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In praise of Nick Clegg

By Tim Montgomerie

Earlier this week we learnt that Tory voters like Clegg more than Liberal Democrat voters.

He also enjoys good approval ratings from Tory members. Over two-thirds are satisfied with the Deputy PM. Just 25% are dissatisfied.

Today, over on the Coffee House blog, Fraser Nelson has written in praise of Nick Clegg. The Spectator's Editor highlights four particular things:

  • Welfare reform: His unlikely alliance with Iain Duncan Smith in favour of welfare reform. Like the former Tory leader, Mr Clegg thinks the fiscal crisis should be used to produce a better, incentives-based welfare system, not just a cheaper welfare system. In this week's Times (£) he wrote:
"Welfare needs to become an engine of mobility, changing people’s lives for the better, rather than a giant cheque written by the State to compensate the poor for their predicament... We will be simplifying the current Byzantine benefits system and providing real incentives for people to move off benefits and into work. We are not willing to simply cut back a failed welfare system — it needs root-and-branch reform."
  • Schools reform: His support for Michael Gove's schools reform agenda. Or, as Fraser calls it, "the Clegg/ Baker/ Adonis/ Gove/ Swedish/ Obama schools agenda".
  • Social mobility agenda: His overall social mobility agenda (set out in this speech) - the key components of which being welfare and schools reform.
  • Redistribution can't beat poverty: His brilliant attack on the IFS way of assessing a budget's progressive quality. The IFS model is obsessed with redistribution. Clegg told FT readers that fighting poverty involved much more than moving some people from just below an artificial income line to just above it. [I have argued that the narrative of the Coalition should be based very simply on family, work and education]. 

Clegg certainly impresses on all of these fronts and at LibDem conference today he will have added to his reputation amongst Conservatives by making a moral case for both deficit reduction and welfare reform:

So, other than his enthusiasm for all things EU... his support for a softer prisons policy... his opposition to reform of the Human Rights Act... his relaxed approach to immigration controls... his electoral reform agenda... his opposition to Cameron's marriage policy... his position on nuclear power... his opposition to full Trident renewal... his support for the 50p tax on entrepreneurs... his willingness to subcontract the UK right of self-defence policy to the UN... opposition to grammar schools... belief in radical action on climate change... and his defence of the BBC... we can all agree Clegg is great!


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