Political Promise

Killing with kindness in ‘Alarm Clock Britain’

In Garry Lee on January 18, 2011 at 7:34 pm


Garry Lee examined Clegg’s speech on parenting hot off the press and looks at its wider implications

Nick Clegg’s dramatic fall from favour with the British public was marked with accusations from the likes of the former Conservative Cabinet Minister John Redwood that the Liberal Democrats were trying to take credit for all of the ‘nice’ policies put forward by the government. In an interview with the Telegraph in December 2010, Redwood outlined a number of policies – including the pupil premium and a lowering of income tax for the less well-off in society – in which Clegg’s party were claiming as their own, or at least failing to identify as Coalition policy.

Clegg’s speech today (17/1/11) on parenting highlighted their pledge to a “universal right to request flexible working” for mothers and fathers as a way of eliminating the perceived shame of requesting it. He described the current system where mothers are able to have six months maternity leave and fathers are only allowed to have two weeks paternity leave as “an Edwardian system that has no place in 21st Century Britain”. He expressed his desire for a new system where if mothers decide to return to work earlier than anticipated, that fathers would be entitled to use the remaining time off as a way of eliminating the current system’s gender stigmatization. Possibly taking on board the criticisms of John Redwood, Nick Clegg paid tribute to Harriet Harman and credited her with the idea during the last Government.

However, the proposed system is so far only a proposed one that currently has no real policy substance behind it. Instead, a number of guidelines for the system were outlined. The government hoped that: it would not undermine the current women’s right to maternity leave; it would allow fathers to have better opportunities in this area; it would be possible for mothers and fathers to split up the pregnancy leave time in a way that suited them; and finally, that the system must be easy to implement and that employer’s needs are taken into account. This system is set to come into place in 2015 due to the fact that it would be “wholly irresponsible to rush these changes” according to Nick Clegg. Call me a cynic, but since the last possible date for the next general election would be on the 11th of June 2015, it seems rather convenient to implement a policy in that year that is unlikely to prove unpopular with prospective voters, and at the same time gives the impression to the public that the current government are thinking of longer-term solutions. It also suggests that if the coalition government is not re-elected, that they will not have to deal with the immediate repercussions if the system ultimately fails.

With his mention of the new simplified Universal Credit, the increase in Child Tax Credit, the lowering of income tax for those on low wages, the Pupil Premium and the increase in health visitors; it is clear that Nick Clegg’s speech today was targeted at purely the members of society that he considers part of ‘Alarm Clock Britain’. These are, of course, the people and families that go out and work hard every day and do “not have to rely on the state”. It’s really the same rhetoric of fairness that we’ve come to expect. Of course, since his pledge to vote against any further increases to tuition fees, everything Nick Clegg says is suspect. While his language has changed in speeches so that he references the ideas outlined today as being of the government, the Chancellor and Harriet Harman, it is clear that he is still taking every opportunity to make those important speeches that champion civil liberty, and give new opportunities and prospects to our future children. While his character has taken a bashing recently, it seems that he is taking every possible opening to try and kill the bad press with kindness

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  1. […] With his mention of the new simplified Universal Credit, the increase in Child Tax Credit, the lowering of income tax for those on low wages, the Pupil Premium and the increase in health visitors; it is clear that Nick Clegg’s speech today was targeted at purely the members of society that he considers part of ‘Alarm Clock Britain’. These are, of course, the people and families that go out and work hard every day and do “not have to rely on the state”. It’s really the same rhetoric of fairness that we’ve come to expect. Of course, since his pledge to vote against any further increases to tuition fees, everything Nick Clegg says is suspect. While his language has changed in speeches so that he references the ideas outlined today as being of the government, the Chancellor and Harriet Harman, it is clear that he is still taking every opportunity to make those important speeches that champion civil liberty, and give new opportunities and prospects to our future children. While his character has taken a bashing recently, it seems that he is taking every possible opening to try and kill the bad press with kindness. Link to publication at Political Promise: click here. […]

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