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Wednesday 23rd May 2012 | 08:44
Adrian Beecroft's disobliging words about David Cameron and George Osborne are bound to feature heavily today, not least at PMQs.
Tory MPs may well squirm if Ed Miliband cites the businessman's most striking remark:
“I’m constantly struck by how un-robust the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are when it comes to pushing back. Nick Clegg [is] always threatening to go nuclear and dissolve the whole thing if he doesn’t get his way with this, that and the other. Which you’d think actually must be a hollow threat.”
But it is Clegg himself who actually has perhaps the most interesting interview (with the FT) today - complete with quotes that suggest a shift in Coalition thinking.
Perhaps underlining the fears of Tory backbenchers who think the Libs really are running the show, the part-Dutch DPM makes clear he's a Hollander. He backs the Francois Hollande version of the deficit-growth equation. And, in contrast with Sarko-loving Cameron, Clegg even reveals he personally welcomed the election of the French President.
Clegg’s big tonal shift is set out when he admits the Coalition in the early days had no choice but to set out “in very lurid terms the state of the emergency we were facing”.
But now times have changed. He says: “That kind of language over a prolonged period of time can have a dampening effect on mood, which is very important in an economy.”
So, the DPM is saying that to keep banging on about the deficit harms consumer confidence. Sounds very much like the Miliband/Balls line, doesn't it?
Clegg says that a ‘massive’ increase in state-backed spending on housing and infrastructure, together with moves to get banks to lend, is his priority now. The most concrete proposal is the Coalition is looking at ‘massively amplifying the principle of what we did on credit easing’. Many businessmen will want to know what that means in practice.
In recent weeks, the PM and Osborne have been desperately trying to catch up with the march of the Hollande narrative, claiming that he is as keen as them on keeping the deficit down as well as backing growth. But their suggestion that somehow the new French President is really one of them doesn't quite ring true.
The DPM and Business Secretary obviously think they have a better claim to the Hollande mantle. (Beecroft called Cable as a 'socialist' today, but perhaps he should have called him a 'Socialiste' with a French 'e').
Massively increasing lending and pumping cash into infrastructure and housing is not quite a Plan B, but it’s very Hollandesque.
Maybe the Lib Dems will start calling it we call it 'Plan C' (for Clegg and Cable)?
UPDATE: Treasury sources point out that Clegg's line on more credit easing is simply a follow up of the PM's speech last week and Chancellor's hints in Standard op-ed yesterday. Are they all Socialistes now...?
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