I am not sure where Planet Clegg is located in the Universe. It is certainly light years away from Earth. They say the laws of physics are the same anywhere in the Universe; from a little town in Gloucester, to the edge of a black hole. Well, Planet Clegg seems to have physical properties that differ somewhat from the rest of the Universe, because whilst we can choose to talk shit, Clegg seems compelled by nature itself, as if it is a natural instinct, to talk shit. It really is amazing.
His speech at Conference is available everywhere, so I thought i’d take what I consider to be the most significant parts of the speech, and try to dissect them. To sift through the bullshit, and look at the substance:
“Our first big decision was to clear the structural deficit this parliament. To wipe the slate clean by 2015. This has meant painful cuts. Agonisingly difficult decisions. Not easy, but right.”
– As the £12bn black hole in the public finances was revealed earlier this week, it became clear that the “painful cuts” (less painful if you’re as rich as the Cabinet, and not painful enough to consider cancelling the five day boring yet incredibly expensive tax payer funded Conference) have achieved the opposite of what they were intended to do. Borrowing has stayed higher this year, because growth has stalled at 0.2%. According to the Financial Times:
The Financial Times has replicated the model of government borrowing used by the independent Office for Budget Responsibility, which suggests the structural deficit in 2011-12 is now £12bn higher than thought, a rise of 25 per cent.
– To fill this black hole, VAT would have to rise again to 22.5% and further, deeper cuts (if we stick to the path of extreme austerity). For Clegg to claim it is “right” to do what he has been doing, to cut the structural deficit by 2015, he is simply deluded and vastly ignorant. A Lib Dem turned Tory.
A new economy where the lowest-paid get to keep the money they earn. That’s why a Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury has put two hundred pounds into the pocket of every basic rate taxpayer and taken almost a million workers – most of them women – out of income tax altogether.
– The Bank of England warned that inflation was set to rise to over 5% by the end of the year. Average wages rose 2.8% in 2010. So actually, average wages, when taking inflation into account, fell. People are not better off now. Inflation, caused by strangling demand out of the economy is what keeps investment out of poor areas, and a few small changes to the tax system, regardless of how Clegg sugarcoats it, means nothing.
Do the lowest paid get to keep the money they earn? Or is it going to be spent on extortionately high energy bills?
And within one city, two nations: In Hammersmith and Fulham in West London, more than half the children leaving state schools head to a good university. Just thirty minutes east – down the district line to Tower Hamlets – and just 4 percent do. Odds stacked against too many of our children. A deep injustice, when birth is destiny. That’s why I’ve been leading the charge for social mobility – for fairer chances, for real freedom.
– One City, two Nations is a nice little tag line. The suggestion that the Lib Dems are dedicated to improving the lives of the poorest kids through education, is overwhelmingly delusional. According the Institute for Fiscal Studies, for each year up until the end of the report (2014), child poverty is set to rise. 90% of children on free school meals then go on to receive EMA to the tune of around £1,170. This is what I received, otherwise I certainly would not have been able to afford to go to college, and then onto University. Due to the cut in EMA and the replacement with the new bursary scheme, those who would have received the full £1,170 EMA, now stand to receive just £370.
The IFS stated of EMA:
“The EMA significantly increased participation rates in post-16 education among young adults who were eligible to receive it. In particular, it increased the proportion of eligible 16-year-olds staying in education from 65% to 69%, and increased the proportion of eligible 17-year-olds in education from 54% to 61%. The simple cost-benefit analysis mentioned above suggests that even taking into account the level of deadweight that was found, the costs of EMA are completely offset.”
– Getting rid of EMA is an ideological attack on social mobility. As stated above, overwhemingly delusional for the Lib Dem leader to suggest he has been ‘leading the charge’ on social mobility. Education is the key to social mobility. Taking away EMA, whilst at the same time back tracking entirely on Tuition Fees to the point where he agreed to triple the debt of the Nation’s 18 year olds, does not represent ‘leading the charge’ on social mobility. Does he really believe cutting EMA for the poorest, offering them a piss poor replacement bursary, whilst inflation continues to spiral out of control effectively cancelling out any perceived benefit, whilst benefits are slashed, and whilst wages stagnate and poverty rates rise – is a good thing for the cause of social mobility?
After being hit hard, we picked ourselves up and we came out fighting. Fighting to keep the NHS safe. Fighting to protect human rights. Fighting to create jobs. Fighting for every family. Not doing the easy thing, but doing the right thing. Not easy, but right.
– I think by ‘right’ he means right winged. How can one of the men responsible for the destruction of over 100,000 jobs in less than a year, a man partly responsible for a working NHS considered to be one of the best in the World succumbing to the terror of the private sector; a private sector that certainly did not provide improvements to the railways or the utilities, a man partly responsible as shown above, for poverty rates set to rise and families set to lose more and more due to high inflation and stagnating wages; how can this man claim he is fighting to create jobs and fighting for every family?
From April 2011, to July 2011, those three months alone saw unemployment rise a further 80,000 to 2.51 million. A huge amount of job losses in just three months. It was the largest increase in unemployment since 2009 – the midst of a recession. What about disability? Lib Dem Steve Webb said that the £12.3bn for DLA at the beginning of this Parliament, would be exactly the same by the end of the Parliament with the Personal Indepedent Payment. Clearly Webb doesn’t understand inflation over a five year period. Wheelchairs, travel, care will cost over 20% more in 2015 due to inflation. So, that £12.3bn is worth far less than Webb would have you believe. 20% of those claiming DLA will lose it, not because it is better targeted, but because it has been cut by 22%. Clegg started the house fire, the fire is still raging, and he claims he’s brilliantly putting it out, as more of the house burns.
