Sunday, June 06, 2010

Nick Clegg vows no return to savage cuts of the Thatcher years.

After an election in which the party who promised the most cuts was portrayed as the most realistic, it's reassuring to hear Nick Clegg launch a withering assault on the cuts of the Thatcher years and issue a promise that they will not be replicated.

"It is important that people understand that fiscal retrenchment does not mean a repeat of the 1980s. We're going to do this differently," said Clegg, in a move that risks angering MPs on the Conservative right, many of whom admire their former leader. The deputy prime minister said he would use his authority "ruthlessly" to make sure coalition commitments were met.

He argued there was an assumption on the centre-left that austerity measures were, by definition, regressive and rightwing: "I think principally the reason is because our collective memory of difficult budget decisions harks back to the 1980s, the harshness of the 1980s, north-south divide, sink-or-swim economics. That is our folk memory."

But Clegg argued that some of the biggest cuts programmes across the world in recent decades had been carried out by "centre-left governments", including "the social democrats in Sweden, the Clinton administration [in the US] and the Liberals in Canada".

He promised that while his party was part of the coalition there would be protection for the country's poorest areas, including his own constituency in south Yorkshire. "We're not going to allow a great north-south divide to reappear," he said, in an effort to allay fears triggered by the prime minister during the election. David Cameron named the north-east and Northern Ireland as regions too dependent on the public sector.

This is bound to annoy many on the extreme right of the Conservatives, for whom Thatcher remains an icon.

But the factions of his own party will be reassured by the noises Clegg is now making. Indeed, I am relieved by the noises he is now making.

If he can hold the Tories back from the worst of their excesses, then he will be fulfilling a useful function.

Click here for full article.

No comments: