Nick Clegg was apparently just being self-critical in his House magazine interview when he said the Coalition hadn’t got it right from the beginning on infrastructure. Those close to the Deputy Prime Minister are insisting that though speaking out on economic policy remains unusual in the Coalition, he was simply pointing out what has actually happened, with the government now offering more on capital spending.
But at this morning’s lobby briefing, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman didn’t exactly take that same tone.
‘The Prime Minister’s view is that it was the right decision to have made,’ he said, pointing to increases in infrastructure spending in the last two autumn statements. ‘More already is being done,’ the spokesman added.
He added that the Prime Minister’s ‘view is that we have absolutely the right economic policy’.
Even though Clegg wasn’t trying to launch some savage attack on his Tory counterparts, Labour has been crouching in the long grass like a big cat waiting for an admission like this to come along. The party pounced on the interview: Rachel Reeves last night said this was ‘the first admission that this government has made serious mistakes on the economy’, adding that Labour has already urged the government to do more. The opposition can now claim that the Deputy Prime Minister shares Labour’s concerns about spending.
The government says it is already doing more, but Clegg was being pretty naive if he didn’t expect that being ‘self-critical’ about the economy a few hours before GDP figures that economists had expected would be bad were published would cause a stir.