Coffee House

Clegg: Heir to Thatcher?

10 March 2010

Nick Clegg has a blue rose in his mouth in tomorrow’s Spectator, serenading readers – and showing his hidden Tory side. I have to say, he puts his heart into it.

Not only does the Lib Dem leader say he’ll end the structural deficit with 100 percent spending cuts (not the 20 percent tax rises, 80 percent cuts combo that the Tories advocate), but he even heaps praise in Lady Thatcher. More, he describes her as something of an inspiration: just as she took on vested interests in the 1980s, so he will take on the banks now.  

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Personally, I can’t quite see the equivalence – and Clegg as the Heir to Thatcher is an image that I just can’t conjure in my mind. But you can’t blame him for trying. Extracts from interview below:

‘I like to think that Conservative voters who feel there is something flakey about the Cameron-Osborne leadership might feel there is a consistency and conviction in my leadership. I do understand that they feel it’s their turn, that they feel a sense of entitlement. But what has surprised me is this ideological vacuum at the heart of the Conservatives.’

Each year, the government is borrowing £180 billion. Mr Clegg thinks that, once the economy recovers, the gap will be ‘to the tune of £80 billion or so’. So how do you fill this gap? Labour would do so with one third tax rises and two thirds cuts. The Tories would have one fifth tax rises. But Mr Clegg says the Lib Dems are the most radical of the lot: they propose no tax rises at all. ‘We’re saying “purely spending cuts”, and for a number of reasons. If you want the economy to grow, you must stimulate demand. Any economist will tell you that the best way to do this is by giving tax breaks to the people who tend to spend more of their money they receive.

Age, he claims, has taught him the point of Lady Thatcher. And, indeed, he now seems to see her as something of an inspiration. ‘I’m 43 now. I was at university at the height of the Thatcher revolution and I recognise now something I did not at the time: that her victory over a vested interest, the trade unions, was immensely significant. I don’t want to be churlish: that was an immensely important visceral battle for how Britain is governed. And what has now happened to the British economy? It has gone belly-up because, once again, we have allowed a vested interest to run riot.’ He is talking, of course, about the banks. ‘They represent a vested interest. This is what I sometimes don’t understand about the Cameron-Osborne act. A real liberal believes in genuine competition, a genuine level playing field and he is unremittingly hostile to vested interests.’ As Thatcher was to Scargill, so Mr Clegg intends to be to the banks. ‘What I find so striking is that the spirit — dare I say it — of the battle against the dominance of one vested interest, the trade unions, is exactly the same spirit we need now.’

He goes on to talk about working with the Tories, his four conditions for coalition and why he agrees with David Cameron (for now) on Afghanistan. In tomorrow’s edition we also have the Financial Times’s Sam Brittan on why the LibDems can be trusted fiscally, and Julian Glover on the type of agenda that a Tory and LibDem government might form together.

The idea of a Lib-Con alliance may dismay many Coffee Housers. But there is a limit to how many opinion polls you can ignore. With the TV debates and what bookmakers say is the likelihood of a hung parliament, I fear we’d all better get used to taking Clegg – and the LibDems – a lot more seriously.

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  • Frank P

    Turn him upside down and plonk the rose in the other end, it might stop him talking out of it.

  • Tapestry

    Yes, Clegg. You’re right. The banks are being funded by the KGB to overthrow the established government of Britain and bring on a communist regime. It’s so obvious. I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it before.


    Clegg with his europhilia might be very welcome to Dave who could then use the necessity to keep him on board to get on with his own europhile agenda.

  • mitch

    Perhaps he will put the old age pension up beyond £30 where he thought it was last year……..moron.

  • stephen

    Clegg is a poltical tart with an unreconstructed Socialist Chancellor Cable waiting in the wings. If you want another five years of Gordon Brown misery then vote Lib Dem- don’t be taken in by the blue rose in Clegg’s mouth!

  • ollie

    “With the TV debates and what bookmakers say is the likelihood of a hung parliament,”

    Fraser, post a link to a single online bookmaker who has a hung parliament as favourite over a conservative majoirty. Go on, name one.

    Hill’s – con majority – 8/13
    hung parliament – 6/4

    Ladbrokes – con majority – 4/7
    hung parliament – 7/4

    Paddy Power – con majority – 4/7
    hung parliament – 6/4

    Don’t let the facts get in the way of your agenda, Fraser.

  • paulg

    First peice of sense I have heard anyone say about fiscal policy, other than daniel Hannen.

    But the tax cuts must be targeted so we can start a chain reaction to growth, housing is a good example.

    The conservatives must react to labours budget by building in a fiscal stimulus because at the moment we are locked in to a cycle of destruction.

    Fortune favours the bold and, only bold measures will lead us out of this mess.

    And, No we won’t accept them in a conservative government.

  • Sir Graphus

    Thanks, Shorters. And for you, by way of thanks, I’d recommend “The Mating Season” by PG Wodehouse, and “Tintin and the Red Sea Sharks.” Somehow, economic reality cannot compete.

  • Simon Stephenson

    Not all that many years ago, the way that politicians addressed their natural opponents was to attempt to persuade some of them that their opposition was irrational and unjustified. This theme might be developed into the suggestion that the opponents’ hopes and aspirations for society may actually be best satisfied by voting for a party that hitherto they had not considered supporting. Seeking to win the intellectual argument, in other words.

