UK Politics

Conservatives and Labour both wrong on spending, says Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats have been in coalition with the Conservatives since May 2010

Nick Clegg has criticised Conservative calls for permanently lower public spending, claiming it would result in "diminishing public services".

The deputy prime minister said he rejected "ideological" calls from the right to slash the size of the state.

But he also hit out at Labour, claiming Ed Miliband's party wanted to "spend for spending's sake".

PM David Cameron recently said: "We need to do more with less. Not just now, but permanently."

But, at a question session in a supermarket in west London, Mr Clegg warned against any approach that would "condemn us to an indefinite period of austerity".

He said: "I don't take an ideological approach to public spending.

"On the right of British politics you have got a view that says it's good to cut for cuts' sake. But I don't think we should be ideological about trying to slash the size of the state.

"On the left, you have got a view that says spend for spending's sake. I don't think we should be ideological about trying to bloat the size of the state.

"The first view would condemn us to an indefinite period of austerity and diminishing public services.

"The second view would condemn us to the bad old days of unsustainable borrowing and spending."

Mr Clegg said he was "anchored in the centre ground".

Extracts of the text of his speech released beforehand had led to it being trailed as an attack by Mr Clegg on Labour - but few of those words were actually included in the five minute speech he delivered.

UK economic output rose by 0.8% between July and September, official GDP figures show.

But Mr Clegg said this has not dimmed the determination of the Lib Dems and Conservatives to cut the deficit.

For Labour, shadow chancellor Ed Balls has called the improvement in the economy "long overdue".

The coalition government had "started to claw back some lost ground", but more needed to be done to improve living standards, he said.

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