The Tories and the Lib Dems are now divorced – whatever they’re saying in public

December 5, 2012 3:47 pm

Today’s Autumn Statement will come to be seen as a disastrous piece of work, once the dust has settled. Not as big a disaster as the 2012 budget (this was only a “mini-budget” after all), but probably one that will be remembered. And not fondly.

The slieght of hand over the 4G spectrum may well trip up Osborne this week as his statement unavels. The scale of his raid on the poor to attempt to balance the budget could be an Achilles heel too, when considered alongside his tax cut for millionaires. But it’s the perpetual Gordonian game playing and switcheroos that Osborne is becoming fond of are merely serving to kick the can down the road. He’s desperately gaming the system in the hope that something, anything, turns up by way of growth to help him out of trouble. Yet each little wheeze makes the chances of a bigger crunch more likely.

But that’s not the most important political fallout from today’s Autumn Statement. The key role in today’s saga is reserved for the Lib Dems.

Now that might seem like an odd statement to make. After all the Lib Dems have never seemed more irrelevant in government than they are now. And yet by taking the decision today to deliver their own separate briefing on the budget, featuring the attack “The only tax cuts the Conservatives support are ones for the very rich”, they risk bringing the coalition to a halt as a functioning entity when combined with their less than full throated support for Osborne’s plans. Danny Alexander made no attempt to disguise the impact that today’s Statement had on the poor when he appeared on TV soon afterwards, and Nick Clegg went from animated during PMQs to glum once Osborne stood up. It was a far cry from “we’re all in this together” and “in the national interest”.

Following on from their decision to take a separate line from the Tories on Lords Reform/boundary changes, Clegg’s decision to make his own Leveson statement and their increasing anger with the Tories on Europe, the differentiation strategy has rapidly become a tale of decoupling, allbeit hamstrung by the fact that the Lib Dems are much passengers in the Tory government car as Mitt Romney’s dog was a passenger in his now infamous long distance rooftop trip across America. They’re not the co-pilots, they’re locked in the cockpit. The Lib Dems are no longer part of the government, except as a grim technicality. They are like a couple who have split, but who still share the same address for admin purposes.

Occasionally the couple are forced to appear in public but everyone knows it’s a sham.

The sad thing is that much of the Lib Dem parliamentary party still seems to pine for a non-existent past when they were a valued and valuable part of government. I’m afraid that time never existed, but a slightly less glorious but still worthwhile period – when they were very junior partners to the Tories – has all but ended.

The couple can’t bare to look at each other, or be in the same room together, nevermind make convincing joint statements.

They may still stay together until 2015, for the sake of the kids in the national interest. But the love is gone, and the inevitable post-hoc diaries of the various protagonists that covers this period will make very interesting reading indeed. I dare say it should make Blair/Brown look like a picnic.

And that – the end of this government as a functioning entity – is the real take home story from today’s Autumn Statement, and is likely to be what we remember of today when the dust has settled, whenever that might be.

  • Serbitar

    Clegg has the cowed and haunted look of an abused spouse. Shouldn’t someone report this matter to the police before it is too late?

  • Dave Postles

    We should simply refer to the LibDems in future as ‘the fellow travellers’.

  • Amber_Star

    A well observed analysis. Whilst others are crunching the numbers, this gives a good insight into the state of the Coalition! Clegg was apparently seen mouthing dissent whilst Osborne trashed the idea of a mansion tax or anything similar.
    Where was the much vaunted measures against the rich which must balance those which were aimed at the bottom? They weren’t there. The LDs have been double-crossed again. This was yet another regressive [mini-]budget from a blue meanie chancellor!

  • Amber_Star

    A well observed analysis. Whilst others are crunching the numbers, this gives a good insight into the state of the Coalition! Clegg was apparently seen mouthing dissent whilst Osborne trashed the idea of a mansion tax or anything similar.
    Where was the much vaunted measures against the rich which must balance those which were aimed at the bottom? They weren’t there. The LDs have been double-crossed again. This was yet another regressive [mini-]budget from a blue meanie chancellor!

  • Amber_Star

    A well observed analysis. Whilst others are crunching the numbers, this gives a good insight into the state of the Coalition! Clegg was apparently seen mouthing dissent whilst Osborne trashed the idea of a mansion tax or anything similar.
    Where was the much vaunted measures against the rich which must balance those which were aimed at the bottom? They weren’t there. The LDs have been double-crossed again. This was yet another regressive [mini-]budget from a blue meanie chancellor!

  • Pingback: JBP Briefing – Autumn Statement 2012 | JBP()

  • AlanGiles

    Even if the marriage is on the rocks, it seems Danny Alexander has gone along to “Relate” for counselling – he certainly seemed to enjoy being “George’s” yes man with Andrew Neil this afternoon, and seems to make to want a go of it. I must admit I didn’t dwell too long on it – a sickening spectacle anyway – but Mark Selby was thrashing Ryan Day* on the red button!

