It seems Nick Clegg has set his heart on being the new face of uncaring nastiness. In advance of the LibDem conference next week he has said, according to the Guardian:
Welfare should not be there "to compensate the poor for their predicament" but act as "an engine of mobility".
"A fair society is not one in which money is simply transferred by the central state from one group to another”
"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.”
"Instead of turning the system from a 'safety net' into a 'trampoline', as Labour promised, people have been stuck on benefits, year in, year out."
A fair society, he wrote, was "one in which people are able to make a better life for themselves, with support from government and the broader community".
This is extraordinary.
Has Clegg not noticed that the disparity between those seeking work and the number of jobs available exceeds more than 2 million people right now?
Has Clegg no faith in the power of community – and the local – where people live their lives – and that most people have no desire to be mobile and cannot flourish if they do?
Has Clegg not noticed that the misfortune of poverty is in no small part randomly allocated – and few choose it?
Has he not noticed that the vast majority do not choose poverty – it is inflicted upon them?
Does he really believe that one of the richest economies in the world has no duty to redistribute wealth because the market always reallocates it upwards – so breaking down the cohesion that is essential in society?
Does Clegg really think the sole role of the state is to force people into any work the market offers – right or wrong?
It seems the answer to all these questions is yes?
This is the nastiness of the Orange Book liberals – the nastiness I encountered when engaging with Giles Wilkes of Lib Dem think tank Centre Forum before he became a ministerial special adviser (and no doubt, inspiration for such sentiments of Clegg’s). This is the Manchester School of liberal thinking:
The general term "Manchester School" has been used to refer to radical liberalism/libertarianism in economic policy: laissez-faire, free trade, government withdrawal from the economy, and an optimistic stress on the "harmonious" effects of free enterprise capitalism. As a result, the school's nature is largely "political" rather than purely "economic".
And this is and always has been nasty in its social impacts – where the optimism fails and exploitation begins, and none of which if far removed from the American Tea Party movement.
No wonder the Lib Dems are floundering in the polls.
No wonder the rump of the SDP within it – Mike Hancock, Charles Kennedy, Bob Russell is looking ever more likely to defect to Labour.
And no wonder more and more will turn against this government when they see their friends and families cats into poverty by attitudes like this – attitudes so far removed from the realities needed to address the economic crisis we have – and which the ConDems will make worse.