George Osborne is a “very dangerous man” whose plan for the public finances would result in economic “disaster”, Nick Clegg has warned in one of his strongest attacks yet on the Tory strategy.
In an indication of a potential stumbling block in any post-election negotiation with the Tories, Mr Clegg vowed he would do “everything in my power” to stop Mr Osborne carrying out his plan.
After five years in coalition with the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrat leader said Prime Minister David Cameron was “not too much about grand vision” and acknowledged he could “live with that” but was highly critical of the Tory Chancellor.
He warned that Mr Osborne’s plans for balancing the books, which involve an extra £12 billion of welfare cuts and £13 billion slashed from Whitehall budgets without any tax rises, were “socially and morally unacceptable”.
The strident comments, in an interview with Tony Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell in May’s edition of British GQ, are the latest sign of Mr Clegg’s attempts to condemn what he views as “ideological” cuts planned by the Conservatives.
The Deputy Prime Minister said Mr Cameron was “very much a Tory, and in that tradition he is not too much about grand vision”.
He added: “Cameron would tell you himself, he is a classic traditional shire Tory, and I can live with that. “
But, he continued: “George Osborne is a very dangerous man with a very dangerous plan, and I will do everything in my power to stop it.”
He said the Chancellor’s plans would do “so much damage” and added: “I don’t know of a developed economy that wants to do something as rigidly ideological as he wants to do, to balance the books through public spending reductions alone, not tax, with one section, the working poor, taking the biggest hit.
“I find it socially and morally unacceptable, but also economically a disaster.”
The “dramatic lurch to the right” involved a “harder approach than anything the arch-Thatcherites would do”, he claimed.
Mr Clegg added: “He will destroy public services. They will embark on an ideological shrinking of the state.”
Asked about Ed Miliband, Mr Clegg said he was a “perfectly nice guy, personable, as is David Cameron” but accused the Labour leader of putting short-term party interests ahead of doing the right thing.