Nick Clegg, coalitions and the SNP: too much egg in the pudding?

Nick Clegg has been talking about how the Liberal Democrats will not be part of a coalition which has to rely on the support of the SNP or UKIP.

He outlined his position in an email to members this afternoon:

You’ll see in the news today some comments I made about us not entering into a post-election coalition that relies on life support from the SNP or UKIP.

Over the next 12 days the media are going to become more and more obsessed with who is prepared to do a deal with who. This only goes to underline what we all know – nobody is going to win this election – which makes the number of seats we win even more important.

As we have always said, the party with the most votes and the most seats in this election has the first right to seek to form a Government. The British people would rightly question the legitimacy of a coalition that didn’t allow the party with the largest number of seats and votes the opportunity to attempt to form a Government first.

I’m proud that the Liberal Democrats have proved we can form a strong and stable coalition government, able to bring prosperity to Britain.

Just like we would not put UKIP in charge of Europe, we are not going to put the SNP in charge of Britain – a country they want to rip apart.

We’re a democratic party. In the end, the decision to form a coalition rests not with the leader but with the party.

So let’s not get too distracted – I’m going to spend the next 12 days supporting our candidates and making sure we win as many seats as possible. I know you will as well.

If you’re not already helping a target seat, why not sign up to make some phone calls from home this week and help get out our vote? Every call you make will help one of our fantastic candidates.

Thank you for everything you’ve already done, and everything you’re going to do in the next 12 days.

Nick

The fact that he’s done such an email to members shows that he realises that this will be a controversial stance. Aren’t we, after all, the party that believes in coalition and if we’re doing politics differently, should we not reject the binary “one big party/one little party approach. Should we not be championing a more inclusive, pluralist approach, after all?

The reality of our situation is that many of our closest fights are with the Conservatives. This makes me wonder if the ridiculously hyperbolic anti SNP adverts used by the Conservatives are starting to have an impact and this is why Nick has moved to explicitly rule out Liberal Democrat involvement in such a scenario.

I would have preferred to have kept the heat on the SNP. Back in February, when Vince went off-message and said that of course we’d talk to the SNP, Willie Rennie swiftly ruled that out. While I understood the approach – when your 11 MPs are defending against the SNP, you can’t say it’s us or the SNP then put them in power – I doubted whether it was the most helpful course of action:

Everything the SNP does has the aim of securing independence. Why on earth would they take part in a progressive coalition that might deliver good things across the UK? They’ve shown by making Trident their red line that they have no interest in in doing so and would walk away if they didn’t get it. I say let them. If they want to explain to the majority in Scotland who opposed independence why they inflicted a Tory/UKIP coalition on us, then we should let them. We shouldn’t do it for them.

Labour have so far been non-committal on the issue of SNP coalition. Ed Balls apparently wants to rule it out. (Can their front bench not agree on anything?). If we and Labour rule it out, it gives the SNP a get out. They can portray us as a unionist cabal trying to cut them out, playing the victim as they do so well. That would give them an advantage and diminish their culpability. Let them make the decision.

Nick also talked about talking to the largest party in terms of seats and votes first. If those parties are one and the same, then that’s clear. If they’re not, then where do we start? Our system of government is based on forming a majority in the House of Commons. Being able to do that gives it legitimacy, not popular vote. A lot of people have taken Nick’s comments to mean that he’s ruling out coalition with Labour and leaning towards coalition with the Tories. That is bound to make many in the party feel very uneasy.

I don’t think that he is doing that, though. He deliberately didn’t name parties.  Unfortunately, though, the conditions he’s laid could rule us out of government at all. If no two parties working together can form a majority, someone is going to have to rely on either UKIP or the SNP. That leaves us on the opposition benches. What do we do then? To complicate matters, If the Conservatives form even a minority government, without UKIP, their right wingers will be trying to extract as much revenge for the last five years when they’ve been out in the wilderness as possible.

