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'Nasty Nick' establishes unit at Liberal Democrat HQ to attack Cameron and Osborne


On the eve of the Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth (still my favourite conference location) The Times' Sam Coates reveals that Nick Clegg has established an anti-Tory attack unit.

Mr Clegg will accuse David Cameron of being a con-man. “David Cameron is the conman of British politics," he will say, "He’s put the ‘con’ back into the Conservatives, just telling people what they want to hear.”  The LibDem leader continues:

"[David Cameron] says he wants to fix the broken society, yet he’s promised tax breaks to the rich. He talks the talk on the environment, yet he seeks out climate change deniers as new allies in Europe. He claims he wants a new politics, yet he won’t even own up to whether or not his big donors pay full British taxes. He says he’ll balance the nation's books, yet his most eye-catching proposal is raising the cost of salads in the House of Commons canteen.”

Chris Huhne MP, LibDem Home affairs spokesman, has been charged with attacking the Shadow Chancellor:

"George Osborne who, with the best will in the world, has never done a job, never run a budget, never hired nor fired. He’s someone who has clearly got a very good education but doesn’t actually have that experience of the real world that Vince Cable so evidently does have. His inexperience on the most important issue of the election is going to be a real weak spot for the Conservatives.”

A Liberal Democrat FOI request was behind yesterday evening's Channel 4 News report that six flagship Tory promises would cost £53bn.

The volume of the Liberal Democrat attacks on the Conservative Party reflects their increasing fear that many of their MPs will be ousted by Conservatives next year.  The LibDem high command was panicked at June's defeats in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset by an increasingly sophisticated Conservative campaign machine.  As Harry Phibbs discussed yesterday, the LibDems are far from the dominant force in England's cities that Nick Clegg would like to pretend.

The overall LibDem strategy is confused.  On Thursday Jonathan Isaby reported their attempts to go after Labour voters but Vince Cable's assertive talk of deep cuts in public spending is unlikely to appeal to Labour's heartlands.  It is remarkable, as Peter Franklin has blogged, that the Liberal Democrats remain in such a poor third place given the weakness of the Brown-led Labour Party.

Liberal Democrats activists are voting with their feet.  A LibDem PPC joined the Conservatives yesterday.  Fifty LibDem councillors have defected to the Conservatives since David Cameron became Tory leader.


It is noteworthy that the LibDems are going nasty at the same time as Eric Pickles' strategy of 'lovebombing' LibCon marginals bears such handsome fruit. The Tory Chairman was 'spreading the love' to Liberal Democrats again yesterday in a speech in which he said that a vote for the Conservatives would put "liberal democracy back to the very centre of government in Britain."  He emphasised a number of themes in this regard:
  • "When we saw injustice over the Gurkhas not being allowed to settle in Britain, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats worked together to do the right thing. When the Government came out with illiberal, authoritarian measures like 42 day detention and ID cards, we opposed them every step of the way. When there was an opportunity to decentralise and pass power downwards, we worked with all parties to develop the Sustainable Communities Act.
  • And on the environment, never before in Britain has there been a leader as determined as David Cameron to put climate change right at the top of everyone's political agenda.  So when the Government pushed for the third runway at Heathrow, we pushed against it together. And when the Government gave way to our pressure for a Climate Change Bill, we worked to strengthen it yet further...
  • Together, we can bring change to those trapped in poverty. After over a decade of failed social policy, can there really be any doubt that in recent years it has been ideas from the centre-right, especially with the work done by the Centre for Social Justice under the direction of Iain Duncan Smith, they have set the agenda on tackling poverty and increasing a sense of social responsibility.
  • Together, we can take more power from the political elite, and give it back to men and women on the street. We are committed to giving people more opportunity and power over their lives and moving to a new post-bureaucratic age of devolution from Whitehall to local communities.
  • And - last but by no means least - together, we can help those in poverty around the world."

Tim Montgomerie


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