Lyn Brown

Labour Party Candidate for West Ham

Cuts and Clegg - Sept 2010

It has been a strange two weeks in Parliament: a fortnight slipped in, between the August break and the conference season.
Usually, at this time of year, MPs are beavering away in their constituencies, preparing for the Autumn term, a Queens speech and generally sorting out the office before the start of a new Parliamentary year.

And this strangeness has been compounded by the Prime Minister’s absence from Parliament; firstly on parental leave after the birth of his beautiful daughter and then on bereavement leave, due to the unexpected death of his father.

The first week back, Nick Clegg was at the dispatch box for PMQs as Mr Cameron sped to his father's side.

He really does not manage to convince me I'm afraid, neither as a leader of a small political party, nor indeed as a stand in Prime Minister.

He is all too unconvincing as he sanctimoniously defends the enormous U turns of the Lib Dems in almost every policy direction, vaunted with conviction whilst on the opposition benches and in their election manifesto.

The tension in the chamber was palpable. 

Half his Lib Dem colleagues visibly wincing as he paraded his new right wing credentials. Half the Tory back benchers openly resent him and the need to have him fronting “their” Government, because Cameron failed to deliver a
Conservative majority at the General Election. They don't back him as their man at the dispatch box. 

We all await the almost inevitable clanger.

And it came, at the very end, in response to a very naughty question from his own side. Tory Christopher Chope asked whether the Lib Dems will leave the coalition, if the election reform bill does not get through parliament.  Mr Clegg does not prevaricate, swipe away with a joke, side step or dance he effectively says, “No!”

I can tell you, as a Government Whip in the last Parliament, that was a  mistake.  Many Tories do not want to reform the voting system.  The best argument the Whip’s office had to cajole their recalcitrant Mps through the lobby was the threat of the coalition failing.  And now Nick has told them it won’t.  The Tory right is jubilant.  Now, they have room to manoeuvre.

But that room does not exist for the Lib Dems on the left of their Party.

There were protesters outside the Lib Dem conference last weekend.  People wearing orange rosettes claiming to be ex-Lib Dems.  The current polls show them down at 13% and elected Lib Dem Councillors are crossing the floor to join Labour, or become independents.

They all seem to say the same things.  They cannot stomach the way that Nick Clegg has signed up to the Tories’ ideologically-driven and devastating cuts to essential services.

It is clear to all, that the cuts proposed by the Coalition Government are going to hit women, the poor and the most vulnerable the hardest.

Sitting in Parliament and watching the news, I can see the cracks in the coalition beginning to widen.  Sadly, I think that the terminal fissures will not open up until the Lib Dems lose even more Council seats in elections
next May.  Sadder still, this will not be soon enough to stop the onslaught on public services this Government plans, nor the devastation they will cause to the lives of so many.

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