Nick’s email did at least acknowledge that the decision about whether to go into a coalition if one were viable was not his. It is up to the party to decide in a process which could be messy for us.

The outcome of this election will present many challenges. It’s certainly unpredictable. It just worries me that we have rather too many hostages to fortune. We’ve ruled an awful lot out before we even get to any negotiating table. The SNP have ruled out putting a Tory government in office which  takes away a fair bit of their leverage. We need to be careful to make sure we have options too. I just wonder if Nick might have over-egged the pudding. He may have had good reason to do so, but the effect might be to see us with reduced influence unless we are there in numbers nobody really expects.

We know that people of all political persuasions are not averse to the Lib Dems being in coalition again. It’s our job in the next twelve days to get them to vote for us. The most important thing is that we have sufficient numbers of bums on seats on 8th May to increase our influence.

We need to make sure that we talk about what we can offer and not spend the rest of the campaign obsessing about post-election processes. The best way to make that impact is for as many people as possible to get to our key seats and talk to voters. When are you going?

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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69 Comments

  • Clegg has backtracked from his FT interview in which he ruled out participating in any “arrangement” which involved the SNP. Presumably he has realised the damage he was doing by revealing his preference for the Tories.

  • Bill le Breton 25th Apr '15 - 9:27pm

    Caron, your analysis seems spot on.

    One imagines that the phones have been hot following the publication of the FT interview. it was a huge mistake.

    Huge damage is being done by that SNP scare campaign. It s impact is so reminiscent of the Tax Bombshell campaign of 1991/2.

    You do not win hearts by emphasizing process.

  • stuart moran 25th Apr '15 - 9:31pm

    The SNP have ruled out a deal with the Tories because their main focus is Holyrood 2016 – any deal, or even discussions, with the Tories would probably be catastrophic for them, especially if Scottish Labour get back some of their confidence

    The Lib Dems have a real perception problem, Every pundit and all the media lumps them with the Tories – there is very little talk of Labour/Lib Dem. Looking at the manifestos I am amazed at that but there you go!

    What would need to be said in order to make even the slightest difference would be for Clegg to say supporting a Labour Government would definitely be a possibility and actually give some of the reasoning for it.

    He is not showing any inclination to do this, thus is not being any help to your party and, as a consequence, he shouldn’t be the leader….but he won’t, he isn’t and he is so you will just have to deal with the consequences on May 8th and be prepared for a lot of ‘we told you so’ comments

  • This is a very sensible and rational article, thank you. I was starting to worry that the Lib Dems might be turning away from plural politics but this article is the kind of thing I would expect for ‘grown-up politics’.

  • He’s going to have to retreat further on that one. A lot of people are seeing a minority Labour government with some measure of SNP support. Clegg can sell a Lib Dem involvement there having a notable and effective influence; or he can see a lot of leftward-leaning Lib Dem voters stay at home next week.

  • I have to disagree with Caron on this one. For me the single most important thing in this Election & the struggles that will follow it is keeping the UK together. Both UKIP & the SNP want to break up The UK & big sections of both Labour & Conservatives see that breakup as a “price woth paying”. We have to be clear that their will be no deals, no “arrangements” with either UKIP or the SNP. Maybe its too late to save The UK but we have to keep hoping & fighting.

  • paul barker 25th Apr ’15 – 10:04pm
    “I have to disagree with Caron on this one. For me the single most important thing in this Election & the struggles that will follow it is keeping the UK together. Both UKIP & the SNP want to break up The UK & big sections of both Labour & Conservatives see that breakup as a “price woth paying”. We have to be clear that their will be no deals, no “arrangements” with either UKIP or the SNP. Maybe its too late to save The UK but we have to keep hoping & fighting.”

    First of all, even if the smaller parties want to ‘break up ‘ the UK, how are they going to do that with so few MPs when Labour and the Tories and the Lib Dems would join together to vote against any such thing? The people of Scotland have already spoken in the Referendum so there is no democratic way the SNP could break the UK apart.

