A little noted, but I think important, Nick Clegg u-turn in his speech to Lib Dem Spring Conference. Speaking about the Government’s actions to close the deficit he said:
By cutting the deficit decisively we have restored confidence in Britain.
Essential – because without confidence there can be no growth.
We have helped keep interest rates lower for longer, helping families, helping businesses.
It has meant making difficult choices.
But at least they have been our choices…
Not forced on us by the bond markets as they have been in Greece and Ireland.
And the risks of delay far outweigh the risks of swift action.
Two interesting things here – first the admission that the speed of deficit reduction is a ‘choice’, in contrast to the Government’s usual ‘no alternative’ line.
Second the admission that the cuts were ‘not forced on us by the bond markets’ as in Greece and Ireland.
This is quite a change from his claims, as recently as January, that Britain, back in May last year, was in a Greek-style crisis and on the ‘brink of banktuptcy’.
No shift in policy, but certainly a change in argument – and a welcome one at that. Clegg is right that Osborne’s plans were not imposed by the bond market but were instead a political choice. I doubt he’ll stick to this argument for long.