Relax: Nick has a plan, and Ed has a pledge.

With one mighty bound, Britain wasn’t saved


Two politicians suffering from that most feared of sydromes – Being Ignored – went for broke this weekend in the search for attention.

Nick Clegg is unique in the history of British politics, in that he is the (allegedly) second most important member of the Government – and yet continues to make the sort of promises usually reserved for leaders of very small Parties.

Reacting angrily yesterday (Saturday) to all those with the effrontery to suggest that the Coalition doesn’t have a plan for stimulating growth in Britain’s economy, he told the BBC:

“We have learned, the hard way, that an economy built on debt is built on sand. Right now we are going through the sometimes painful process of unwinding a toxic legacy of personal, business and public debt”.

Nick gave us the planned strategic plan: weaning the UK off debt-financed growth; investing in infrastructure, skills and education; boosting competitiveness by reducing the regulatory and tax burden, and opening up markets; and balancing growth across different regions and sectors.

If anyone has spotted any evidence of this happening, please tell the markets. If anyone knows how to stimulate the economy with no jobs, no tax cuts and no money in the Treasury, please tell Downing Street.

Meanwhile, the real Opposition the odd people sitting across the way in the House of Commons don’t even have an unachievable plan. Their leader Ed Miliband – having been part of the mission to bring equality to education – has moved up a gear and pledged that the future will also be equal. Vowing to end ‘intergenerational inequality’, the Labour leader this morning said:

“I think our responsibility as a party is to be the people who stand up for the next generation. I think that makes us the optimists in Britain today. We are the people who actually believe the next generation can be better than the last –  whatever the challenges they currently face.”

Ed’s sole pledge in that ten seconds of flim-flam is that he promises to keep believing in its possibility. As this has always been Labour’s way, oddly enough I’d back him to keep it. But what takes the statement beyond silly and into gibberish is the sloppy syntax: ‘the next generation can be better’. In what way, Ed? Better than we were, better than they are now, better than the competition, better after a long illness, or just better off?

Clegg and Miliband are two very different politicians, and their utterances this bleak January weekend highlight the gap between them very clearly. Clegg is a cynical technocrat chancer from the Brown mould: he pretends something is going to happen, even when he knows it won’t. And Miliband is that strange Labour cross-breed, the illiberal intellectual whose lachrymose naivety knows no bounds.

Their commonality is, however, twofold. First, whatever voyage it is we’re about to take, their presence on it is utterly pointless. For they have no leadership skills, and they are unaccountable. A second, the tragi-comic pomposity they display – the belief that anyone beyond a few waifs and strays beyond the media is listening – rams home yet again how divorced from the 3D Universe they are.

Accountable leadership from real people. It’s what we need, but it’s obviously far too big an ask.