    Secondly and on a wider point, surely we should work with smaller parties to ensure all views are represented? That doesn’t mean that everything they want is agreed to, but it does mean that many good things can come out of a government where parties have to take different views into consideration – for instance on the environment. For far too long in the past we have had governments with huge majorities telling us ‘ There is no alternative’ to the way that they want to do things. And because the ruling party is often so powerful, nothing can be done to stop them persuing ideologies which are damaging to the country. If you actually listen to Nicola Sturgeon, I find that most of the things she says are in sync with what many Lib Dems believe.

  • Alisdair McGregor 25th Apr '15 - 10:30pm

    I wish he’d added “or the DUP”.

  • I am sure many people will have seen articles by David Steel and Vernon Bogdanor that have been published today. The former Liberal Leader writes: ‘Casting Nicola Sturgeon’s party as a political bogeyman is nonsensical and politically illiterate’. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/25/why-tories-paranoid-about-snp

    Bognador , arguably Britain’s leading Constitutional expert, http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/apr/25/nick-clegg-claims-absurd-second-place-coalition
    demolishes Clegg’s assertion.

    Not surprisingly the journalists have interpreted Clegg’s statement as a manoeuvre to rule out a centre left government. David Steel points out that there are greater dangers from a right wing anti European government.

  • Denis Mollison 25th Apr '15 - 11:14pm

    @Paul Barker
    The way to “fight for the UK’s future” is to have a conversation, ideally within a constitutional convention, on how we all want to be governed. If Westminster can be democratised (PR for the Commons, abolition/reform of Lords) and a stable Home Rule / Federal constitution agreed the UK has a future; if not, not.
    Any such process has to be inclusive, and that means including the SNP. They have implied that that is their present agenda, and I can’t see why they wouldn’t take a positive part;. Their belief, which may be correct, is that a proper Home Rule settlement will eventually lead to independence, as it did for various Canada and Australia.

    But ostracising the SNP will just push Scotland faster towards independence.

  • If you believe in a truly proportional system (and I would guess most on this forum do) then you also need to accept it has a greater chance of leading to multi party coalition then FPTP. This makes the stance Clegg is appearing to take pretty strange. I would also feel, although Caron would know a lot better, that appearing to rule out an anti Tory agreement may harm Scottish Lib Dems, many of whom seem on the back foot already.

    Surely if Labour are needing SNP votes, being at the heart of the negotiations and attempting to curb both of their authoritarian approaches would be at least an option worth consideration?

  • Stephen Hesketh 25th Apr '15 - 11:31pm

    IainBB 25th Apr ’15 – 10:53pm

    Iain, thank you for the links to these two interesting articles. Very informative!

  • I entirely agree with Denis, above. We need to work -with- the SNP to find a form of UK that works in a stable, long-term manner.

    I’m a democrat and a liberal long before I’m a unionist. Either we can find an arrangement that means a significant majority of Scottish people are happy, in the long term, to be part of Britain, and believe that they are represented in it, or we can’t.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 25th Apr '15 - 11:37pm

    Phyllis,

    I have a lot of time for Nicola Sturgeon, but let’s not look at her party with rose tinted spectacles. They are about as illiberal and authoritarian as they come. We can work with them, but there are massive differences in values. The fact that they don’t get civil liberties is the biggest for me.

  • Nick Clegg cannot predict which party will have most seats nor even which will have most votes so there cannot be much of an assumption that he prefers one party over another. He is, however, erecting impediments to forming a coalition; but basically he is pouring cold water over Lib Dem involvement in a coalition that cannot muster a commons majority.

    My conclusion is that he is preparing the ground for walking away from any coalition that lacks a majority, leaving one or the other main parties to form a minority government. The likely course would be for Lib Dems to abstain on the Queen’s speech

  • “You’ll see in the news today some comments I made about us not entering into a post-election coalition that relies on life support from the SNP or UKIP.”

    Typically “balanced” statement from Clegg.

