As the Liberal Democrat’s conference unfolds in Liverpool, and Nick Clegg enjoys unprecedented media coverage as the UK’s deputy prime minister, I must admit to a little bit of self-congratulation. On the day that Gordon Brown called the election (6 April 2010), I wrote an open letter to Nick Clegg (read it here). At that stage he was considered by the media as “almost unknown” and his party given its traditional “no hope” rating by the pundits.
I thought otherwise. And I wrote that open letter musing out loud whether he might be able to make a difference if he shared power with the Tories. I was particularly hopeful that a coalition government would be able to achieve what no single party could: savage public spending cuts to bring the deficit under control.
Today, Nick Clegg spoke to the media about his role in a government that was bringing huge cuts to public spending. I thought he did quite well. But more than that, he was playing precisely the role I hoped he’d play. He was saying, “It’s not our fault, we’re in coalition”. I assume – and hope – that David Cameron will take exactly the same line at his upcoming conference. Four years from now they’ll be proved right, and should be able to contest a good election. Now is the time for bold leadership.
It’s understandable that the British public does not want these cuts. But they should also read the newspapers. Today it was announced that Britain borrowed more money last month than in any August in recorded history. And it was a significant increase on last year’s borrowings. Interest repayments totaled over £ 4 billion for the month! The year’s interest payment will be the equivalent of the entire defence budget. If the average British household was so crippled by debt it would be in crisis mode. The country needs to feel this crisis, and accept the spending cuts and tax increases that are the only ways to deal with it.
Well done, Nick Clegg. So far you have returned a nice investment on my trust in you. Hold the line. See the course through. History will judge you kindly! (And PS, thanks for helping me to look good as a futurist :-).