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Nick Clegg and the hard right-lite

Lib Dem conference

"What do you think Britain would look like today if the Tories had been alone in Whitehall for the last three years?" Nick Clegg asked his party conference.

It's an empty question because the Tories couldn't have ruled on their own. They didn't have enough MPs to form a government.

It took Clegg and other Orange Book neoliberal fanatics in his party to hand over their MPs to David Cameron and to implement policies offered by neither Liberal Democrats nor Tories in their election manifestos.

Savage attacks on our public services, pensions, jobs and benefits could not have taken place without Liberal Democrats' willing collaboration.

Yet Clegg claims that three years of coalition with the Tories emphasises the need for his party to be in government.

He knows that the Liberal Democrats could never win an election on their own, so he offers them as coalition makeweight with Tory or Labour so "the Liberal Democrats can keep the country on the right path."

Right is the operative word, since his assertion that "Labour would wreck the recovery" is based on the classic Tory allegation that a Labour government would increase public spending and improve living standards for working people.

Sadly, Labour governments are generally voted out for failure to do these things, being persuaded to show "economic credibility" by following City-dictated policies.

Liberal Democrats need no persuasion. They adopt a bankers' agenda as a matter of course. It's what they believe in.

Clegg made a big song and dance about having "taken almost three million people on low pay out of paying any income tax altogether."

Most people would prefer to be on an income high enough to justify paying direct taxation.

The main problem is that pay rates are far too low, ensuring an ever-widening gap between rich and poor, exacerbated by the five-percentage-point cut in income tax for the top band of taxpayers that came into existence in April.

Clegg denies responsibility for such special treatment for the rich just as he distances himself from other policies for which his whips have shepherded Liberal Democrats into government lobbies.


His rabbit-out-of-a-hat announcement that all children will receive free school meals up to age seven is dressed up as a victory for Liberal Democrat radicalism in government.

However, the quid pro quo for this welcome but inadequate reform is Liberal Democrat backing for Cameron's pet policy to buy off his rebellious backbenchers - a married couples tax break.

Clegg will lead his party into the lobby to support a discriminatory policy that tells children that one family unit is superior to another.

His failure to even mention government plans to marketise and privatise the probation service confirms that the Liberal Democrats are supportive of this victory for neoliberal dogma.

Critics of this coalition between hard-right Tories and hard-right-lite Liberal Democrats are left frustrated by the failure of the main parliamentary opposition to provide a real opposition.

Free school meals, as demanded by the GMB and other unions, ought to be Labour policy, as should defence and extension of public ownership.

Clegg accused Labour of "lazily assuming austerity would drive voters into their laps." He's actually right.

Ed Miliband and co have to move beyond criticism of the consequences of the Tory/Liberal Democrat austerity agenda to proposing a principled alternative that pledges economic justice for working people.


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