There is something very Liberal Democrat about Nick Clegg’s Q&A session with party members at conference. There’s a distinct mix of familiarity, fondness—the loudest applause came for the announcement that today is Nick and Miriam’s 12th wedding anniversary and policy debate.
In response to a questioner who claimed that Danny Alexander was more right wing than ‘Peter Osborne’, Clegg was keen to stress to members that the coalition’s fiscal plans were more flexible than they are given credit for. But his declaration that there ‘won’t be a penny less of a penny more’ of spending cuts than those already agreed indicates that the Liberal Democrats will not accept any more reductions in government spending to hit George Osborne’s target of having the national debt falling as a percentage of GDP by the end of the parliament.
But the Lib Dem leader did concede that there might be some ‘re-jigging of spending plans’ and that he ‘can’t promise you there won’t be changes to the welfare budget.’ But he ruled out finding the £10 billion of welfare cuts that Osborne said he wanted in the Budget earlier this year.
Other topics that came up included that apology, green energy—which the party is using to try and differentiate itself from the Tories and press regulation. On Leveson, Clegg said that ‘lots of patently flase stuff has been written about me and my family.’ But, after a bit more press bashing, he warned that liberals should not be keen on restrictive press regulation.