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Yes, of Course Nick Clegg Should Blow Up Britain's Conservative Government and Send Miliband to Kiss the Queen's Hands. Why Do You Ask?


Nick Clegg is on the road to winning the contest to be the worst British politician since Ramsey MacDonald.

Philip Stephens:

Britain’s coalition badly needs a Plan B: The uproar over higher education funding has exposed what was always going to be the coalition’s weak point. Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats – the junior partner – have found themselves serving as the lightning rod for public anger at policies framed by David Cameron’s Conservatives. The steep rise in student tuition fees was a Conservative choice. You would not think so from the public furore. Mr Cameron, who has a habit of putting himself above the fray at awkward moments, has artfully left Mr Clegg to absorb the opprobrium. Voters could be forgiven for thinking that the Lib Dem leader had been the architect of a policy that he and his party had roundly denounced during the election campaign.... There will be other collisions. The coalition agreement promised Mr Clegg’s Lib Dems an end to top-down reorganisations of the health service. Yet Andrew Lansley, the Tory health secretary, is now pushing through the most radical shake-up since the inception of the NHS....

It is the economy that will make the political weather during the first half of 2011... things will be grim.... It is hard to see where the growth will come from. Value added tax is set to rise in January. The Bank of England’s suspension, in effect, of its 2 per cent inflation target will see a further squeeze on household incomes as prices outpace wages. Swingeing spending cuts will see the public sector shed programmes and jobs ahead of the new financial year.

The government’s answer is that exports and investment will do the trick. The very radicalism of its planned fiscal retrenchment will persuade business that better times are around the corner.

Not everyone is so confident. A confidential paper circulating in Downing Street suggests the government should consider in advance if not a fully worked up “Plan B” then at least a series of possible stimulus measures.... [M]ore quantitative easing by the Bank... lend directly to business through buying commercial as well as government bonds... accelerate spending in infrastructure.... Tax cuts would be another option....

The fundamentalists... may be proved right. As in the 1930s, they have the Bank governor on their side, though that is hardly a recommendation. I have not come across many practical economists who share their confidence....

The government really should have a Plan B. Mr Clegg might consider whether he also needs a Plan C.