Brian Monteith: We’re better off without Clegg ‘protecting’ us

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Is Nick Clegg the most self-satisfied and arrogant politician in Britain? Is there anyone than the leader of the Liberal Democrats who is more patronising or condescending to his opponents – and with least cause?

After Nick Clegg’s speech to his less than party-faithful I think the answer must be no, and no.

If there was an Oscar for sanctimonious self-righteous hogwash then Clegg would be holding the trophy and waiting to leave his handprints in concrete in Hollywood. He is the Robert De Niro, the Robert Redford and Brad Pitt of British politics – but only in his own mind.

It was an overlong and dull speech – where he laughed louder than anyone at his own poor jokes. Delivered in Glasgow, where the numbers in attendance were very low, he would have been pelted with rotten veg by the couthy locals if he’d dared try those mirthless lines in the old days.

Two things will come out of what he said – in no particular order they are that “free” school meals will now be given to infants in England (with the money being made available to Scotland and Wales if their governments wish to do the same) – and that Clegg has stopped the Tories from being beastly, and we should thank him for this by giving him the opportunity to do the same all over again.

Nick Clegg likes to say only he and his followers can bring fairness into our society; that the Tories especially are unfair and he’s the man to sort this.

To prove this he has convinced them to agree to his demand for free school meals. Now every child at school under eight will have at least one hot meal a day. Hosanna! Let’s all skip around the playground in celebration at this tribute to social justice, this testament to helping the poorest in society as they resist the Victorian work houses the Tories would love to bring back, etc, etc.

But wait a minute, the idea is not exactly fair, is it. You see the poorest in society ALREADY get free school meals – they always have. They got them when I went to school and the service is still there.

What Clegg is in fact doing is providing a benefit to the children of those who may be finding that these times are financially tough – but are not poor enough to be receiving any welfare benefits. In other words, the sons and daughters of the richest amongst us will benefit from the free school meals while those who receive them already will get no extra help.

Does that still sound fair to you?

It gets worse because the truth has to be that to fund the £600 million cost of this “free” lunch scheme the taxes of the poorest in society (their VAT, their other taxes and duties) are being transferred through this benefit to those far, far wealthier than them. Still sound fair?

If the £600m was to be of benefit, it should have been in raising the tax threshold of everyone or cutting universal taxes such as VAT – either of which would benefit the poorest in society disproportionately the most. Nick Clegg would not know fairness if it hit him in the face!

Taking up the second issue, Nick Clegg likes to say that he and his fellow ministers have put the breaks on the nasty Tory juggernaut from, to borrow from Marty Feldman, running over old grannies (20 points), the disabled (30 points) and mothers and children at zebra crossings (50).

But the truth is quite different, for without the support of Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats the Welfare reforms, the so-called austerity programme and the general rise in taxes would not – could not – have 

If you dislike those things (I happen to agree with the first two of them) then Clegg has hardly helped you.

He also admitted he said no to a reduction in the Death Tax (that is applied to income and assets where tax has been paid once or even twice already) – and prevented constituencies being of equal size – where’s Clegg’s hallowed fairness 

Whatever you think of the job he’s done, his claim about being our 
protector is false.

The best way to prevent any party riding roughshod or arrogantly bullying the public without a care for opinion would have been for the Tories (or Labour) to have formed a minority government in 2010 and seek a parliamentary majority for the budget and any other controversial policies it felt it had to introduce.

Instead what we got was a coalition where Clegg’s losers (remember they actually lost support and their number of MPs fell) cooked up a self-serving deal so they could get their feet under the ministerial tables, ride around in limousines and increase their salaries and pensions.

Nobody, but nobody voted for the coalition, we all voted for a party – the coalition agreement should have been put to the people of Britain so we could endorse or reject it.

We don’t need Clegg for fairness and we don’t need Clegg to police the other parties – we just don’t need Clegg; period.