Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Clegg: Tough Cuts Are Only Way to Wipe the Slate Clean

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Clegg: Tough Cuts Are Only Way to Wipe the Slate Clean

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Murphy Political Editor

NICK CLEGG today mounted a fiery defence of spending cuts amid fresh rumblings of dissent from the Liberal Democrat rank and file.

The Deputy Prime Minister said the Coalition's historic mission was to "wipe the slate clean" so that children could grow up without being burdened by a record national debt.

"Delay won't solve the problems -- in fact, it would make them worse," he was expected to tell the party conference in Liverpool. "We could have decided to go more slowly but it would have worsened, not eased, the pain. Because every day you ignore a deficit, it gets harder to fix."

Striking an optimistic note about the future after the painful spending round, he will say that by the 2015 election the debt crisis will have been solved altogether: "We will have wiped the slate clean for a new generation."

Lib-Dem activists fear they will pay a heavy price in next May's council elections for spending cuts that are only just beginning to bite.

Backbencher Mike Hancock today accused the party leadership of acting like a "dictatorship" because it had ignored the opinion of the grassroots to support Tory-led cuts such as the cap on housing benefit and higher VAT.

"We may be abandoning a key aspect of the Liberal Democrat policy in supporting the welfare state," he wrote in an open letter to Mr Clegg. "I am sure you agree with me that we must not have dictatorship of the party by 20 Lib-Dem ministers."

Grandees including Paddy Ashdown and the Treasury Minister Danny Alexander rallied round to defend the cuts, while members were crowding in to the hall to hear Mr Clegg make the first conference speech by a Lib-Dem leader in government for six decades.

Mr Clegg was expected to argue that interest on the national debt, [pounds sterling]44 billion a year and rising, would have soared to [pounds sterling]70 billion under Gordon Brown.

Labour had "ducked the difficult choices" and was so locked into vested interests it had become "shop stewards of the status quo". …

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