Clegg’s Contradictions

Dimbledore in charge

 

As always, my Thursday night routine was a bit of a gamble. I’ve written about the gamble here and here before. It’s the gamble of watching Question Time. Will it be fun and interesting, or will it be dull and boring? So, having had my World Cup fix and with wine in hand, I settled down and watched. Dimbleby was looking as uninterested as ever, and the panelists were the usual mix. It wasn’t shaping up as one of the fun and interesting episodes at the start. It didn’t improve through the rest of the programme, either, if you wondered. 

 What did hold my attention was the changing colour of Chris Huhne’s cheeks as he defended policies he clearly doesn’t agree with. He was actually agreeing with Amanda Platell, the Daily Mail’s Tory columnist and it was annoying him. Peter Hain was pushing him on the fact that he was contradicting himself from what he’d said just a few weeks ago in the election campaign. I have to admit to feeling a tiny morsel of pity for him by the end of the programme. Must have been a glimmer of my humanity seeping through the red-wine-fuelled political tribalism. 

Still, that didn’t last long. Now I’m back to thinking the Liberal Democrat Parliamentarians have betrayed their voters and a lot of their activists. And, while it is fun to watch Peter Hain toy with Chris Huhne, there are bigger fish to fry. 

During the election, Nick Clegg said 

The state’s job is to relieve the pressure on people at difficult times, offering a helping hand when it’s needed. 

Then writing in the Daily Mail this week, he said 

It’s not up to governments to try and create happy families. Where we can help is by taking down the barriers that stop parents from giving their children the best upbringing possible. 

See the complete u-turn subtle change? And there’s more. On married couples’ tax allowances, pre-election Clegg said 

The Conservatives want marriage incentives in the tax system. This is both bizarre and patronising. 

However, post-election Clegg said 

The government is going to be looking at how the value of marriage and civil partnerships can be reflected in the tax system. 

Once again, a massive slight change in direction there. But here’s the best 

Nick Clegg, Sheffield's favourite son

 

one. Pre-election Nice Nick spoke about cuts by saying 

(L)et’s say a Conservative government announced … ‘we’re going to slash public spending by a third, we are going to slash this, we’re going to slash this, we’re going to do it tomorrow because we have to take early tough action’, just imagine the reaction of my constituents in South West Sheffield. 

And then just today Clegg has had a rethink apparently: 

“Sheffield Forgemasters is a great British company and as a Sheffield MP I regret that the Government cannot afford to support its expansion. The truth is that this loan was promised by the outgoing Labour Government as a calculated ploy to win support in Sheffield just ahead of the election – when they knew all along that there simply wasn’t the money to keep to that pledge in first place. In front of TV cameras Labour made all sorts of lofty promises, but behind closed doors they left notes telling this Government that there was no money left. This was a breathtakingly cynical way of raising false hope of everyone in Sheffield. I believe Sheffielders should be treated with greater honesty. At a time when the Government is spending more in interest on debt than it does on defending the nation or policing our streets, we have to take difficult choices to make sure taxpayers’ money is spent as wisely as possible. This Government will do all it can to help secure private finding for the expansion of Sheffield Forgemasters. I want us to give the company real help, not false promises of money that doesn’t even exist.” 

I can’t decide whether he was lying before the election or is lying now. Either way, it’s going to be hard to ever trust him again. I wonder how the voters of South West Sheffield feel about him now. 

Liam Byrne summed it up nicely at the dispatch box yesterday while answering Chief of cuts Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander: 

Both the country and the Liberal Democrat party beyond will be aghast this afternoon at your attack on jobs, your attack on construction workers, your attack on the industries of the future and the cancellation of a hospital. 

Let me ask you: what could be more front line than this? In five minutes this afternoon you have reversed three years of Liberal Democratic policy of which you were the principal author. What a moment of abject humiliation. 

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