Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Nick Clegg didn't say 'Sorry'.

The much maligned Liberal Democrat leader opened his video address with the words 'I would like to take this opportunity to put a few things straight...' He's chosen to apologise at this time as it has become impossible to ignore the ratings pit that the Liberals are currently living in. Now the only mission left is to try and slither out of this sorry hole. Clegg goes on, oh how he goes on, 'We made a promise before the election, that we would vote against any rise in fees under any circumstances - but that was a mistake. It was a pledge made with the best of intentions. But we shouldn't have made a pledge that we weren't absolutely sure we could deliver. I shouldn't have committed to a policy that was so expensive when there was no money around.' He then throws in a dash of realpolitik 'Not least when the most likely way we'd end up in government was in coalition with Labour or the Conservatives, who are both committed to put fees up.'

Here's comes the magic 'There's no easy way to say this,' brace yourself for it, 'we made a pledge, we didn't stick to it and for that I am sorry.' It's not clear what exactly Clegg is apologising for here, but then he adds 'When you've made a mistake you should apologise.' Clegg is emphatic 'I will never again make a pledge, unless as a party we are absolutely clear about how we can keep it. I accept that won't be enough for everyone, but I owe it to you to be up front about it.' Notice politicians never do anything wrong, at worst they're just 'mistaken'. It's always an 'accident' when it sends approval ratings into a downward spiral. Clegg knows full well what he means when he says 'And I don't believe it should cast a shadow everything else that the Liberal Democrats are achieving in government. When we're wrong we hold our hands up, but when we're right we hold our heads up too.' So it was right to rise tuition fees even though there is no economic reason for fees.

It's been widely recognised among serious economists - even by Thatcherite Samuel Brittan - that the cuts are totally unnecessary. The current rate of government debt amounts to 65% of GDP, while it was over 180% of GDP when the NHS was established. Not only are these cuts unnecessary, they have actually increased the rate of borrowing rather than decreased it. The UK government has committed itself to a high level of unemployment for years to come, but it would actually be a better way to reduce deficits if we cut unemployment to raise tax-revenue. Yet Clegg claims that the Lib Dems are 'fighting' to rebuild the economy, while it has been driven into a double-dip recession and there's no end in sight. He also claims spuriously that the Lib Dems are 'defending' the vulnerable. Contrarily, we find Jeremy Hunt talks about opening up health-care to be rinsed of £20 billion by private companies and there's even talk of £8 billion cuts to the NHS on the horizon.

Furthermore, the UK government has slashed benefits for the disabled by £4 billion and has contracted Atos to throw as many disabled people off of the dole line as they can. The Daily Mirror has reported that 32 people died a week last year after being deemed 'fit to work' in this way. The government has actually imposed quotas on job centres to knock three people a week off of benefits and people claiming JSA can live in fear of losing their stipend of £60 a week for six months at most. As part of workfare claimants were bussed in to steward the Jubilee unpaid and without accommodation. So much for 'fairness' in present-day Britain. It's the basic assumption of widespread social democratic values that the state should guarantee a safety-net at least for the vulnerable. It's Nick Clegg who has led the Liberal Democrats to betray this liberal principle in his willingness to be escorted over to the right by austerity junkies David Cameron and George Osborne.

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