Clegg’s speech was very much a failed attempt to justify the current economic polices. It was an attempt to denounce any alternative, any thought or belief that there is a different way to go when it comes to the economy. His speech was devoid of sense and was stuffed with sound bites that rarely fulfilled their desired effect (whilst granted, his demotion – kids remark was rather funny).
Clegg has made it pretty clear that the LibDems are no longer a progressive alternative for anyone on the left side of the debate. He is demanding, instead of listening (as his fellow LibDems have said), that the LibDems respect and hush down on their criticisms of the Tories. They are to accept them and their polices; however, it seems that hasn’t really punctured through to some of the membership, as shown by the membership voting for an amendment against the free schools policy (even though it is a bit too late after the bill passed rather speedily by anti terrorist like techniques).
Clegg talked about how the LibDems have affirmed their four commitments during the election campaign, remember them? All the way through his speech there were attempts to argue that the LibDems had made a real mark on the coalition. These so-called gains are not really gains at all when looked at in their wider consequence and context:
- Fairer taxes – the one thing that most LibDems get very excited about is the rise in income threshold that they managed to secure from the Tories. Well they think they twisted the Tories arm, but in fact, it is a known fact that the Tories themselves in the past have considered such a move – and the TPA fully endorsed the move. I have spoken about the regressive nature of the policy before, but for analysis of why the existing £10,000 LibDem policy before the election was regressive click here, and then to see why it is now even more regressive as it will basically amount in more public spending cuts to fund it as the tax the wealthy ideas to fund it have been dropped, click here. This policy doesn’t help the poorest, only the richer sectors of society.
- How many times have the LibDems tried to claim that the pupil premium is only their idea, when actually the Tories were committed to this as well? Even if the Tories had been in government alone, this policy would have happened.
- There is no way that the government can be said to be meeting green commitments – for example, their considerable investment in nuclear energy whilst they neglect the alternative – see here for an excellent review of why there is a credible environmental alternative to the damaging environmentally unfriendly polices being pursued at the moment. Axing a body, the Sustainable Development Commission, which independently analyses and assesses the government’s actions in terms of an environmental perspective, does little to convince anyone that this government cares about the environment, as it claims.
- Again, ID cards, databases and other intrusive aspects into our civil liberties are very good polices – but it is not right for the LibDems to claim sole responsibility; the Tories were committed to abolishing this and so it would have happened without the LibDems.
- The referendum on electoral reform will only seek to undermine reform for PR, regardless of whether it is passed or not. It was notable Clegg didn’t dwell too long on the AV vote.
- Then there is the bank levy, there was an interesting analysis that I read, which refered to how corporation tax’s reduction will actually mean that the bank can cancel out any loses that the bank levy imposes, and actually even gain a profit from it. Tough stuff there, hey?
You have got the jist.
Basically, the speech was an attempt to try to appease the party and whilst it might have had all the scaremongering and rhetorical langauge that might work for some, it will fail to put people off from recognising that there are alternative ways to going about the economic polices that are to shape the environmental social and economic future of our country. We, as progressive lefties, really need to work together in pluralistic fashion to construct a credible alternative. This is why Labour are so badly in need of someone who takes this message seriously, so not David Miliband basically!
He talked as though this government itself would end boom and bust as though he was defying the reality of capitalism. To change the endless circles of recession, growth etc we have to have an alternative vision to the cuts and to the economy – this is what the Greens have.
All in all, an expected speech – which might give hope to the party faithful, but confirms how much Clegg has changed, or more said what he truly believes – in the last few months.