One of the main political attack lines from the deputy prime minister’s speech to the Liberal Democrat conference earlier this week had a familiar ring.
When Nick Clegg told his delegates that Ed Miliband and Ed Balls were “Gordon Brown’s backroom boys” it echoed a line field-tested back on January 26th by David Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions when he described the Labour leader and shadow chancellor as “Gordon Brown’s two henchmen”.
In this age of austerity it seems ministers are reduced to recycling political rhetoric.
It may, of course, be a coincidental reference, but for the Daily Telegraph’s Will Heaven Clegg’s attack on Labour’s leaders, while having almost no words of criticism for the Tories, signals “a change in Lib Dem rhetoric towards Labour”.
“Indeed, a real personal loathing for Ed Miliband and Ed Balls… came through.”
It certainly hints at a degree of co-operation around anti-Labour messaging between Cameron and Clegg, sounding alarm bells among more progressive Lib Dems that their leader is becoming too closely associated with the Conservatives – and content to now start burning bridges with Labour.
For Lib Dem President Tim Farron, the coalition marriage should end in divorce in time for the next election. However this will prove difficult while his leader’s Darby and Joan routine with the Prime Minister now stretches to interchangeable his and hers political rhetoric.
• Clegg’s speech: Long on dramatic pauses, short on facts – Daniel Elton, September 21st 2011
• Clegg attacks Labour/union link – but keeps schtum on Tory/City links – Shamik Das, September 21st 2011
• Clegg talks the talk on equality – but seat cull will make things worse – Shamik Das, September 19th 2011
• Clegg’s using the same rhetoric to justify fees rise as he used to oppose it – Aaron Porter, February 4th 2011
• Harris warns Clegg on fairness rhetoric – Will Straw, September 19th 2010