The anniversary of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition is marked today by a speech given by the Deputy Prime Minister reaffirming the achievements of the Lib Dems in government. The PM has also written for ConservativeHome to discuss the government’s achievements in the year since the coalition formed in May 2010. Both provide insight into how the leaders want to sell their decisions to their respective parties.
Clegg’s speech this morning is trailed in today’s newspapers, with much focus obviously on the comment that the Lib Dems will be “assertive” from now on, adding that “both partners will be able to be clearer in their identities”. While the local elections and AV referendum hits were a “hard knock”, Clegg also states his satisfaction on Lib Dem success so far, claiming the party is punching “well above our weight” on policy impact, and has implemented 75 per cent of our manifesto is being implemented through the coalition agreement, compared to 60 per cent of the Conservative manifesto.
Clegg assures his party that “You will see a strong liberal identity in a strong coalition government. You might even call it muscular liberalism.” (The term ‘muscular liberalism’ is also used by Conservatives). So we can now expect a more muscular, assertive Lib Dem presence. It’s almost as if Paddy Ashdown will be making a return to the front ranks of the party.
David Cameron’s article for ConservativeHome leads inevitably on the deficit, before detailing how various government policies fit the “core Conservative values” of responsibility, fairness, compassion and opportunity for all. The Liberal Democrats only merit one mention in the opening line while the NHS only gets one short sentence: “We are protecting the NHS from cuts because we know that for so many people it is literally a lifeline.”
While Cameron’s article is all about the Conservative values that have run through this government, Clegg has to focus on where the Lib Dems have stopped Tory plans to “replace Trident in this parliament, cut inheritance tax for the most wealthy, renegotiate fundamental elements of the Lisbon Treat on social affairs, build more prisons and replace the Human Rights Act.” The “assertive” Lib Dems will be much louder about their differences to the Conservatives from now on, but they must continue to claim the government’s agenda as fitting their principles too. Otherwise they’ll cast themselves in a smaller role as merely a check on Conservative power.