Britain has “no God given right” to a decent standard of living and faces a “moment of reckoning” amid the rise of Asian economies, a Home Office Minister said yesterday.
Liberal Democrat Jeremy Browne made the warning as he launched a defence of his party’s performance amid consistently low poll ratings and claims from pundits that it would endure significant losses at the next election.
He insisted the Lib Dems were making a “huge contribution” to getting Britain back on its feet and were “doing the right thing” by power sharing with the Tories.
Mr Browne admitted the party had gone into the 2010 election with some policies that lacked rigour and conceded government had proved a “growing up process”.
“When we came to office we had a bigger deficit than Greece,” he said. “We have no God-given right in this country to have a decent prosperous standard of living. We have to earn it.”
“This is a real moment of reckoning for, not just our country, but countries right across Europe especially as countries in Asia rise in importance. Some countries will make that transition successfully and will be viable strong economies in society in the middle of this century and some won’t. And the question for politicians in this era is what did you do about it in 2012 and 2013 to get our country back on its feet again and to make us fit for the generations ahead and I think we are making a huge contribution.”
Peter Kellner, president of the YouGov polling firm, said party leader Nick Clegg was a “toxic brand” and predicted the party would lose “quite a lot of seats”.
“I find it hard to see how the Liberal Democrats could recover with him leading the party into next election,” he said.
Mr Browne dismissed polling data as similar to football predictions and insisted they were often wrong.
He added: “He (Mr Clegg) was right to recognise that he had made, and the party had made, an unrealistic pledge and the party has undergone a big transformation.
“If you are a party in opposition you get used to being oppositionist.”
He added: “We had been in opposition prior to 2010 for 70 or 80 years so it is not surprising you become used to the lack of rigour that opposition entails.
“We came into government in 2010 I think with some policy proposals which weren’t going to survive the rigours of being in government or being in coalition government.
“But I acknowledge, and Nick Clegg has acknowledged, it’s a learning process, it’s a growing up process for the Lib Dems. But I actually much prefer us to be in government doing what we need to do to get our country back on its feet again than winning superficial popularity on the sidelines carping about the people who are actually trying to do the right thing for our country.”
Sir Nick Harvey, who lost his job as defence Minister in the last reshuffle, criticised Mr Clegg for leaving the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office without any Lib Dems. He said: “Nick Clegg decided, and it’s his prerogative to do so, that he thought there was a greater benefit in the Liberal Democrats taking places in Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and Dfid (Department for International Development) and this isn’t a judgment I share.
“I think we should still be in defence and the Foreign Office. We may live to regret coming out of both of them.”
The comments came as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg promised in a new year his party will continue to “anchor” the coalition Government in the political centre ground in 2013.