Business Secretary Vince Cable, according to Harriet Harman, has gone from ‘national treasure’ to the ‘Treasury poodle’. Referring to both Mr Cable and his beleaguered Lib-Dem Coalition colleagues, Harriet told the House of Commons that while the Labour Party fought to support jobs for people, the Lib-Dems sought to secure jobs for themselves.
Harriet is, of course, right. By any stretch of the imagination, yesterday’s budget, the most right-wing since the Thatcher Government, demonstrated just how hollow the Lib- Dems election campaign pledges have turned out to be.
A mere 50 days ago the Deputy PM (Nick Clegg) denounced the public expenditure cuts favoured by the Tory Party in their general election campaign. Yet in yesterday’s budget the Lib-Dems showed support for virtually everything they had fought so hard against. It was difficult to watch, both in terms of content and the reactions of the junior members of the Coalition.
While the Chancellor told us to brace ourselves for a series of cuts and VAT hikes, I watched closely at how uncomfortable Deputy PM, Nick Clegg, and Treasury Secretary, Danny Alexander, looked despite being perfectly positioned either side of their Conservative Chancellor.
In contrast, I have not seen a performance as good as the one given by Harriet Harman for a very long time. She spoke with great passion and directed her reaction to the Budget not at the Conservatives, or the Con Lib-Dem coalition, but at the Liberal Democrats themselves. ‘How could they let down everyone who voted for them – how could they let the Tories so exploit them?’ she bellowed to the chamber. This budget she said was driven by ideology rather than economics.
In questioning quite how the Lib Dems could approve decisions they did not support less than two months ago Harriet exposed the fragility of the Con-Dem coalition. In this budget the Lib-Dems have had to swallow almost everything they have always fought against. It begs the huge question, “will they be able to deliver their MPs and activists a second time?”