Nick Clegg: It's sausage time

  • 17 December 2012
  • From the section UK Politics
  • comments

It's time people saw how the coalition's sausages are made. That, believe it or not, is how Nick Clegg describes his latest strategy.

The deputy prime minister believes it's time the public understood that policy-making in government is like a kitchen in which all sorts of recipes are suggested, but only some make it onto the menu. He wants voters to know which ingredients the Lib Dems added and, just as importantly, which they insisted were left out.

Hence today, on the eve of the fifth anniversary of his election as Lib Dem leader, Clegg will deliver a speech in which he claims credit for stopping deeper welfare cuts proposed by the Tories - in particular, proposals to remove housing benefit from the under-25s and child benefit from families with more than two children.

He also argues that pensioners' top-up benefits - the free bus pass, TV licence and winter fuel allowance - should be means-tested for the richest.

The speech will also condemn "the fantasy" of the Tory right that it is possible to leave Europe and curb immigration with no impact on economic growth.

All this after in recent weeks the DPM has advertised his differences on press regulation, the so-called "snoopers' charter" and Europe.

A new coalition split then? No, as it happens. It is often forgotten that the man who wants a Lib Dem revival almost as much as Clegg goes by the name of Cameron. Much of Labour's poll lead is rooted in defections from the Lib Dems.

Tory strategists talk of the need for the Lib Dems to be on around 15% of the vote - not, as now, below 10% - to deny Labour some seats and, as a result, for the Tories to have a chance of staying in power either alone or in coalition.

Just one problem, though. What if the sausage-making strategy proves as successful as Clegg's last hit single "I'm sorry"? What if his party continues to lose the fight for third place with UKIP in the polls?

That would be Nick's kitchen nightmare, and you don't need to take my word for it.

Just read the words of his close ally and former director of strategy, Richard Reeves, in this morning's Guardian: "A more assertive stance in act two of coalition should mean greater support and more votes. If not, the curtain will probably fall on the coalition before 2015."