    Hey, if the Tories insist on allying with the 2-3 MPs from UKIP, then they won’t get support from the 20-30 MPs from the Lib Dems. Tough decision, eh Dave?

    Hey, Red Ed, if you Labourites insist that you won’t mind 50 MPs from the SNP giving you their support, then they won’t get support from the 20-30 MPs from the Lib Dems. Tough decision, eh, Red Ed?

    Just to spell this out, Red Ed, you’ve got about 280 Labour MPs, you need 325 votes of confidence to become our next PM, and I’m telling you that you can’t have the 20-30 votes from the Lib Dems if you accept 50 votes from the SNP. Let’s be clear about this, even if you won’t talk to the SNP and won’t concede anything to them, you still won’t get support from my Lib Dems, unless you have insisted that the SNP b*gger off and are not allowed to vote in your favour. No, I don’t know how you can stop them doing it – That’s your problem. I’m just giving it to you straight. I’m happy to join a coalition with you, it’s just that I’ve got these insurmountable criteria I have to insist you comply with before I can do so. So get on with it, Red Ed, or I’ll slag you off to kingdom come.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Apr '15 - 12:35am

    He probably over egged the pudding by accident by using the word “arrangements”. Perhaps he should have said no to coalition or confidence and supply with the SNP.

    I know some say that we should work with whoever Scotland elects, but no one has a right to go into coalition. If all else fails a minority government will be fine. I don’t really buy the idea that there will be problems with the Lords – we could just do another Asquith/Lloyd George if we had too many problems in that department.

  • The problem — in constitutional terms — is not Nick Clegg showing a greater appetite for a Tory-led government than a Labour-led one, but in seeming to say that he would use the Liberal Democrats at Westminster to block the formation of any possible government and force a new election, if he couldn’t get a rerun of the current coalition. That is both irresponsible in general, and directly contrary to the stance he (and the Party as a whole) took at the time of the 2010 elections, when “stability” and “order” (and “no new elections”) were the watchwords of the day. Doing so makes it look like his 2010 position wasn’t so much the application of rigorous principles as a puppet show with a predetermined outcome.

    However, I doubt that Clegg will be in any position to direct the course of the Liberal Democrats from the eighth of May onward.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Apr '15 - 12:47am

    OK David I am not a historian :D. I just meant flood the Lords with liberals if we can’t get our way! 😀

  • Bill le Breton,

    “Huge damage is being done by that SNP scare campaign. Its impact is so reminiscent of the Tax Bombshell campaign of 1991/2. You do not win hearts by emphasizing process.”

    But the Tax Bombshell campaign, howver crass, won the elction for the Tories.

    The SNP scare campaign is also well on the way toward stealing this election for the Tories, because Miliband’s team have not recognised the need to counter it. As intellectuals, Miliband and company are all too dismissive of crude populism. Just because it is factually erroneous doesn’t mean it won’t win voters.

    So Bill, I don’t think I agree with your point – Unless your point was that it is only the Tories who will gain from the scaremongering, and not the Lib Dems. If that was your point, then I do agree!

  • Caron,

    “They are about as illiberal and authoritarian as they come.” Really?

    The Liberal Democrats do not own liberalism and from what I have read on this site over the past few years I don’t think many of you fully understand it. Those who differ from the Liberal Democrats cannot be dismissed as authoritarian or illiberal. So could you elaborate on this authoritarian behaviour and give some examples of their illiberal doings. Bear in mind that this will have to compare with the extremes of such behaviour in order to reach your quantification of “as they come”, so I’m thinking section 28 or internment or some such like.

  • I have to say (and I say this as someone who is not a Clegg hater), this was one of Clegg’s clankers and it was a big one.

    Clegg has been positioning the Lib Dem’s whole national level campaign around ‘Lib Dems getting back into Government’ (a questionable strategy in of itself), so to then basically say that he would not form an agreement with Labour on the most likely position for Labour after the election is completely irrational.

