Nick Clegg used his monthly press conference this afternoon to deliver a strongly worded attacked on Labour over its energy price freeze and lengthy, unsolicited defence of what the government is doing to tackle the cost of living. There were some mildly interesting points from the Deputy Prime Minister on energy bills, as he insisted repeatedly that he was a ‘pragmatist’ about how the money for low income and vulnerable households is raised and that talks over how some green and social taxes and levies could be removed from fuel bills were going to continue between now and the Autumn Statement.
He also hit back at sacked Lib Dem Minister Jeremy Browne’s description of the party as being like a shopping trolley that has veered to the left, describing a number of Lib Dem achievements and adding:
‘Anyone who wants to say to me that that is a record of a party lurching to the left really, really has quite a different understanding about shopping trollies or left or right than I think most people do in British politics.’
But the most striking comment formed the latest in the Coalition’s assault on Labour over HS2. Asked whether HS2 was something Clegg would ever be prepared to compromise on in any future government, the Deputy Prime Minister replied:
‘No. I was up in Sheffield yesterday talking to business leaders and they are absolutely appalled at the way in which Labour appears to be betraying the North and it just beggars belief that a party that constantly parades itself as an authentic voice of the North of England is now prepared to turn its back on the businesses, the communities, the families which I think all the evidence shows will benefit disproportionately from investment in a high speed north south railway link. I just think it’s miserable, pathetic, that an idea which we inherited from Labour and in all good faith took forward because we thought that given they were the architects of it that they might support it, it becomes politically convenient to play games with it, they start playing games with it.’
Afterwards, aides insisted that this was not a red line and that ‘we are not going to start writing our manifesto’ now. But a source close to Clegg added that ‘he is not going to change his mind on HS2′, which sounds rather as though the Deputy Prime Minister has got the high speed rail link on his list of potential red lines for when he does come to decide them.
Nigel Farage, Matthew Parris, Rory Sutherland and Cheryl Gillan will debate whether the government should ‘Stop HS2!‘ on 31 October 2013 in Westminster. Click here to book tickets.Tags: energy bills, Nick Clegg, UK politics