One of the things I’ve noticed in the last couple of days is how little I’m seeing of Osborne in the tv studios and how much I’m seeing of Nick Clegg. This jars with me. Doesn’t sit right at all. The Chancellor is who I expect to see out there defending his position and making his soundbites. The deputy prime minister doesn’t have responsibility for the CSR at all. And yet it’s Clegg who is trying to make the argument that the famously neutral Institute for Fiscal Studies’ assessment of the CSR is nonsense.
Why is that? We know that Cameron and Clegg merged into Cleggeron after the love-in in the gardens of 10 Downing Street in the days after the election. We know they’re best buds frequently texting one another and apparently offering each other support in building flat-pack furniture.
That’s all very lovely and all, but why hasn’t Clegg, or at least his advisers, realised the Liberal Democrats are getting royally screwed-over? Is he so hypnotised by his adoration of Cameron that he fails to see the political consequences of what is going on in the country?
If he hasn’t yet, then surely the 10% poll result they just got should surely be a wake up call of some sorts?
All of the main commitments that Cameron made in the election, Winter Fuel Payments being the classic example, miraculously managed to avoid the CSR’s axe. At the same time, the Liberal Democrat abandon pledges one by one. The Tories are positioning the coalition in such a way as to force the Lib Dems to abandon their electoral promises and make huge numbers of u-turns. When we come to the next election, Team Cameron will safely be able to say they kept most of their promises despite being in a coalition. The Lib Dems will have no such luxury.
This political positioning has Osborne’s fingerprints all over it. He will protect his Prime Minister at all costs and eventually go to the country with NHS spending, overseas aid, free bus passes, and the winter fuel allowance (all the things Cameron made promises on) apparently protected while welfare gets slashed, jobs are lost, transport infrastructure ruined, and communities destroyed.
Following the tuition fees debacle, watch how many pledges the Liberal Democrats abandon between now and the next election.
Whatever Clegg may think about being in a partnership with Dave, Osborne and Cameron are very carefully and patiently getting ready to pick up votes from Clegg’s colleagues in the south-west, and break the Liberal Democrats for decades to come.
I wonder when the Lib Dems will wake up to that fact.