    Ignoring the spurious grounds (we worked with the EU hating Tories, I think the Scottish Nationals would not be our worst nightmare anymore), the big problem with this is that it basically makes it far to easy to paint the Lib Dems as ‘really’ wanting another Tory led coalition, meaning many tactical voters who do not want the Tories are further alienated from us.

    Clegg may try to balance with the Ukip point, but that is a twisted comparison because Ukip will not get anywhere near as many seats as the SNP in all likeliness.

    Finally, the simple fact is that the Tories are history, even with ‘Just call me Dave’ as their leader and Lord Ashcroft’s money and 15 years of Labour and the economic crash and everything, they could not win the election; however, the Lib Dems are the only rats deciding to jump on to their sinking ship, rather than off it.

  • Sorry, that should read:

    ational level campaign around ‘Lib Dems getting back into a Coalition Government’

  • Nick Clegg led for the government in getting the Fixed Term Parliaments Act passed, so it seems idiotic to me for him to question the legitimacy of a government formed that excludes the largest party as the act makes this a legitimate possibility. He really should know that the largest party doesn’t always form the government when it doesn’t command a majority in the House of Commons.

    He should have been less specific as he recognises it is not his decision. He could just have ruled out a coalition with the SNP and UKIP.

    Does this mean he will recommend that the party reject a deal (any arrangements) with Labour that has to involve some support from the SNP? (It seems clear from the Federal Constitution that any support for a government has to be agreed by a two-third vote of Federal Conference.) And if the party then agreed it would he resign?

    @ Paul Barker

    The biggest threat to the unity of the UK is a Conservative government that holds an EU referendum.

  • “Nick Clegg has been talking about how the Liberal Democrats will not be part of a coalition which has to rely on the support of the SNP or UKIP.”

    Bad start, since that isn’t what Clegg said. He ruled out any sort of arrangement, which could mean several things that are not a coalition.

    Clegg’s email gives the distinct impression that he dropped a huge clanger.

    “As we have always said, the party with the most votes and the most seats in this election has the first right to seek to form a Government. The British people would rightly question the legitimacy of a coalition that didn’t allow the party with the largest number of seats and votes the opportunity to attempt to form a Government first.”

    This is complete nonsense. If no party wins outright, then which ever combination of willing partners has the most seats will be the most legitimate government. It is not mathematically inevitable that such a grouping will include the largest party. Nick is hopelessly confused about how a plural system should work.

  • Steve Comer 26th Apr '15 - 2:03am

    Why is Nick Clegg banging on and on about Coalitions and ruling out deals anyway?
    Can’t he and the cabal around him see its completely counter-productive?
    Surely we should be emphasising OUR POLICIES and what we might want to deliver in Government rather than indulging the media in endless speculation about ‘what might happen if…’ stories.
    Clegg has now backed himself into an ‘FDP corner’ where he is actually campaigning for another coalition with the Conservatives who have moved to the right since 2011. What is worse is that he is virtually ruling out any other options. And what does Cameron do in return? Calls him Forest Gump that’s what!
    You couldn’t make it up………………

  • David Evans 26th Apr '15 - 2:43am

    As predicted, a new “that’s another fine mess you have gotten us into,” moment from Nick. Nick seems to be boxing us into a corner of his choosing in post election negotiations, but the other key question is whether it makes it even harder for our sitting MPs to retain their seats. Except in those few areas where our only hope is to attract soft Tory votes, it doesn’t look like a good strategy.

  • Stephen Hesketh 26th Apr '15 - 6:11am

    Steve Comer 26th Apr ’15 – 2:03am
    “Why is Nick Clegg banging on and on about Coalitions and ruling out deals anyway?
    Can’t he and the cabal around him see its completely counter-productive?
    Surely we should be emphasising OUR POLICIES and what we might want to deliver in Government rather than indulging the media in endless speculation about ‘what might happen if…’ stories.
    Clegg has now backed himself into an ‘FDP corner’ where he is actually campaigning for another coalition with the Conservatives who have moved to the right since 2011. What is worse is that he is virtually ruling out any other options. And what does Cameron do in return? Calls him Forest Gump that’s what!
    You couldn’t make it up………………”

    I couldn’t agree more Steve. And what’s more I believe everyone – members and voters alike – pick up on this preference. Result? Another electoral millstone.

