Former deputy Prime Minister lays into Tories at Lib Dem conference
Nick Clegg has trashed the government’s image of stability given the huge damage to the economy its plans for Brexit will bring.
The former deputy Prime Minister was speaking at a public interview with the Observer‘s Andrew Rawnsley at Liberal Democrat party conference in Brighton on Monday night.
He defended the Lib Dem general election campaign he led last year that pitched the party as a happy medium between the left and right of Labour and the Tories.
Clegg argued the Lib Dems were doing well in marginal seats until the final weeks, when the Tory fear campaign about a Labour-SNP coalition had an ‘electric effect on swing voters’.
But Clegg said since the Conservative victory on what was for many a ‘tactical’ vote for the safest option, we have changed Prime Minister and are leaving the European Union.
‘The Tory government will do more damage in the next five years to the British economy than John McDonnell could do in a decade.’
Clegg also said his biggest mistake of the Lib Dem-Tory coalition, which governed from 2010 to 2015, was failure to ‘get the Tories ever a barrel even more’ on political reform when hammering out the coalition agreement.
He said the deal between the two parties that saw the Lib Dems go along with economic austerity in exchange for voting reform didn’t factor in how ruthlessly the Tories would fight to subvert the agreement.
But Clegg rejected the stigma of having broken promises, especially on tuition fees (the party was for abolishing them, but voted to treble them when in government), saying the other parties were not held to the same standard. He noted:
‘David Cameron was a serial breaker of promises on immigration. Ed Miliband was part of the government that said, ‘No more boom and bust’.
Clegg also said he thought the general election and EU referendum results had less to do with politics and more to do with long-term economic conditions, such as inequality, low pay and few good jobs. He said:
‘The older I get the more Marxist I become.’
Nick Clegg was a star turn at the Liberal Democrats’ conference over the weekend, drawing huge crowds of admiring party members at various events, and jokingly plugging his new memoir about the coalition years.
Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.