Coffee House

Nick Clegg is setting out what the Lib Dems stand for

16 June 2014

12:32 PM

16 June 2014

12:32 PM

What is Nick Clegg up to? He held a press conference today to tell us that his party’s manifesto will be a Lib Dem manifesto, not a manifesto aimed at a partnership with Labour or the Tories. And he announced that his party will ring-fence education spending for two-to-19-year-olds in the next Parliament. The Liberal Democrat leader told the assembled hacks that Britain needed to move from ‘austerity to ambition’, another fortune cookie phrase presumably cooked up by whoever thought ‘Alarm Clock Britain’ made sense. Clegg said:

‘As we look towards 2015, it’s clear to me that Britain doesn’t want or need simply more of the same. The Conservative party will tell you everything is fine, let’s just carry on down the tramlines of permanent austerity. But once the books are balanced, as they must be and will be if Liberal Democrats are in government, in my view it would be wrong to carry on with austerity as usual. Britain doesn’t need more of the same, it needs a new wave of energy, optimism and, quite simply Liberalism. Liberal Democrats will put forward in 2015 a responsible manifesto: as I set out last week we have a responsible plan to eradicate the deficit and set a course to bring debt down. But acting responsibly is not the same as carrying on regardless of changing circumstances. Labour claim to want to change, of course, but until they come forward with a coherent plan to deal with Britain’s fiscal problems they’re just whistling in the wind, they won’t be taken seriously. The way I see it is this: if this Parliament was about repairing the British economy, the next parliament is about rewiring it. If the last Parliament was about rescue, the next must be about renewal. Rescue to renewal. That’s why we need to move from austerity to ambition.’

Clegg is setting up what the Conservatives will argue is a false dichotomy between spending cuts and empowering people: his Coalition partners will argue that a smaller state does not exclude ambition, it enables it. But Clegg is setting out a marker that the Lib Dems don’t believe in the hefty Labourish state, nor in ‘rolling back the state’ (possibly one of the more misused phrases of recent times): they believe in a medium-sized, ‘enabling state’.


That the Deputy Prime Minister is extending the ring-fence around education spending so that it covers ‘cradle to college’ might not be a commitment to a medium-sized state if he then produces spending cuts that fund it. Or it might be less ideological than that: the party’s pollster Ryan Coetzee has examined voters’ responses to detailed policy propositions, and the most positively received will crop up in speeches and announcements over the next few months.

But what is interesting is Clegg’s continuing commitment to ring-fencing when his colleague Vince Cable has described the practice as an ‘unbalanced approach to public spending’ which is ‘not very sensible’ in the long-term. Before the 2010 election, he said ‘there can be no ring-fencing if we are serious about getting the public finances back on track’. Perhaps this is another sign that the Business Secretary is being shuffled away from his current role as the Liberal Democrats’ economy lead.

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Show comments
  • Tim Reed

    “But Clegg is setting out a marker that the Lib Dems don’t believe in the
    hefty Labourish state, nor in ‘rolling back the state’ (possibly one of the more misused phrases of recent times): they believe in a medium-sized, ‘enabling state’.”

    Back to fence sitting and ‘all things to all people’, then. The fantasy party – vote for the LibDems, we’re whatever you want us to be. I think you’ll find, Cleggy, that that’s what got you to where you are today – almost finished. Your party finally entered the real world, and your supporters soon realised that the party was not in fact all things to all people, but nothing to anyone. Cheap opportunitsts with no principles.

  • Kitty MLB

    The Lib Dems delighted in saying “we stopped the Tories”
    Yes , the opposition in government and why coalitions do
    not work. Collective responsibility, for a while maybe but the
    issue for Nickie is that his party the Lib Dums contain many
    leftie dinisaurs and we know how pointless they are .
    Country before party, not with that bunch of EU loving
    lefties….The country needs a Conservative majority.
    Unless fools vote for fools who benefit no one but fools.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Clogg’s Liberalism will actually be written ‘Liberalism*’

    Page 24 at the bottom will say ‘* Read the small print’

  • Ken

    Will be use the usual LibDem trick of providing a different manifesto to every constituency?

  • Terence Hubbard

    Er just why is Clogg still DPM?

  • global city

    Their policy has always been to cast the net wide enough to pick up every weird fish in the sea

  • Smithersjones2013

    The idea the Clegg is ever going to convince the electorate that he is not a Pimp and his party are not a bunch of duplicitous political whores for sale at almost any price that the Liberal Democrats have become is just laughable. They have repeatedly jumped into bed with whoever holds power whether it be Wales, Scotland or the United Kingdom. They stand for nothing. He and they won’t get a hearing

    You just wait they’ll even drop their demands for voting system reform now it will harm them and benefit UKIP Clegg is right though:

    Britain doesn’t need more of the same,

    Which is why his party will be humiliated in 2015……

  • Chingford Man

    Someone doctor that photo so that the v-sign is reversed.

    • Smithersjones2013

      No Clegg’s giving his expert opinion on what share of the vote the Liberal Democrats will get….