    If Forrest Gump was a real person he would sue.

  • Stephen Hesketh 26th Apr '15 - 6:54am

    Paul Walter 26th Apr ’15 – 2:35am

    Paul, whatever specialist constitutionalists say, surely OUR preference as a political party should be to work with those whose policies best match our own and or who might be most likely to deliver Liberal outcomes.

    Until we know the outcome of the election, public speculation in the media, particularly by a leader more than likely approaching the end of his term, is almost certainly counter productive.

  • No one here knows which of Labour and Conservatives will have the most seats or the most votes. Nick Clegg cannot know. However many assume that it will be the Conservatives, but the Labour support in opinion polls has held up surprisingly well.

    Possibly most people here are expecting a late swing; they could be right, I suppose I am expecting it too. However no one can know this.

    Strictly speaking Paul is right, Cameron is the incumbent, but Nick Clegg is inventing a new principle, if not for everyone at least for the Lib Dem leadership to follow.

    Before people continue to splutter and criticise, they need to consider what Nick Clegg seems to be trying to avoid. Constitutionally he would be more correct in saying that with No Overall Result, the PM remains in place so we should talk to the Conservatives first. Note that he is NOT saying this. What Clegg has said in the past is that we would be guided by the outcome of the election. Basically he is reiterating this position.

    What is new is his apparent refusal to engage with any “arrangement” (whatever that means) that involves SNP and UKIP. Personally I find his rejection of SNP disturbing: apart from the fat that SNP themselves have rejected coalition government, I do not see the rationale.

    My most likely outcome
    At the moment, the most likely scenario is that Conservatives have most seats and votes. Nick Clegg and the negotiating team talk to Cameron and co, but with no overall majority and disagreement over the EU talks founder. Simultaneously SNP are in talks with Labour: SNP are offering qualified support on UK wide issues. Labour really need more stability; at this point talks open up with Lib Dems. The Labour offer is very paltry; Lib Dem + Labour is a minority, but if SNP abstain on England only issues, depending on Party discipline, they might get policies through. The Lib Dem team do not feel tey can recommend this to the Party and soundings amongst the membership show that there is little enthusiasm for a very diminished role in government. Cameron resigns and Lib Dems agree to not stand in the way of a new minority Labour administration.

  • Denis Mollison wrote:

    > The way to “fight for the UK’s future” is to have a conversation, ideally
    > within a constitutional convention…

    The emerging potential for Labour to be in a position where it not only wants to be seen to be acting on constitutional reform, but actually needs to make it happen, is perhaps the best prospect for achieving proportional voting in quite some time.

  • Without getting into interpreting Clegg’s remarks, I think it’s worth looking at power sharing from another angle: If an early election does not appeal, what is a really weak, unenthusiastic way for a party (any party) to facilitate the formation of a government?

    – You could commit to not pursuing motions of no confidence (barring cases of corruption).
    – This could be a general commitment without consideration of which parties are in government.
    – “Not pursuing” could be formulated as abstaining.
    – You could include a reasonable time limit.

    This would amount to a statement that “we don’t want another election now, nor do we want to endorse a particular faction, but we’re not going to engage in petty destabilisation either”.

    I wonder if a few of the smaller parties might end up adopting a position in this vein after the coming election.

  • Incidentally in 2010 the Lib Dem leadership proudly announced that they were putting the interests of the Country before the interests of the Party.

    In a reversal of this principle, I think a minority government and more so a Labour minority government would be the shortest route to an upswing in Lib Dem support.

