Political

Nick Clegg: Why we have to do this (Budget 2010)

Nick Clegg has emailed party members and supporters about tomorrow’s budget – and it is good to see him continuing to raise the point about Labour’s £44 billion of planned cuts which nearly everyone in Labour is acting as if never existed:

Tomorrow, the coalition government will deliver an emergency budget to bring order back to the public finances. It will be a difficult budget – but remember, as you hear it, why we have to do this.

Labour left our country with a mountain of debt. Every minute that goes by the government spends a staggering £80,000 on interest, that’s over £800 million a week. If we don’t take action now, the markets will force us into even more drastic measures as they have in Greece and Spain.

Without action on the deficit, we will carry on racking up unaffordable debts our children will have to pay off. We will carry on spending more money on debt interest than we do on our schools. And we will undermine the economic growth needed to create jobs and opportunities for all of us. There is nothing fair, liberal or progressive about any of that.

Of course, the Labour party will say that these decisions are not justified. They will say the budget creates risks for our economy and that Liberal Democrats have sold out to go along with Conservative cuts. They are wrong.

Every time you hear Labour say that, ask them why they covered up the details of the £44bn of cuts they themselves had planned. Ask them why they racked up so much debt that we could end up spending £70bn a year just on debt interest. And ask them why they created this fiscal bombshell in the first place by refusing to take action against the reckless banks even when Vince Cable warned of the risks they were taking.

Until Labour accepts the blame for the mess we are in and comes up with a plan for getting us out, they cannot be taken seriously.

We have always argued that cuts would be necessary, but the timing should be based on economic circumstances, not political dogma. The economic situation today means that time has come.

A lot has changed even in the last few months. The crisis in the Eurozone and the problems in Greece and Spain have put huge pressure on us. The new Office of Budget Responsibility has shown that the structural deficit is bigger than we thought. And in government, we have discovered billions of pounds of unfunded spending promises Labour had made, cynically raising people’s hopes when they knew the coffers were bare.

So cuts must come. We have taken the difficult decisions with care, and with fairness at their heart. You will see the stamp of our Liberal Democrat values in tomorrow’s Budget. But nonetheless, it will be controversial. This is one of the hardest things we will ever have to do, but I assure you, the alternative is worse: rising debts, higher interest rates, less growth and fewer opportunities.

Sorting out Labour’s mess will be difficult but it is the right thing to do.

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