Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has used the first day proper of 2013 to try and take the economic battle to Labour once again. He has an op-ed piece in The Times(£) in which he says:
The Labour leadership continue to complain about the coalition’s approach, but without providing any credible alternative. They’re learning the tricks of opposition and finding their rhetorical refrains. But where are the numbers? What are their sums? The country has undergone the biggest economic crisis in living memory, yet they offer no explanation of how they’d get us out of this mess, nor any admission of responsibility for their part in creating it.
He is, of course, right.
The Eds attack every cut yet provide few alternatives. They accept no responsibility for the decade of debt and overspending in which they were on the shoulder of the Chancellor. Labour want to provide an alternative, but the coalition must continue to highlight their lack of substance, two and half years after a general election. We have heard Clegg say all these things quite a few times now, but he is right to keep repeating the message.
He is though not right when he says:
Here in the UK we have now paid off around a quarter of our deficit.
Such a statement is complete nonsense. Deficit, crudely, is the gap between the money coming in, and the greater amount of money being spent. You can reduce it but increasing the amount coming in and decreasing the amount going out, but, unlike debt, you don’t pay it off.
It’s a misleading statement and a silly one for the Deputy Prime Minister to have made in such a public forum. He would have rightly savaged Labour for it.
The Liberal Democrats are going to require a lot more finesse if they are going to start the fightback in 2013.