      • Chingford Man

        He’s being a bit optimistic.

        • Smithersjones2013

          Indeed it shows how much of an ‘expert’ he really is

  • saffrin

    LibDem stands for, You are all idiots and only we know what’s best for you.

  • Alex

    The most telling phrase is that it is the role of a government to “rewire” the British economy. Yeah, ‘cos having Vince Cable design and plan the UK economy is a really great idea.
    So much for liberalism.

  • Mr Creosote

    ” Britain doesn’t need more of the same, it needs a new wave of energy, optimism and, quite simply Libertarianism ”

    Vote for the kippers

    • Adam Carter

      I voted UKIP in the EU elections, (no council elections here) and will vote UKIP in the General Election.
      I’m a sort of soft-libertarian, non-racist but a passionate hater of the RoP.
      And I’m ‘intensely relaxed’ (c. P Mandelson) about gay marriage.
      But friends tell me that I am voting the same way as ‘blazered bigots’. (Not my phrase.)
      How do I square the circle of my soft libertarianism and the xenophobic, homophobic fellow UKIP voters?

      • global city

        Focus on the policies. If you like them, if they do not offend or scare your sensibilities on these issues then vote for them…safe in the knowledge that all the other parties have as many xenophobes and bigots voting for and supporting them as UKIP has.

        Comfort yourself that you are supporting a decent party that has been vilified by the establishment. Just think, if the establishment are that worried that they have launched the initiative that your idiot friends have clearly fallen for then it must be good at it’s heart, or the establishment would not bother.

        Drop your idiot friends, they are obviously all idiots and so politically naive.

      • MirthaTidville

        Do you always believe what other people tell you?..Do you know any other UKIP voters to make these wild assumptions. Most likely not. It is you, may I suggest, who is the bigot. Maybe UKIP can well do with out you

        • Adam Carter

          What a remarkably ill-natured and ill-informed response.
          First of all, why don’t you compare your response to the reasonable one from ‘global city’. You’ll learn a lot.
          Then look at your first question ‘Do you always believe…?’
          I haven’t heard such a simplistic response since I was about 9 years old in the school playground. No, I don’t always believe, nor do I always disbelieve. I try to find supporting or refuting evidence.
          What do you do?
          Yes, I know a fair few other UKIP voters. One is a sort of traditional Christian whose attitude to gays is ‘hate the sinner, love the sinner’, sort of. He doesn’t approve of gay marriage.
          Another one is quite blunt about Eastern Euripean car washers.
          How do their attitudes make ME a bigot?
          Do you deny that some UKIP voters hold socially reactionary views? If you do then you are a fool.
          Since you chose to call me a bigot then now, having started by calmly reasoning with you I feel quite happy to call you a fool if you deny the existence of reactionary UKIP voters. Idiot.

          • MirthaTidville

            Well I obviously touched a very raw nerve there..In fact so much so that little more needs to be said, other than of course people of all sorts of differing opinions are present in every party..yes including UKIP, common sense tells you that. Despite your protestations you seem to be bothered about sexual orientation, whilst the rest of us are more bothered about changing LibLabCon..Sorry if you took offence, non intended just part of the cut and thrust of debate on here..

            • Wessex Man

              I see your point and understand it, I’ve been a member for years and whilst there are some very upper class people in the party there are also many left wingers, the thing is when we all meet at Conferences we all get on very well in each others company.

              I’ve been asking hooky to apologise for the Swindon Mayor forced to resign for disgusting remarks about disabled people and the Tory councillor who thought the best way to deal with immigrants was with a Machete. The reason I keep on about it is that Hooky and the Tories were making outrageous comments about us. I wanted to start using the four pages of A4 of antics that our opposition have got up to in the two years but those in charge ‘think it would drag us down to the gutter with the Tories. I may yet get in the gutter with them!

      • Hexhamgeezer

        ‘Blazered bigots’? Have any of your ill-informed mates actually met one?

  • Wessex Man

    Anyone took in by this bloke’s words deserves all they get! If by some collective madness and people vote in Lib/dum MPs, those Lib/dums will promptly drop all their policies to become the junior partner in crime with the Tories or Labour!


  • alabenn

    You would think that a man who destroyed his party with false promises on education, would at least have the sense that further promises on this subject should be avoided.
    Did this thicko really get a degree from university, shows how well Labours dumbing down of education worked.

    • Smithersjones2013

      Yeah but it was in archaeology and anthropology I believe. He’s got to kill his party off (and he’s doing a pretty good job of that) before he can dig it up and inspect its bones. Give him a chance!

    • monty61

      I didn’t bother to read what it said beyond 2 paragraphs … Clegg is toast, along with his party. It’s a lost cause. He should pack up and go home.

  • thechristophe

    “Clegg is setting up what the Conservatives will argue is a false dichotomy between spending cuts and empowering people”

    Is this such a false dichotomy? The “Big Society” doesn’t get spoken about by Tories anymore…