Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Now Nick Clegg turns on Labour ahead of mid-term review

Nick Clegg is in a pugnacious mood at the moment. First there was the very conveniently leaked memo in which Lib Dem strategists urged MPs to criticise their Tory Coalition partners publicly. Now he’s gone on the attack against Labour’s spending plans, or lack thereof. The Deputy Prime Minister writes in The Times:

‘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? Where 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 challenges Ed Miliband and Ed Balls to be open about which cuts they would keep and which they would lose, adding:

‘To oppose everything is to offer nothing, and the country will not be duped. The biggest divide in politics today – here and around the world – is between those who offer leadership and those who only offer dissent.’

In September, Clegg made clear that his pitch for the 2015 election would be ‘are you ready to trust Ed Balls with the nation’s finances again?’ He has quite a tightrope walk ahead of him, as he doesn’t want to alienate Labour to the extent that it would be impossible for his party – with or without Clegg – to form a coalition in 2015. But it is important for the Lib Dems at the same time to show that in going into coalition with those Tories they plan to attack, they were eschewing the easy purity of opposition.

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