And the Real Winner is Nick Clegg

From Labour Uncut. Written by Peter Flynn, Former Labour General Secretary

Nick Clegg entered government with two very clear aims. Firstly to prove that the Lib Dems could be a responsible party of government prepared to take tough decisions. And secondly to deliver as much of the Lib Dem manifesto as possible.

And on both he has succeeded.

Being in government always puts stresses and strains on parties as they navigate the inevitable compromises and disappointments. But it is not Clegg’s Lib Dem MPs who are rebelling against their leader or calling for him to go in the face of difficult circumstances. What a contrast with the ungovernable Tories and Cameron’s approach with his MPs and minsters! It is the Tories not the Lib Dems who seem to be struggling with government.

But Clegg’s real success has been on his influence on the governmental agenda. Far from being the passive partner, simply rubber stamping Tory policy, the Lib Dems have quietly secured large swathes of their own manifesto. It may not all be to Labour’s satisfaction but:

  • the pupil premium,
  • retaining the governmental goal of ending child poverty,
  • the banking levy,
  • increasing capital gains tax for higher rate earners,
  • restoring the link between pensions and earnings,
  • delaying the replacement of Trident,
  • pushing on with renewable energy,
  • creating a green investment bank,
  • stopping the closure of local post offices,  
  • increasing the numbers of apprenticeship.
  • were all Lib Dem manifesto commitments.

And the budget saw George Osborne announce that the key Lib Dem commitment of a £10,000 tax free allowance will be achieved in 2014. But whilst the tax commitment is getting the headlines Osborne also announced that there will be no further savings in welfare spending in the 2015/16 spending round which is also a significant Lib Dem victory in the face of Tory calls for further cuts.

Certainly Tory backbenchers are pretty sure that the Lib Dems are punching well above their weight!

Meanwhile Labour is still struggling to find a credible and coherent approach to the politics of austerity. Far from a consistent political approach the Labour front bench is involved in a push me-pull me over the cuts by appearing to accept the need for them in principle but opposing the specifics.