Nick Clegg breaks out some New Year honesty

January 11, 2010 10:05 AM

We have long argued that the public don't want to be mollycoddled or given soft messaging on public spending. They know how tough things are, they have made big cutbacks in their own household budgets, and the last thing they want is for politicians to pretend everything is great. Indeed we highlighted the parties' policy failings in a recent report (PDF). 


Obviously, not everyone in Westminster agrees or feels bold enough to defy the innate urge to dish out goodies - hence Ed Balls' response to the deficit being to hand out free laptops. Nick Clegg, however, has adapted to the new financial situation and is being somewhat more realistic.


The BBC reports that Clegg will today abandon a range of costly spending commitments, including those that have previously been at the centre of their campaigning such as an immediate end to all University tuition fees.


Here is what Clegg will say:



"Bombarding people with gimmicks and promises the country can no longer afford, treating people like children, as if winning elections is simply about who can provide the best shopping list of policies to buy off voter groups one by one.


"Nobody believes a word of it. Certainly not the voters, and probably not even the politicians."


"Shopping lists of pledges don't wash any more. The politics of plenty are over."


This is a big change, and one he would only pursue (apparently at high political cost through numerous debates with colleagues) if he thought that the electorate had changed, too. You may recall that Clegg was also quick off the blocks last year in announcing that public spending cuts in the tens of billions were necessary and possible.


I personally hate the phrase "a new political reality" but this may be one instance where we can see such a thing developing. The policies, the priorities and the language of the political parties must change to meet the new facts of life - or they will die out as surely as the Dodos.

We have long argued that the public don't want to be mollycoddled or given soft messaging on public spending. They know how tough things are, they have made big cutbacks in their own household budgets, and the last thing they want is for politicians to pretend everything is great. Indeed we highlighted the parties' policy failings in a recent report (PDF). 


Obviously, not everyone in Westminster agrees or feels bold enough to defy the innate urge to dish out goodies - hence Ed Balls' response to the deficit being to hand out free laptops. Nick Clegg, however, has adapted to the new financial situation and is being somewhat more realistic.


The BBC reports that Clegg will today abandon a range of costly spending commitments, including those that have previously been at the centre of their campaigning such as an immediate end to all University tuition fees.


Here is what Clegg will say:



"Bombarding people with gimmicks and promises the country can no longer afford, treating people like children, as if winning elections is simply about who can provide the best shopping list of policies to buy off voter groups one by one.


"Nobody believes a word of it. Certainly not the voters, and probably not even the politicians."


"Shopping lists of pledges don't wash any more. The politics of plenty are over."


This is a big change, and one he would only pursue (apparently at high political cost through numerous debates with colleagues) if he thought that the electorate had changed, too. You may recall that Clegg was also quick off the blocks last year in announcing that public spending cuts in the tens of billions were necessary and possible.


I personally hate the phrase "a new political reality" but this may be one instance where we can see such a thing developing. The policies, the priorities and the language of the political parties must change to meet the new facts of life - or they will die out as surely as the Dodos.

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