Clegg: ‘Nothing’s possible’ with no money left

By Alex Stevenson

Nick Clegg admitted his frustrations with the coalition’s spending constraints in an uncompromising deputy prime minister’s questions.

Labour MPs attacked the Liberal Democrat leader’s work ethic, asked how Lib Dems would cope if right-to-recall plans were extended to cover their “broken promises” and asked: “What is the point of Nick Clegg?”

Mr Clegg appeared at his most riled when pressed on police cuts, which the government has struggled to avoid admitting will result in reductions in the overall number of police officers.

“Nothing is possible when there’s no money,” Mr Clegg said.

He was citing the now infamous comment of the Labour government’s final chief secretary to the Treasury, Liam Byrne, whose note to his coalition successor frankly admitted that “there’s no money left”.

“You can’t provide for our schools, you can’t provide for our hospitals, you can’t provide for our policy forces when there’s no money,” Mr Clegg added.

Sketch: Nick Clegg needs a holiday

The deputy prime minister blamed Labour for increasing Britain’s interest payments serving the national debt, which has increased as a result of the large structural deficit.

He added: “At the same time we need to reform policing to make sure officers are spending as much time as possible out on the streets rather than behind their desks.”

Mr Clegg attracted negative headlines over the weekend after going on holiday skiing while the prime minister was in the Middle East.

He was forced to return on Friday morning for a national security council meeting.

Labour’s Kelvin Hopkins, raising the deputy prime minister’s break “skiing in the Alps”, asked: “Does this mean the prime minister prefers the foreign secretary rather than the deputy prime minister to mind the shop?”

Mr Clegg replied: “I spent just short of two working days away last week and as soon as it was obvious [the situation was deteriorating]… I returned.”