Labour says: the Government is going too far, too fast. I say, Labour would have offered too little, too late. Imagine if Ed Miliband and Ed Balls had still been in power. Gordon Brown’s backroom boys when Labour was failing to balance the books, failing to regulate the financial markets, and failing to take on the banks. The two Eds, behind the scenes, lurking in the shadows, always plotting, always scheming, never taking responsibility. At this time of crisis what Britain needs is real leadership. This is no time for the back room boys
– What a waste of a paragraph. The charge of plotting and scheming from a man who signed a pledge, and gained much support and votes from the student movement in 2010, only to piss all over that pledge when he came to power and use “Well, you have to compromise in Coalition” as an excuse, is unbelievably hypocritical. In their 2010 manifesto, in bold font, on the first page, the letter from the leader, we see:
Don’t settle for low politics and broken promises; be more demanding.
– I voted Lib Dem in 2010. I want my vote back. That is me being more demanding. I want a vote on a joint Lib/Tory manifesto that includes a VAT rise, the dismantling of the NHS, closures to youth centres, and libraries and the loss of 100,000 jobs VS a Labour manifesto. If he is going to use “have to compromise in coalition government” I want to vote on that coalition compromise, rather than having to deal with the outcome of behind the scenes, lurking in the shadows, always plotting, always scheming Lib Dem politicians trying to worm their way out of their commitments that allowed them this taste of power in the first place.
On the first point, that Labour say the government is cutting too far, too fast; The IMF this week pointed out that with growth having to be downgraded for (i’ve lost count) yet another time, the government may have to slow down its austerity measures. At the beginning of 2011, the IMF, fully supportive of austerity joyfully claimed the UK economy would grow by 2% this year. That was downgraded to 1.7%. That was downgraded to 1.5%. That was downgraded to just 1.1%. We’ll be lucky to hit that mark. So, the IMF’s support for austerity, and the fact that they may be coming to the conclusion that deep, fast cuts do not work appears to echo not only Labour’s stance, but also pre-election Clegg’s stance. Clegg in 2010 of the Tory plans for fast and far cuts:
“Self evidently I think, we think, that merrily slashing now is an act of economic masochism.”
– It isn’t just Labour who say the Coalition is cutting too far, too fast. It was also pre-2010 Clegg.
I don’t think the unions should be able to buy themselves a political party. Ed Miliband says he wants to loosen the ties between Labour and the union barons who helped him beat his brother. Let’s see him put his money where his mouth is. Let’s see if he’ll support radical reform of party funding. Every previous attempt has been blocked by the vested interests in the other two parties.
– Perhaps he should convey the same message to his master in Downing Street. Islington Council severed their links with John Nash’s Care UK because the private health provider has an awful track record, and racks up mountains of complaints. John Nash of Care UK donated £21,000 to the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley’s private office. Unsurprisingly, at the beginning of the year, a £53,000,000 contract to provide health services to prisons went to Care UK, even though the NHS was deemed to be:
better than the successful bidder on quality, delivery and risk.
– I ask, being the pockets of unions – that represent thousands, if not millions of year, is now considered worse for ‘centre-left’ Clegg, than being the pockets of one businessman and his desire for profit at the behest of patient care. The policies that he will ensure his backbenchers vote for, are drawn up by a Party in the pockets of big business. He is therefore complicit. Brilliant.
Probably the most important lesson I have learned is this: No matter how hard you work on the details of a policy, it’s no good if the perception is wrong. We can say until we’re blue in the face that no one will have to pay any fees as a student, but still people don’t believe it. That once you’ve left university you’ll pay less, week in week out, than under the current system, but still people don’t believe it. That the support given to students from poorer families will increase dramatically, but still people don’t believe it.
– It isn’t that we don’t understand. Or that we don’t believe it. It is simply that we don’t believe education should be open to market forces. Education is the right of everyone. For families who are struggling to pay increasingly inflated gas and electricity bills, whose benefits are slashed, the prospect of their 18 year old being charged £9000 a year is a step too far. With this policy also came the policy of pay-nothing-back until you earn over £21,000 a year, compared to the £15,000 limit in place now. Most Universities will rise tuition fees to above £6000, and many to the £9000 limit. The £21,000 is meaningless. I don’t care if i’m paying back £1 a year, the fact that I would leave university with well over £40,000 of debt, when you include living costs, before i’d even reached my 21st birthday, is ludicrous. If I have three children, and they want to go to University, that is going to amount £110,000+ worth of debt that my children end up with. Couple this, with the fact that England’s University budget has been cut by £449m, the teaching budget cut by £215mn, and Educational Maintenence Allowance (which I relied on to get me through college) scrapped, this does not represent a progressive plan for students. If the unique selling point is pay nothing back until you earn over £21,000, why have a top £9000 limit at all? Why not £50,000 a year? Or more? The universities can speculate that they will be richer than ever, and the debt, which Clegg seems to think is not a deterrent at all, will be irrelevant. Their policy is a disaster.
My main issue with the tuition fee debacle, is the principle. Saddling the Nation’s 18 year olds with the burden of the National debt, whilst not one banker has been prosecuted, and big businesses receiving Corporate tax cuts, and whilst the Government has allowed Vodaphone to get away with not paying the £4.8bn they allegedly avoided paying in tax, is shameful. It is certainly not progressive.
The Clegg speech at the end of the Lib Dem Conference had eroded any last glimpse of hope I had in a Liberal Democrat Party. They are, and will forever be, in the eyes of we on the Progressive Left; Tory-lite. Even Clegg’s tie, is slowly turning blue.
If you look through a particularly powerful telescope, you may be able to see Planet Clegg. I hear it was formed by the coming together of the concepts of dishonesty, u-turns, and delusion.