Clegg: refusing to discuss the euro is a “failure of political leadership”

by Stephen Tall on January 21, 2009

Cast your minds back to the Lib Dem conference, and you may recall a coordinated drive by Nick Clegg, Vince Cable and Chris Huhne to signal that the Lib Dems’ attachment to the Euro was no longer a top priority. Nick said the party needed to recognise that the debate had been “neutered”, while Chris declared:

The truth is, within the British debate, it’s completely off the radar and there is simply no point in regarding it as a runner worth investing political time in.”

Their stance was welcomed by significant majorities in both LDV’s online poll of readers, and our exclusive party members’ survey.

But, as President Obama commented just yesterday, “the world has changed, and we must change with it.” For today, in the wake of the financial crisis, the party is signalling a new tune, trailed by Nick Clegg in today’s Financial Times in which he argues that the refusal of politicians to discuss the Euro is a “failure of political leadership”:

“The strict rules attached to the euro could emerge as one of the best ways to persuade the markets that we will put Humpty Dumpty back together again, put the public finances in order. The euro is no magic wand, the eurozone is not immune, but it is irresponsible not to appreciate the new vulnerabilities to the British economy, which are huge, which are immense. “People will be asking themselves questions about the footloose, fancy-free world of City banking, but also whether it is right for the UK to be in quite such an overexposed environment where the currency is bobbing up and down violently.”

Two other significant statements from Nick to note:

1) his strongest attack yet on the excesses of the City:

… Mr Clegg slammed the “shameful elevation of greed and corporate overreach”, with chief executives hypnotised by the “vain belief that size matters. It makes you livid, it beggars belief that the one industry that is supposed to count your money in and out cannot say how much money it has lost.” … He accuses governments since the 1980s of being “abject in their obsequious desire to do what the City needed”. Pandering to these vested interest, he says, created a flawed economic strategy that “made the rest of the British economy wholly subservient to the gravity-defying, golden-egg laying potential of the City”

2) the declaration that he is hungry for power “under almost any circumstances”

Any deal with a larger party would focus on implementing core Lib Dem policies, which Mr Clegg said he would identify over the next months. These could include cutting taxes for low and middle-income families, ambitious green policies, better childcare, further education reform, opposition to identity cards, and internationalist policies. “I’m hungry for power,” he said. “I would be delighted to have the opportunity under almost any circumstances to make sure those policies and changes occur in Britain.”