DEPUTY Prime Minister Nick Clegg, in Sheffield to face Star readers, has slammed the “cynical scaremongering” of the Labour Party over opposition to the cuts, writes digital editor Graham Walker.
He claimed difficult decisions had been necessary to build a fairer, prosperous, better Britain.
The Lib Dem leader and Sheffield Hallam MP was speaking ahead of of a Meet Nick Clegg event organised by The Star for readers to quiz the under-fire politician in his first major debate.
In the first of a series of question and answer sessions which he plans to stage around the country, he came home to face 130 Star readers at Pond’s Forge, chaired by Jeremy Clifford from The Star.
Mr Clegg, who has borne the brunt of criticism of the coalition government, answered questions about public spending cuts, his controversial decision to back a rise in student tuition fees, after signing a pledge opposing such an increase prior to the election, about jobs creation and his bid for an Alternative Vote electoral system.
He admitted his first nine months in power had been a challenging one.
See The Star on Tuesday for a full report, photos, reaction and more.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch our full interview with Nick Clegg ahead of our question and answer session.
He told The Star: “There’s been an absurd amount of scaremongering - which I think is really cynical, particularly from the Labour Party, claiming the world is going to end as we know it, the streets are not going to be cleaned, our children are not going to be taught in schools. David Blunkett claiming we’re going to go back to a post-Soviet era when everyone has to fend for themselves. And that really is very unfair on Sheffielders to make people that frightened.
“Yes there are difficult decisions we are having to take. But even after we’ve made all these difficult cuts, we are still going to be employing 200,000 more people in the public sector as a Government, by the end of this parliament, than Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were back in 1997.
“So I also would like to give a sense of perspective over what we are trying to do.
“It’s been very difficult but I don’t think anyone should go into politics if they are going to retreat at the first sign of trouble.
“Clearly, anyone who is in power now, whether it’s Conservatives, Liberal Democrats of Labour, it doesn’t matter which politician of which party would have to do very difficult and unpopular things, because we have this great big black hole in our public finances which at some point we have to deal with.
“So I think any government was going be in a controversial position and I always went into it with my eyes open.
“But at the end of the day it’s genuinely not about me, it’s about can we get through this as a country and then create a fairer, prosperous, better Britain out the end of it and I think we can.”