    (*Snooker)

    • Mr Arthur Cook

      Danny is a “Scottish Lib Dem” i.e. a Tory.
      You don’t plan a political career by being a Tory in Scotland and Danny wanted to be a “big fish” in a small puddle.
      Now he’s out of his depth and looks like a rabbit in the headlights.

  • AlanGiles

    Even if the marriage is on the rocks, it seems Danny Alexander has gone along to “Relate” for counselling – he certainly seemed to enjoy being “George’s” yes man with Andrew Neil this afternoon, and seems to make to want a go of it. I must admit I didn’t dwell too long on it – a sickening spectacle anyway – but Mark Selby was thrashing Ryan Day* on the red button!

    (*Snooker)

  • robertcp

    I was wondering how he could claim that the deficit would fall this year. This explains it!

    I am not sure how but this comment ended up under the wrong article. I am commenting on the 4G auction and interest from quantitative easing (see link in the article).

    On this article, there is clearly no love lost in the coalition but the Lib Dems can claim that they have moderated the Conservatives. Hopefully another coalition is an option in 2015 if we have a hung Parliament!

  • robertcp

    I was wondering how he could claim that the deficit would fall this year. This explains it!

    I am not sure how but this comment ended up under the wrong article. I am commenting on the 4G auction and interest from quantitative easing (see link in the article).

    On this article, there is clearly no love lost in the coalition but the Lib Dems can claim that they have moderated the Conservatives. Hopefully another coalition is an option in 2015 if we have a hung Parliament!

  • robertcp

    I was wondering how he could claim that the deficit would fall this year. This explains it!

    I am not sure how but this comment ended up under the wrong article. I am commenting on the 4G auction and interest from quantitative easing (see link in the article).

    On this article, there is clearly no love lost in the coalition but the Lib Dems can claim that they have moderated the Conservatives. Hopefully another coalition is an option in 2015 if we have a hung Parliament!

  • Mr Arthur Cook

    Splendid!!! Now Labour can woo the estranged and even stranger Nick Clegg because the promise of ending the coalition by Labour linking with a party which is now a byword for treachery, duplicity and with a “leader” who’s a figure of national ridicule ……….will really make people vote Labour?
    mmmmmm lets think about how Labour should deal with Mr Clegg. Votes would be won by handing him a ticket for the next train to Brussels.

Latest

  • News Scotland Miliband tells Scottish Labour: “We face a tough fight but no tougher than the fights we have faced in the past.”

    Miliband tells Scottish Labour: “We face a tough fight but no tougher than the fights we have faced in the past.”

    Ed Miliband is at the Scottish Labour Gala Dinner this evening. The atmosphere in the Scottish party is understandably tense following the resignation of Johann Lamont this week, and a poll today which shows the party are 29 points behind the SNP.  Miliband was speaking after Anas Sarwar – who used this evening’s Gala Dinner to announce that he’s standing down as Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour, triggering a Deputy Leadership election. The Labour leader was seeking to rally the […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Scotland Anas Sarwar steps down as Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour

    Anas Sarwar steps down as Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour

    Anas Sarwar has announced he’ll be stepping down as Scottish Labour leader. Speaking at Scottish Labour’s Gala Dinner, Sarwar – who had previously refused to be drawn on whether he’d resign from his post – told attendees at tonight’s dinner that he was triggering a Deputy Leadership contest that will run alongside the leadership contest, but would stay on as interim leader until December 13th. Before tonight’s dinner, he told the Daily Record: “After thinking about it long and hard over […]

    Read more →
  • News Double defection – Two councillors quit Tories and join Labour

    Double defection – Two councillors quit Tories and join Labour

    Two councillors have defected from the Tories to Labour in Dudley this evening. Glenis Simms and Cheryl Billingham have resigned from the Conservative Party and joined majority Labour Party on Dudley Council, and were welcomed into the party by Shadow Transport Secretary Mary Creagh as well as local MP Ian Austin. Simms told the Express and Star: “People are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet under this Government. Labour seems to be the only party to have a […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Only by working together that we will be able to defeat nationalism

    Only by working together that we will be able to defeat nationalism

    Since before the Independence Referendum the Scottish Nationalists have tried to drape themselves in Labour’s clothing, pretending they are the party of social justice, promising a socialist utopia if only people voted for independence, all the while passing on cuts and austerity from a Tory Government in Westminster. They even suggested that voters would get ‘a better’ Labour Party if only they voted for independence. What a ruddy cheek! Since the vote they’ve done a pretty good job at trying […]

    Read more →
  • News Miliband dismisses Lamont’s “branch office” claims in Daily Record interview

    Miliband dismisses Lamont’s “branch office” claims in Daily Record interview

    Ed Miliband has broken his silence over Johann Lamont’s resignation – and specifically allegations that Scottish Labour was treated like a “branch office” – in an interview with the Daily Record. Miliband told the paper: “I was proud to work with Johann in the referendum campaign. I see it differently from the way it’s been described. I think we changed in terms of the 2011 review (of the Scottish Labour Party), with a new Scottish leader, redrawing Scottish constituency parties to […]

    Read more →