Clegg says the Lib Dems are a party of government, so let’s judge them on their record

by Michael Dugher

This weekend, Nick Clegg has declared that the Liberal Democrats are no longer “a party of protest” but are instead “a party of government”.  Clegg is keen to stress their record in government and to present the Lib Dems as somehow the custodians of fairness in the Tory-led government.  Indeed, Clegg recently asked people to judge the Lib Dems specifically on their “record of action” in government.  So it is their actions, and not their words, that Lib Dems must be judged on this weekend.

Partly Clegg’s plea to be judged on what they have done is a desperate acknowledgement that no one believes a single word the Lib Dems say anymore.  As I said to the Progress conference in Stoke Rochford on Saturday, in an era of unprecedented cynicism about politics, Nick Clegg has become the poster boy for a politician who routinely breaks his promises.

Before the election he warned about the dangers of a “VAT bombshell” – he then introduced one in government.  The Lib Dems pledged not to increase tuition fees – but then they voted to treble them after the election.  On Tuesday, Labour MPs will vote in the Commons in support of a ‘mansion tax’ – but now the Lib Dems are refusing to support the idea of a mansion tax on homes worth over £2 million, despite having previously said they would bring in such a tax.

And it’s not just Nick Clegg. Vince Cable has his own particular brand of duplicity. For Cable, being in government seems to be a sort of a out-of-body experience.  He gives interviews to the New Statesman and makes speeches to Lib Dem fringe meetings about what the government should be doing to bring back growth to the economy, whilst seeming to forget that he is in fact a member of the government.  Presumably Cable remembers that he is the Secretary of State for Business at the end of every month when his ministerial salary drops into his bank account.  But Cable looks increasingly like a joke figure.  As with his after the event claim to have been “sceptical” about the tuition fees policy (legislation that he himself pushed through Parliament), he cannot escape his own record.

Because it is not merely their duplicity that the Lib Dems should be punished for.  It is their complicity.  Nick Clegg, Vince Cable and others can talk all they like about their party’s supposed differences with the Tories, but the truth is the Liberal Democrats have propped up this Tory government and have given up any pretence of believing in progressive policies in return for a few seats at the Cabinet table, the keys to the ministerial cars and the odd knighthood for a loyal backbencher or two.

Take the example of the Lib Dem junior Home Office minister Jeremy Browne.  He looks like a kid in a sweetshop.  I am sure he has never been happier or more comfortable than in sitting with the Conservatives in the House of Commons.  He acts like a Tory, he sounds like a Tory and he votes like a Tory.

Far from being a restraining influence on this Conservative-led government, the Lib Dems make it all possible.  The Lib Dems have backed every Tory measure that has made life harder for ordinary working families. They have cut working tax credits for ordinary families at the same time as backing a tax cut for millionaires worth £100,000. They have voted for cuts to Sure Start and for fewer nurses and frontline police officers.  And they have supported the unfair and unworkable bedroom tax that hits the disabled, carers, foster parents and Afghanistan veterans.

With our economy flatlining the Lib Dems have been complicit in this Government’s total failure to implement the growth strategy we desperately need.  As a result of their failed economic plan, the Government is now having to borrow billions more than they planned, they have presided over an economy where we have almost one million young people unemployed and the welfare bill is soaring.  Nick Clegg and Vince Cable like to talk about fairness, but their actions are seeing millions of people’s living standards squeezed as the cost of living goes up and up under this Government – and yet they won’t take the action we need against the energy companies, the banks, the rail firms or the legal loan sharks.

Ahead of this weekend’s Lib Dem Spring Conference, the party’s president, Tim Farron, gave a bizarre interview to The House magazine, in which he said of his party: “We are a bit like cockroaches… One day someone will stand on us if we are not careful.”  I could not agree with him more.  Labour will be fighting hard against the Lib Dems to ensure that Nick Clegg gets his wish – that he, Vince Cable and the rest of their party will indeed be judged as a “party of government”, not a party of protest.  They will be held fully accountable for their record.  Because it is a record of saying one thing but doing another.  And it is a record of complete unfairness and unmitigated economic failure.

Michael Dugher MP is the member of parliament for Barnsley East and the vice-chair of the Labour party

5 Responses to “Clegg says the Lib Dems are a party of government, so let’s judge them on their record”

  1. Ex-Labour says:

    Yet another piece of disineguous nonsense.

    Firstly let me agree that Clegg can not be trusted and as one who lives near his constituency and has friends who live there I can say that he chances of re-election are somehwhat slim.

    First lets deal with the masion tax. Lib-Dems are not stupid they know its a trap for them and the coailtion so they will back away from it. You cry foul but no party would put themselves in this position. Anyway according to Milliband its your policy, but wait, Balls says its not a manifesto pledge. So what is it and where do Labour stand ?

    The so called tax cut for millionaires ? Do you not follow your leader who has actually backed away from that statement ? Slighlty off message there I’m afraid. Incidentally if you look at HM Treasury figures the tax take went down when it was 50%. If your going to mention figures what about telling the electorate that ? Or perhaps tell them that the people you like to hound contribute 26-28% of the income tax paid to HMT. Where would Labour be without that tax take if these individuals started to leave the UK ?

    It is not a “bedroom tax” either. A council house is just that – it belongs to the council not the occupant. You can’t have it both ways compalining about families on the waiting list but wanting 3 or 4 bedroomed houses to remain with single occupants.

    Labour have to put forward any costed policy on the economy and they are rightly reticent to do so with public trust in Labours economic management extremely low. So before you point fingers its time to get your own house in order.

  2. Terry Casey says:

    The case must also be made for the 50% tax on the very richest that they espoused for many years.
    The Tories must be laughing their heads off at the Lib Dems as the things they most wanted were electoral reforms that would see them increase their seats in both Houses, OK they made sure the The Tories paid for their duplicity but the NHS reforms and the benefit reforms the Tories craved went through only because the Lib Dems allowed them to.
    The Tories got what they wanted the Lib Dems got nothing, I hope they get trounced at every election from now on, not for what they are but for what they did, none of of the things they allowed through Parliament had a mandate, they have let this country down, the people voted not to let the Tory Party get their greasy hands on the NHS to share out among their rich friends, The Lib Dems allowed them to do it.

  3. southern voter says:

    Great article Michael!

  4. swatantra says:

    Seems the record has got stuck repeatedly on Cleggs admission of ‘I’m sorry …I’m sorry ..’
    But it must be recognised that the Lib Dems are only very junior partners in this Coalition and completely dominated by the Tories; its is not a partnership of equals,so there is really very little influence they can actually exert on policies. Clegg is DPM in name only and hasn’t really got much clout. As has been said many times before, its the Tories that Labour should be attacking.

  5. e says:

    I would add, since you overlook it: the bedroom tax along with associated benefit reductions hit competently educated, able bodied, working age, native born, childless individuals too. Principles have proved to be such a downer; we didn’t all buy our council homes when in secure well paid employment you see.

    @ex labour
    I think our ‘leaders’ can have it both ways, much needed 3 and 4 bedroom council properties are sold at a discount to their occupant, single or otherwise, without regard to issue of overcrowding.

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