    Can anyone tell me whether it was before Clinton’s and Blair’s time when this approach was changed to chameleon-like behaviour, where politicians tailor their statements of belief to appeal to the audience whom they are addressing? Abandonment of any pretence of honesty or intellect – seeking only to attract support through deceit. As Clegg has done here.

    Or do we have Bill and Tony to thank for this degradation of political process?

  • Vulture

    Dickie: ‘A psychotic leader out of medication…’ you say.

    Ahem…I think you should be looking a little closer to home. In fact in the very bunker where you currently reside. To where a hunched figure glooms and broods. To a certain leader who has defaced the despatch box with his jabbed marker pens ( not to mention the seats of his Ministerial cars and doubtless the flesh of his long-suffering staff).

    If we’re talking uncontrolled fits of hysterical rage we need look no further than your demented master and hero – the one eyed trouser snake himself – stumble forward and take a jaw-dropping bow : Gordon Bruin.

  • Short the UK

    Sir Graphus,

    If you want some interesting economic juice, google Felix Zulauf and you’ll find an interview he did with Barron’s in January 2010.

    He is a daddy bear, who calls the cycles majestically :-)

  • Aaron

    “what bookmakers say is the likelihood of a hung parliament”

    Most bookmakers estimate the probability of this at about 36%. Hardly a likelihood.

  • Sir Graphus

    It’s all just words, words, words; Cleggie knows people have rumbled that he’d much rather form a coalition with Lab than Con, so voters see a Lib vote as a Lab vote. A key part of his voter base is always wavering Tory voters that won’t vote Lab, and if he doesn’t at least flirt with them he’ll lose them.

    In reality, he’ll form a coalition with anyone who’ll promise electoral reform, and Gordon is hinting he’d go for it, for we know that there is nothing Gordon wouldn’t give, no matter the cost to the country, to avoid the ignominy of being an unelected PM.


    What is the point of Clegg ? What is the point of the LibDems ? They haven`t a candle in a snowstorm’s chance of forming the next government and never have had and never will. Waste of time even bothering to read about them.

  • David Lindsay

    Is Clegg the heir to the Prime Minister who gave us the Single European Act, the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the Exchange Rate Mechanism, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, the replacement of O-levels with GCSEs, abortion up to birth, scorn for the monarchy by means of scorn for the Commonwealth, an attempt to sign over sovereignty of the Falkland Islands to Argentina in the hope that no one would notice, and the definition of freedom as doing whatever you happen to feel like, backed up by an economic system which cannot restrict alcohol and gambling, nor prohibit drugs, prostitution and pornography?

    Yes. He is.

    So don’t vote for him.

  • Robert Gregory

    The last Liberal Leader to hold a candle to Maggie was Joe Grimmond. All his successors are a complete shower from Thorpe onwards. Prigs and charlatans the lot of ’em.

    Clegg must be barmy if he thinks we’ll fall for this.

  • echo34

    still haven’t given your opinions on the government front bench at pmqs from a couple of topics ago Richard.

    Anything to say about them or is it there nothing to comment on?

  • Short the UK

    It is so bogus to heap all the blame on the banks.

    The root cause for the Bubble of Britain was “state sponsored inflation” created by the BoE leaving rates too low as house prices inflated and Mr Brown’s excessive government spending which juiced up the money supply.

    This is how the story goes:

    “Central banks hate recessions. So they keep interest rates low. People borrow to buy homes and other assets. The bankers see the bubble and rein back. Borrowers and their banks run out of cash. Governments bail everyone out and print more money. Public debt soars and the currency falls in value. Foreign investors get cold feet. Bankers raise interest rates to restore confidence. Everyone is squeezed, and consumer spending falls. There’s a recession. Governments bail everyone out and print more money, and off the cycle goes off again, round and round, until eventually you get stagflation, hyperinflation, and a huge collapse.”

    Dr E. Butler


    It ain’t rocker science.

    Are we now moving to hyper-inflation and a huge collapse? Maybe Gold can tell the wisdom of crowd.

  • Old Hack

    Ye Gods, he must be getting desperate. This sort of thing is typically Lib Dem and all credit to them, they usually know when they’re due a stuffing.
    Clegg must be seeing some pretty awful data and canvass returns to be spouting this load of bollocks.

  • Richard

    I think Clegg would rather eat his own liver before getting into bed with the tories, especially now as they have a psycotic leader out of medication (adoration) thumping the despatch box and stamping his foot. A regression to the days he was 13th out of 13 at prep no doubt.

  • TrevorsDen

    Whatever Clegg says to you he will not dare say to a LD conference. Last time he talked this way about austerity and cuts they rebelled and he had to shut up.

    But interesting to see that if we believe him the LDs agre with the tories and not Brown.

  • Andy Carpark

    Would this be the Nick Clegg that ‘can’t remember’ joining the Cambridge University Conservative Association?

  • Yam Yam

    I dare say Clegg and his muesli munchers will be saying something completely different on the doorsteps to what they are telling Fraser Nelson.

  • Frank P

    Don’t give them your name, Clegg. Stupid boy!

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