Harman uses Clegg's backyard to launch all-out attack on Lib Dems
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Friday 27 April 2012
Labour will today accuse the Liberal Democrats of hypocrisy by opposing at local level spending cuts they have approved inside the Coalition Government.
Harriet Harman, Labour's deputy leader, will travel to Nick Clegg's Sheffield constituency base to launch an all-out attack on the Lib Dems ahead of next Thursday's local elections.
Yesterday Ms Harman told The Independent the Lib Dems were being "duplicitous" by opposing the cuts during their town hall campaign even though they were "complicit" in them by backing the Conservatives' deficit-reduction strategy. Labour singled out Sarah Teather, the Schools minister, for opposing library closures in her Brent Central constituency.
It claimed David Laws, the former Chief Treasury Secretary, defended "tough decisions" nationally, but criticised cuts to bus services, youth services and the budget for carers in his Yeovil seat. In Cornwall, Lib Dems campaigned to "stop the Tories taxing out pasties" even though Mr Clegg approved the Budget, including the "pasty tax".
Some Labour figures had wanted to soften the party's criticism of the Lib Dems in the hope of forging a Lib-Lab coalition if the next general election results in another hung parliament. But Labour has decided to adopt a hardline approach in the hope of gaining as many council seats as possible next week.
The move aims to wreck Mr Clegg's attempt to persuade voters his party has not lost its identity by distancing itself from some of the Government's decisions. Ms Harman said: "The cut in the 50p top rate of tax was not the Lib Dems' idea, but wouldn't have happened without them. They are trying to hoodwink voters and should be held accountable. They're not an alternative to the Tories – they are all in it together."
Labour strategists believe attacking the Lib Dems will bear fruit because in 70 of its top 100 target parliamentary seats, the Lib Dem vote at the 2010 election was bigger than the Tory majority.
Ms Harman said Labour would target its resources in next week's elections in areas where it needs to win parliamentary seats at the next general election to regain power. Top of the list are the East, South West and South East regions of England, where Labour needs to gain 24 seats but has only 10 MPs at present. In contrast, in the North West and West Midlands, Labour needs to make 26 gains but already has 69 MPs.
A Lib Dem spokesman said last night: "Like the economic rescue job needed at a national level, Lib Dem councillors across the country have had to step in and turn around bad financial management from Labour. Lib Dems are prepared to make difficult decisions to get this country back on track, and not hide away from responsibility, but we're also protecting services that matter.
"No Lib Dem council has cut a library or raised council tax. Lib Dem councils are more than twice as likely to give pay rises to low-paid workers compared to Labour – five times more likely than the Conservatives."
The war of words
"Who can you trust to stop the cuts? Not Labour! Labour backs the cuts."
Campaign leaflet in the Schools Minister Sarah Teather's Brent Central constituency
"Lib Dems launch campaign to stop cuts to older people's services"
Report on website of the Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone, about cuts proposed by Haringey Council
"So much for the party of law and order"
Anti-Tory leaflet opposing police cuts in the Eastleigh seat of the former Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne
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