Tonight’s radio programme Nick Clegg: The Liberal who came to power has hit the news-stands for this apparent top line demand of any future coalition with Labour:
There is just no doubt in my mind that if there were a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition, we the Liberal Democrats would absolutely insist that government would not break the bank.
Let’s contrast the following comments by Nick on the Labour Party
I think they’ve changed. I think there’s nothing like the prospect of reality in an election to get politicians to think again and the Labour Party, which is a party unused to sharing power with others, is realising that it might have to.
I think the Conservative Party has changed quite dramatically since we entered into coalition with them.
They’ve become much more ideological. They’ve returned much more to a lot of their familiar theme tunes…
I think it would be best for everybody if the Conservative Party were to rediscover a talent for actually talking to mainstream voters about mainstream concerns.
While Labour are insisting, understandably, that they are seeking an overall majority, there is a real sense of potential rapprochement here between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, and clearer differentiation between Liberal Democrats and Conservatives.
The New Statesman reported last August how Labour front benchers were being encouraged to seek points of agreement with their Lib Dem counterparts, after Andrew Adonis’ criticism of Labour’s unreadiness for coalition negotiations in 2010.
Clearly this is all movement if not yet momentum. Labour doubtless will deny any plans to threaten the economy or be irresponsible with fiscal policy, which creates a definition challenge for the party’s “stronger economy”/”don’t break the bank” red line. The corresponding demand for a fairer society can be clearly defined in opposition to Conservative positions on tax and welfare.
The programme is on Radio 4 at 8pm tonight.
* Joe Otten is a councillor in Sheffield and Tuesday editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.