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Why is Clegg nailing his colours to Osborne’s economic mast?

September 16, 2013

If one of the key challenges facing the Liberal Democrats as they meet in Glasgow this week is to start setting out a distinctive manifesto for the next election, then why is leader Nick Clegg winding up the economic debate today?

The economy and the potentially decade-long erosion in living standards for most people – which we are five years into – will be the defining issue at the next election, not plastic carrier bags. The Lib Dems have been chanting the Cameron/Osborne ‘There is No Alternative’ mantra since day one of the Coalition: understandable in the early days but surely now is the time to start creating an alternative economic narrative?

If the Lib Dem leadership still believes that the economic recovery is so fragile and that there is no viable alternative as yet and that rocking the Treasury boat too hard this autumn could destabilise it, then it would be better to let the Treasury team led by Danny Alexander defend it. By choosing to wind-up the most high profile debate of the week Clegg has left himself very little room for manoeuvre with his leader’s speech later this week.

His key challenge for this conference was to come out of it having set his party on an independent course that started to put some distance between them and the Tories. He has now made that task almost impossible.

• I expect many Lib Dems – and former Lib Dems – will have noticed the irony of the party voting to support nuclear power for the first time on the same day that Japan – once great nuclear enthusiasts – shut down its final operating nuclear generator. I expect the Green Party will now be getting ready to welcome a few more disillusioned Lib Dems into its ranks.

From → Politics

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