‘On their own’ – those are Nick Clegg’s watchwords for the 2015 election. His speech on the economy last week was spun as ‘one of his strongest attacks ever on the Labour Party’; but, while Clegg certainly did say that Labour would seriously damage your wealth, he remembered his mantra:
‘So don’t be fooled again: you cannot afford Labour. Let loose in government on their own they would wreck the recovery – costing jobs, driving up interest rates and undermining the growth needed to cut tax bills and fund public services. They cannot be allowed to undo all of the sacrifices that have been made and everything that has been achieved – the British people would pay the price.’
‘With so many families feeling the squeeze, the Government must provide all the help we can, as soon as we possibly can. This would take the Liberal Democrat workers’ tax cut up to £800. It will bring us a step closer to my party’s goal for the next parliament — we don’t want you to pay any income tax on anything you earn up to the minimum wage. The Conservatives would not deliver this in government on their own. The priority for them has been cutting taxes for the highest earners.’
Clegg’s aim to convince undecided or wavering voters that the Lib Dems are a moderating and trustworthy political force that ought to be in government. In his conference speech earlier this year, he listed all of the callous things he’d stopped the Tories doing. Now he warns about the hideous things Labour and the Tories might do your economy if left to their own devices. Expect more of the same between now and 2015.
The question, of course, is whether Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems are sufficiently credible and popular to pull off this pose. Labour will urge the public not to trust the yellow team; as they did during last week’s opposition debate to reverse the so-called ‘bedroom tax’. Meanwhile, David Cameron’s revelation that not everything his government has done – and has not done – has been ‘in the nation’s interest’ suggests that the Tories are prepared to fight Clegg and Co.