Here is Nick Clegg’s email to party members about today’s spending review. What’s notable about the content is the strong continuation of the ‘love everything the coalition is doing in public’ line – rather than talking up what is being done differently because Liberal Democrats disagreed with Conservatives.
Notable also is the continuation of Nick’s strong emphasis on the importance of early years education. It is an issue that he has consistently spoken passionately about being one of his priorities even though, as recent events have shown, the party more widely has often preferred to place a great emphasis on other parts of the education system.
The spending review has inevitably been a tough process. We have made the decision to take the hard road – but it is the right road to a more prosperous, fairer Britain. The unavoidable moment of truth came just as we entered government: Labour’s deficit had to be tackled. I did not go into government to make cuts. But nor can I be in government and allow us to keep spending more than £100 million a day on servicing our debt – enough to build a primary school every single hour, or triple the number of doctors working in our hospitals.
The spending review is a thoroughly Coalition product. Liberal Democrat ministers have been involved every step of the way. Our values and priorities are written through the review, like the message in a stick of rock. We have had to make some very difficult choices. But the review is one that promotes fairness, underpins growth, reduces carbon emissions and localises power.
The Coalition Government is investing £7 bn in a ‘fairness premium’ to help disadvantaged children; putting more than £1 billion into a regional growth fund; launching a Green Investment Bank with at least £2 billion for low-carbon technology and new jobs; and giving local government real financial freedoms. This Government will be spending more than £700bn on public services – the same as in 2006.
For too long Labour enjoyed the years of plenty and whether they are part of the new generation or old, they put their head in the sand when it came to acknowledging the deficit. They spent beyond our country’s means and squandered the public purse. They quite simply endangered the prosperity of our country and it is now taking two political parties to put Britain on the road to recovery.
Along with Danny Alexander, Vince Cable and the rest of the Liberal Democrat ministerial team I have been working day in day out over recent months to ensure that the Comprehensive Spending Review meets key Liberal Democrat tests.
Liberal Democrat ministers have fought to ensure that the burden of the challenge ahead is shared fairly. On child benefit, capital gains and tax evasion and avoidance – this government is making the well off pay their share. And for those services that matter most to the vulnerable in our society, such as health and social care and early years education, spending is being protected.
We are not taking the decisions today because they are easy or because we want to see a smaller state, we are taking them because they are right. We have a hard road to recovery ahead, but we are determined to ensure it is a road that leads to fairness too.
For Liberal Democrats, the two key questions today will be whether the overall level of spending is right given the current economic outlook and whether the strategic messaging choice is the best one.