Clegg says Conservatives are ‘kidding’ themselves on cuts

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CONSERVATIVES are kidding themselves and the voters over the “huge” scale of cuts they would impose if they win the general election, Nick Clegg has said.

The Deputy Prime Minister hit back at Tory claims that the Liberal Democrats would wreak “economic chaos” in a future government, and told his coalition partners to “come clean”.

Mr Clegg dodged questions over whether he would back a VAT hike if he was returned to power and claimed the Conservatives “constantly” tell him privately that they support his plans for a mansion tax.

He said: “It’s extraordinary, actually, that Conservatives, particularly since they constantly tell me privately that that’s a good idea ... constantly reject it in public.

“I just think the Conservatives are kidding themselves and seeking to kid British voters if they are claiming that it is possible to balance the books, deliver unfunded tax cuts, shrink the state and support public services in the way that everybody wants,” he added. “It just doesn’t add up.”

The Deputy Prime Minister was accused of trying to distance himself from the Autumn Statement earlier this week after failing to show up for the set-piece Commons event, but has insisted he fully supported the measures that had been announced.

He warned, however, that a future Conservative government would “remorselessly” pare back the state every year, hitting public services and the working age poor “very hard”.

Mr Clegg added: “I do think the Conservatives now need to come clean because they are not being straightforward with people. How many colleges will be closed, how many primary schools will be closed, how many police will be taken off our streets, how many people who are in the working age poor will be hit by these plans?”

It comes after George Osborne launched an outspoken attack on his Lib Dem colleagues and claimed that Mr Clegg wants to mete out “hefty” income tax and national insurance increases to avoid further significant cuts to public spending.

The Chancellor insisted the junior coalition party’s plans for a mansion tax would do little to balance the books and they would have to use other hikes to make up the shortfall.

“It’s hard to work out exactly what they (the Lib Dems) think,” Mr Osborne said. “While they sign up to deficit reduction, they want more tax rises rather than spending cuts.”