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“New Progressive” – the next New Labour?

Nick Clegg’s article on the Guardian is going down a very dodgy path. New versus old progressives? Twaddle. For starters, the word “progressive” should be taken outside of UK politics and shot. Or rather, restricted to its technical meaning in tax discussions. I’m a reasonably well read chap and had never heard of “progressive” politics in the UK until the whole hung parliament circus this past May. I thought it was simply the word used by American liberals who had given up the fight against the Republican smear machine.

Secondly, “new progressive” is awfully similar to “New Labour”. At a time when maintaining a separate identity to the Tories should be a key Lib Dem strategy, who on earth thought it would be a good idea to adopt Blair’s “heir to Thatcher” neologism?!

Thirdly, since when has it been a good idea in times of pressure to suggest that those of your party who disagree with you are old-fashioned and destined for the scrap heap?

Fourth, those of us concerned about the pace of cuts don’t take well to the suggestion that we want to do things “slowly”, that we are “indecisive”. This country would have got by perfectly well with quick but shallow cuts to settle the markets, followed up by a 5 – 10 year reduction plan. The line about saddling the next generation with debt is particularly badly judged. People are still ripping into the party on tuition fees that take a working lifetime to pay off.

Fifth, if the mortgage rate is low, it’s nice and lovely for those with mortgages but not so much for those of us without. The housing market is being propped up, and saving isn’t rewarded. A while back, I was being told we all had shared responsibility for the crisis – bollocks to that, I saved, left my credit card alone, didn’t take out an irresponsible mortgage, and voted for the party that wasn’t kissing up to the City. Does Clegg really want to be the guy saying, “And where did that get you? Get on board, son, responsibility is old fashioned!”

There may be some good points buried in the piece. But the defensive, us-vs-them, clinging-to-the-Tory-trouserlegs tone spoils it for me. I’m someone who joined the Lib Dems post-coalition, too. If I find the article off-putting, I can’t imagine the general reaction. Clegg and co need to pull their collective fingers out and figure out how to talk to their constituency.

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