Peter Hoskin

Nick Clegg’s Big Week

Nick Clegg's Big Week
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With the cuts comes the candy: the sweet-tasting morsels which, it is hoped, will prevent tomorrow's Budget from being too much of a collective downer for the nation.  We're already hearing that a council tax freeze will be pencilled in for next year, and you can expect a few more treats besides. National insurance, for instance, is looking like an obvious candidate.

From George Osborne's perspective, these sunnier measures will serve a two-fold purpose.  Like I say, it will be hoped that they keep the public on board with the government's project: stick with us, the message will run, and you'll get more of this in future.  But they will also be used to bind the coalition together.  Those Lib Dem MPs who are wary of all the cuts will be reassured that the government is doing everything it can to be progressive, progressive, progressive, as they say.

This is where Nick Clegg steps in.  The Deputy PM is, shall we say, a prettier face for selling the Budget measures to both the public and his own backbenchers - and his task will be to do just that, with gusto, in his various media appearances this week.  In terms of holding the coalition together, and determining the politics of this Parliament, the next few days will be among the most significant in Clegg's entire career.