David Blackburn

Clegg must resist temptation

Clegg must resist temptation
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As Pete notes, Nick Clegg is moderating the debate over the spending review in David Cameron’s absence. It’s an unenviable task. IDS and Liam Fox have been the most cussed opponents of George Osborne, but all ministers are fighting for their budgets behind the scenes. This morning, reports suggest that Chris Huhne could break from the ranks of the silent.

The Times gives details of ‘intense discussions’ over the future of nuclear clean-up and renewable energy funding, worth more than £2bn of the Energy department’s £3.4bn budget. Obviously, any reductions in environmentally friendly initiatives carry a political cost for the Liberal Democrats. Chris Huhne has already overcome the habit of a lifetime and endorsed nuclear energy, and now the Guardian reports that the coalition is poised to renege on its pledge to block the construction of ‘dirty’ coal-fired power stations, which was a cause célèbre for both the Tories and the Lib Dems in opposition.

Nick Clegg has the opportunity to support Chris Huhne against George Osborne, and he will be tempted to do so. Ideology and principle aside, Clegg will have an eye on his party’s collapsing poll rating. But it is vital that Clegg carries on this government’s foremost task: reducing the deficit by cutting public expenditure. There cannot be any off-message moments; all will go swimmingly if Nick Clegg sticks to the script.