LIBERAL Democrat leader and deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg ramped up the war of words against his coalition partners yesterday, accusing the Conservatives of needing to “come clean” over their plans for cuts.
“Under George Osborne’s approach, once we balance the budget in 2017-18, they would want to pare back the state remorselessly, year in, year out,” Clegg said. “[The Conservatives are] seeking to kid British voters if they are claiming that it’s possible to balance the books, deliver unfunded tax cuts, shrink the state and support public services in the way that everybody wants. It just doesn’t add up.”
The comments come in the wake of claims that the deputy prime minister is refusing to attend Prime Minister’s Question time, following his no-show for the Autumn Statement last week, the third time he has missed the mid-week questions session. In the fallout, it emerged the Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable had written to the Office for Budget Responsibility, asking the chairman to spell out the differences between the two coalition parties and their spending commitments.
Clegg was speaking yesterday after chancellor Osborne launched a scathing attack on the Lib Dems, suggesting that they will have to raise taxes to deliver their plans and can not be trusted on the economy.
“They shouldn’t pretend to people that the sums required can be achieved by their homes tax alone,” Osborne said, signalling the end of any sense of camaraderie by adding: “The battle lines for the general election have been drawn. There’s a clear choice: a competent plan to stay on course to prosperity with us or a return to economic chaos with all the alternatives.”
Both the Lib Dems and the Tories are seeking to distance themselves from one another ahead of the election in May, where the main battleground will be economic policy and where cuts will fall.
Kate McCann, Julian Harris