Opinion

Clegg prepares the way for something better than expected?

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader and deputy PM, reminds me of the fresh faced kid in school always holding his hand up to give a right answer.

He smiles at the party assembled in Liverpool and seems to be able to show that he is wise and right and able to side step the problems that the coalition have caused for his party, particularly in terms of integrity and reputation.

But if he is tasked with one job other than trying to tell his party that he is worth sticking with it is to prepare the ground for the difficult cuts coming next month.

The Autumn Spending Review is coming and is not likely to be easy. But if you listen to Clegg carefully there are some clear messages and a couple of words and phrases that have been used in the last couple of days that indicate what might be coming.

The first phrase is the one about it not being a return to the eighties. This is a clear nod to those communities that are reliant on the public sector not just for welfare but employment. Ironically these are most of the same areas of the country damaged so badly in the 1980s recession.

The second phrase, more a single word, is the implication that the fear of the depth of the cuts has been exaggerated. If that is the case then it certainly won't be 40% cuts coming and it might not even total 25%.

That is the classic way to oversell the problem then deliver something better. Hopefully that's what is happening but it is being set up with the message that things will remain difficult.

Having run up a large deficit the message between the lines might be that things will not be a s bad as feared but don't relax and assume that the old ways can be carried on. The practices of the past, which got us all into this trouble, will not be allowed to return.

This was first published in September 2010

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