  • John Minard 26th Apr '15 - 7:45am

    I’m still uneasy about setting out red lines before people have voted but I’m certain that if we do lose a significant number of MPs (more than a third) then our place is on the opposition benches voting down the worst legislation (alike the bedroom tax) and not being kingmaker; for which we would be pilloried.

  • Paul In Wokingham 26th Apr '15 - 8:09am

    Today’s Mail On Sunday leads on Teresa May saying that a Lab/SNP deal would be “the worst crisis since the abdication” and that “4 in 10 UKIP voters will switch to Tories to stop deal”.

    It’s becoming clear that this big loser in the debates was Miliband because Sturgeon cut a more powerful figure who could dominate a coalition. The Tories have clearly decided to talk up this “SNP menace” over the next 10 days.

    Mr. Clegg’s asymmetric triangulation (no deals involving the 50 MPs of SNP or the 2 MPs of UKIP) puts the Lib Dems into a disastrous position of self-imposed irrelevance.

  • Stephen Hesketh 26th Apr '15 - 8:10am

    Adrian PR 26th Apr ’15 – 7:11am
    “The emerging potential for Labour to be in a position where it not only wants to be seen to be acting on constitutional reform, but actually needs to make it happen, is perhaps the best prospect for achieving proportional voting in quite some time.”

    I believe you are right. Whether brought about by the departure of Scotland from the UK or it becoming an SNP devo-max citadel, this reality will focus Labour minds quite nicely.

    Without PR, the Tories cynical support for English votes for English laws and an English parliament will almost inevitably result in Tory control. The implications of this and the breaking down of the old political duopoly reality is now thankfully dawning on the Labour Party.

    The Tories and their media friends will use every trick in the book to block this democratic advance.

  • I finds this a fascinating thread.

    I agree with David Steel –
    ” …The truth is that a new Tory government dependent on Ukip sympathisers in their midst is a greater threat to the unity of the UK than any band of SNP MPs.”

    The Conservative Party is already a coalition of incompatible factions with not just UKIP sympathisers but homophobes, mysogenists, xenophobes, English Nationalists and people who are just weird.

    The Conservative Party is the greatest danger to us all and we should make it our top priority to prize Cameron out of Downing Street.

  • Caron

    How do the practices of the Highlands Police differ from those of the Metropolitan Police?
    If you object to UK-wide policing methods so much you should have voted for independence. 🙂

  • Paul Walter: That fits my assessment, however I do expect that Labour would want talks with Lib Dems as insurance cover, whipping boys and to ease passage through the Lords.

    That legitimacy of the government would be widely questioned is very likely to be a fact. Much of the media would be merciless with Miliband. Meanwhile UKIP and the right of the Tories would be banging on about the EU, ECHR, Liberalism, foreign languages and cultural plurality. Economic fragility would severely restrict Labour.

    An undiscussed issue for a minority government are procedural votes. Labour used a procedural vote to prevent House of Lords reform. I would anticipate votes on amendments and procedures that would become a nightmare for a minority government.

  • I was replying to a Paul Walter comment that seems to have vanished.

  • Caron LindsayCaron Lindsay 25th Apr ’15 – 11:37pm
    “Phyllis,

    I have a lot of time for Nicola Sturgeon, but let’s not look at her party with rose tinted spectacles. They are about as illiberal and authoritarian as they come. We can work with them, but there are massive differences in values. The fact that they don’t get civil liberties is the biggest for me.”

    Of course, it is all about ‘working together’ at the end of the day. Surely there are more areas of agreement between Lib Dems and SNP than between Lib Dems and Tory? I’m thinking particularly of the SNP ‘s emphasis on investing for growth rather than relying on cuts to public services to balance the books.

    We left Scotland when I was 15 sadly, so I don’t have the deep insight into what the SNP are doing there that you and others obviously do, but I’m intrigued about what is happening in the Highlands that necessitates armed police there??

