The Liberal Democrats would increase taxes on the better-off to raise £8bn and sign up to £16bn spending cuts, Nick Clegg has said. Setting out his party’s financial plans, Mr Clegg said wealthy individuals and big business did not always pay their “fair share”. He vowed to balance the books by 2017-18 – the same date as the Tories. In a speech in London, Mr Clegg said his party would raise benefits – excluding pensions and disability payments – by 1% a year. However, as part of spending cuts, £4bn would be taken from the welfare budget. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said between £10bn and £12bn would come from cuts to government departmental spending.
Source: The Independent, Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph
Nicholas W P Clegg. The man they love to hate. Paddy Ashdown, or rather his puppet likeness, repeatedly described the Liberal Democrats in the 1992 Election episode of Spitting Image as “neither [this] nor [that] but somewhere in between”, and perhaps that is the current Lib Dem leader’s predicament too: he is neither Opposition leader nor Prime Minister and cannot work the advantages of either position.
It is to Clegg’s credit, then, that he put himself in the lion’s den of the topical comedy chat show by agreeing to be interviewed on Channel 4’s The Last Leg last week. His original intention had only been to convince non-voting co-presenter Alex Brooker to vote by sending a video monologue into the show, but The Last Leg threw down a gauntlet and two weeks later, Clegg was in the studio with Brooker, participating in a rather different kind of political interview. It was uncompromising yet unpretentious, with a bull**** buzzer on the table and questions over “what you did with the tuition fees”. Not only did Clegg do well enough to win over some of his critics, he convinced Brooker to vote (though for whom, we don’t know).
Clegg, knowing his audience, did not attempt to discuss policies such as those outlined above. Naturally, many more votes will be decided by that. But to read more about how this party political leader has reached out to a less technically minded but equally discerning portion of the (potential) electorate, The Spectator has an article about it here (with a video of the interview embedded) and The Independent has one here.
As a viewer of a similar age to Alex Brooker, I remember my interest in politics and politicians taking root in the early 1990s thanks to House of Cards and the aforementioned satirical puppet show, and I appreciated Nick Clegg’s efforts to renew that interest. But watching the BBC documentary Inside The Commons some days later, I realised that he could have done more. It was neither Paddy Ashdown, nor Nick Clegg, but someone in between – former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy – who managed to work in a Francis Urquhart quotation while going about his business in Westminster. That gets my vote. Metaphorically speaking.