Sunday, June 27, 2010
Reality Begins to Bite for Lib Dems
'Here in my office at the nerve centre of the coalition, I'm able to influence the really tough decisions- like how to make the VAT rise sound progressive.'
In his piece today, Andrew Rawnsley reflects on how satirists can undermine reputations and hold them up to ridicule. Clegg has received a good press from the right but it's the left of centre news-sheets- Guardian, Observer, Indie- which are read by Lib Dem supporters. That cartoon will have hurt.
Also beginning to hurt is an aching feeling turning into a sinking one, that they have been 'had' over the budget: used as 'cover' or figleaf for Tory measures. The Observer's analysis today nails the lie that the budget is progressive by reporting a study that the least well-off- those on less than £14, 200- will lose more than one fifth of their income while those on £50K will lose only 3.6%.
But, I hear you say, Labour was more than a little responsible for the huge deficit and would have done something very similar. Not necessarily so. Certainly, Brown bears a heavy responsibility for racking up so much debt but the Tories' 1990s debt problem was solved via a 50-50 split regarding expenditure cuts and tax increases. The 4-1 ratio adopted by the coalition will inflict the very 'swingeing' cuts Cameron said, during the campaign, he wouldn't impose and, as expenditure is directed essentially at the lower paid, the poor will suffer. A different ratio would have distributed different burdens.
Clegg and company have failed to realise the weight of suffering their complicity with the Tories will deliver at the doors of the poorest households in the country. No wonder survey evidence shows half Lib Dem supporters are prepared to defect and therir poll rating has fallen fron 23% 7th may to 16% today. Vince Cable on the Marr show today did his best to square the circle but, for me didn't really convince.
Rawnsley sums up the Clegg's dilemma:
'What will wound his sense of himself and erode his position with his party is being seen as the neutered subordinate of the Tories. There will be a voice in every Lib Dem ear whispering: "We're being used, we're being used, and everyone can see it." It doesn't even have to be all that true to start hurting. This worm of unease is already niggling in their guts. If it grows, it could gnaw away at the foundations of this coalition until it comes tumbling down.'