem (mild) criticism of Labour rather than putting Labour under proper scrutiny themselves.

    Dickering about with the minutiae of the housekeeping bills and coming up with cunning wheezes to seduce supposedly wavering lefties is no real alternative to Labour’s hi-jacking of sound good soundbites – ‘one nation’, ‘justice’, ‘equality’, ‘fairness’, etc. Each of those deceptions needs to be ruthlessly dissected and Miliband and his Brownian gang of cloaked Marxists put under relentless pressure. It is a cultural war, not an economic one. For God’s sake do some conservative good at the Spectator and start fighting the bastards instead of gossiping about them.

    • Span Ows


      • Colonel Mustard


        • Span Ows

          …but certainly NOT the other! All I meant was that your comment was spot on.

  • George_Arseborne

    Another pathetic strategy from Nick Clegg. He is a failure and no one will listen to him or believe him. He is just a Pawn on the Chess Board and does not matter as far as politics is concern.

    • Fergus Pickering

      But I presume, Arseborne, that you suppose the Militwat matters? At ;least Clegg is in Government, something the Twat will never manage. Never.Never. Never. Never. Never..

      • George_Arseborne

        Oh wishful thinking Mr. Pickering. Do not commit suicide after 2015. However Nick Clegg just helped Cameron to achieve his dream job of being British PM without a vision. Simple!!!!!!

  • Bluesman

    “the Lib Dem leader urged his MPs to criticise their Tory Coalition partners publicly”

    “those who offer leadership and those who only offer dissent”

    I shall not even bother…

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Non-entity takes advantage of slow news day to get his name in the papers but he is only playing stupid party games. There is nothing of interest here for any real person. In fact reading it is a pernicious waste of time. Which of course I have to spare, or I would not comment on it either.

    • Fergus Pickering

      The Deputy Prime Minister cannot be described as a nonentity however much you may hate and despise him. I should say that Clegg is easily the most important Liberal politician in my lifetime, in fact the most important Liberal politician since Llord George. Anyway the attack is quite fair

      • Rhoda Klapp

        Don’t blame me, I can’t help it if they picked a non-entity, but he is, you know. And as Lloyd-George was the last liberal of any import at all, your statement may be true but counts for little. I do despise him, I don’t hate him. I wish he would go to wherever he thinks is home, which I am fairly sure isn’t here.

        • Rhoda Klapp

          Oh, and Deputy Prime minister is in fact a synonym for non-entity. Prescott.

          • William Blakes Ghost

            Deputy Prime Ministers are only their to demonstrate what a really bad minister is like. A sort of anti-minister….

      • HooksLaw

        its easier just to say ‘non entity’ rather than actually think

        • Rhoda Klapp

          Yeah, and your post is not facile. When you think of Clegg’s likely historical legacy, just how small a footnote do you think it will be? Well, it will be even smaller than that. Unless he is the one who finally presides over the demise of his party.

      • The Red Bladder

        An accolade as eagerly sought as “the most feared murderer since Jack the Ripper”.

        • Wessex Man

          oh no, you’ve found your way on this site to bore everyone! no no no zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

          • The Red Bladder

            Oh yes I pop up like a Jack-in-the-box all over the place with the sole intention of boring the boots off all and sundry. Thank for your endorsement – I shall certainly make use of it elsewhere.

      • William Blakes Ghost

        ‘Liberal’ is code for worthless. Thats why the electorate dumped them out of government 100 years ago never to return in their own right!