It is the Greeks' fault and Gordon Brown's fault that the Liberal Democrats said one thing about public spending cuts before the election but are doing something different now that they are in power – or so it was implied when Nick Clegg explained his party's apparent volte-face yesterday.
Before the election, the Liberal Democrats had warned against Conservative plans to make immediate drastic cuts to public spending, saying that they risked worsening the country's economic problems.
But, having signed a coalition deal, Liberal Democrat ministers are now working on implementing the very cuts that they once warned against. Nick Clegg was challenged on BBC's Andrew Marr programme yesterday to explain the seeming contradiction. He replied that, on taking office, they had discovered that the problem was more urgent than they had realised.
"I don't think anybody could have predicted – and the Governor of the Bank of England said no one could have predicted – that the situation in Greece would have this knock-on effect, which has created immense anxiety on our European doorstep," he said.
"What has become obvious is that the outgoing Labour government was just throwing around money like there's no tomorrow, probably knowing that they were going to lose the election. So not only are we are going to have to deal with cuts, we're also going to have to deal with some of the pledges which the Government made in the past, which they didn't even provide budgets for."
In their election manifesto, the Liberal Democrats warned: "If spending is cut too soon, it would undermine the much-needed recovery. We will base the timing of cuts on an objective assessment of economic conditions, not political dogma. Our working assumption is that the economy will be in a stable enough condition to bear cuts from the beginning of 2011-12".