We store cookies on your device to make sure we give you the best experience on this website. I'm fine with this - Turn cookies off
Switch to an accessible version of this website which is easier to read. (requires cookies)

Nick Clegg writes: Coalition is a sign of grown-up politics

May 18, 2014 9:50 AM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Writing in today's Sunday Telegraph, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg expresses his pride in what the coalition has achieved in government, including raising the personal tax allowance, expanding the apprenticeship scheme and introducing the Pupil Premium.

Nick explains why "coalition it is a sign of grown-up politics, rather than unforgiveable betrayal."

He writes:


The advent of Britain's first fully fledged coalition government in a generation still seems to take many people by surprise. For some, the biggest surprise is that this coalition will last a full five-year term. I have lost count of the many solemn predictions made since May 2010 of the Government's impending collapse. However many times I or the Prime Minister stated that we remain determined to provide the country with strong and stable government in the face of unprecedented economic difficulties, the sceptics still claimed that they knew better.

For others - from the Left and Right - the Coalition (or more precisely, the role of the Lib Dems in it) has been guilty of diametrically opposed sins. For the Left, the very act of coalition is condemned as heinous moral treachery; for the Right, the Lib Dems have far too much clout, thus frustrating the birthright of the Conservative Party to do what it wishes. Unprincipled powerlessness on the one hand, ruthless power-play on the other. Both can't be right. In my view, both are utterly wrong.

Then there is the breathless outrage that greets every compromise struck. Each time either of the coalition parties admits that power-sharing involves give and take, the tribalists holler that some great betrayal has occurred. The Tory Right wants this Government to turn its back on climate change; cut taxes for the rich; and pull out of Europe, when clearly the Conservative Party has no mandate to do so, having failed to win a majority at the last election. And on the Left, the Labour Party - which has never understood the progressive promise of pluralism - lambasts the Lib Dems for failing to implement every dot and comma of our manifesto, even though we constitute just 8 per cent of MPs in Parliament.

It is ridiculous for either side to criticise the compromises that this Coalition has struck in the national interest. Compromise may sometimes be difficult, but in coalition it is a sign of grown-up politics, rather than unforgiveable betrayal.

The most trenchant criticism, levelled at the Coalition when first formed, is the one that has proved most wrong: this Coalition, it was said, would not be able to take the big decisions that the country was crying out for in 2010. A combination of Conservatives and Lib Dems, it was breezily predicted, would be a pantomime-horse government, driven constantly to make insipid trade-offs between the parties and incapable of taking the tough, at times downright unpopular, decisions required to put our economy back on track. Of all the silly things said about the Government, this one, in my view, takes top prize. Far from now being accused of doing too little, we more often stand accused of doing too much.

I am intensely proud of the sheer scale and ambition of what this Coalition has achieved. The biggest transformation of our tax system in a generation - slashing income tax for more than 24 million ordinary people - not only delivering on the Lib Dem signature tune of a £10,000 tax-free allowance, but going further, so that by next April, no one will pay any tax on the first £10,500 they earn. The biggest cash increase in the state pension, following the implementation of the triple-lock guarantee - a promise of decency in retirement made by Lib Dems in opposition and now delivered in government. The biggest expansion of apprenticeships in a generation; ambitious welfare reform to make sure work always pays; the introduction of a Pupil Premium to transform the life chances of the poorest children in our schools; new child-care entitlements to help two-, three-and four-year-olds across the country; the deficit down by a third and falling; radical reform to our broken banking system; the world's first Green investment bank; and a total overhaul of our energy market.

The list goes on. Some of these policies enjoyed effortless consensus across government. Others had to be hammered out through intense argument. Of course, there are differences between the two governing parties and sometimes they're stark and fiercely held. But no one can say, four years in, that this unprecedented Coalition has not done unprecedented things. That bodes well for future coalition governments, which I believe are an inevitable consequence of the demise of old-style, two-party politics. It bodes well for anyone who believes, as I do, that the central ambition of modern governments is to build a strong and prosperous economy with fairness at its heart.