  • The big problem is that Clegg is falling into a line that verges on xenophobia and is being driven by a conservative party acting out of desperation. It’s easy for the opposition to paint the Party as Tories and the Tories to paint it as holding them back. But lets be a bit more honest. A lot of Lib Dems believe in devolved power, don’t support the renewal of trident and have huge doubts about HS2 so joining the attacks on the SNP can look muddled. Clegg needs to concentrate on holding seats and not alienating potential voters. Liberal thinkers are not like conservatives thinkers they don’t respond scare tactics in the same way and playing this game can only help the Conservative party. Clegg would actually serve the Liberal cause better if he stopped doing Cameron’s job for him by joining in with this crude divisive and dangerous electioneering..

  • Richard Franklin 26th Apr '15 - 9:24am

    Voters in the uk are still very suspicious of, or dont really understand how coalition government works hence all the nasty comments about the Lib Dems, and Nick Clegg in particular. It is not widely known here the sheer extent of coalition governments in other countries where it is either accepted as a norm or a legal requirement as in Germany. In Europe I believe only Spain and Hungary “do not” have coalition governments. Many other counties such as Australia and New Zealand have coalitions as well.
    It seems to me that we are only now just catching up with the more sophisticated democracy that there is in many other states. Maybe the Lib Dems should be getting the message out as to what is going on in government in the rest of the world.

  • I would like Clegg to explain how 50 SNP Mp’s in a coalition would be “in charge” of Britain (I assume he meant the UK)?

    Or are we now to believe that 57 Lib Dem MP’s have been “in charge” for the last 5 years?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 26th Apr '15 - 9:40am

    @johntilley: actually police officers in Scotland search more kids proportionally than the Met. Lib Dems want to outlaw consensual stop and search.

    @phyllis SNP merged Scotland’s 8 police forces into one which has effectively meant that whatever happened in Strathclyde has been rolled out across all of Scotland. We had armed police on routine duties on peaceful highland streets. Unbelievable. Then Police Scotland came to Parliament and said they’d stop it and didn’t. Same with unregulated stop and search of kids.

  • Bill le Breton 26th Apr '15 - 9:46am

    Even an abstention has to have a price attached.

    (And Adrian PR deserves the prize for most original idea for some time on this subject – separating confidence and supply – this plays to the new fact that under FTPAct possession becomes 9/10th of the ‘law’ and that therefore the way you use your votes (including abstention) is most valuable at the outset of the Parliament.)

    An abstention has a positive value to an other party or another combination of parties.

    Extracting maximum long term value out of an abstention or a positive vote: The price has to be about the mechanics of Parliamentary decision taking in a situation where no single party has a majority in the Commons. See my post here on how to make Westminster more powerful and Whitehall less powerful.

    http://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-how-power-can-now-shift-from-whitehall-to-westminster-45564.html

    That was a top lesson in local government – get the mechanics right and the rest – the extent of influence – will follow.

  • Bill le Breton 26th Apr '15 - 10:01am

    Paul in Wokingham is right that the real issue that we muist address is NOW. It is the effectiveness of the Tory>SNP scare campaign (and David Allen, yes, it is working for the Tories and very much against us). That is why May is banging on about it today – the Tories sense it is working and interesting the Westminster Village elite still hasn’t realized its effectiveness.

    We are therefore not going to have as many soft Tory switchers and in fact we shall also be leaking votes to the Ts whilst this campaign goes unchecked. It is very possible that people are shy about admitting that they are changing their minds on an issue which betrays their fear. None of us like to say we are doing something out of fear.

    Our high command has reacted to this by trying to close off the impression that we could support a Labour/SNP ‘arrangement’. I don’t think that will work and of course it sends the wrong signals to people who we are trying to win back and keep on the other flank.

    It looks like a hasty decision as well as a wrong decision.

    We should tackle the the Tories head on. It is they who are the threat to the Union (and to EU membership). It is so similar to what happened in this stage of the campaign in 2010 – then the central campaign failed to respond to the negative campaigning following the Manchester leader’s debate. Our strategists are again being found flat footed.

    Paddy, you were not so much involved then, but now you are. You have to launch a counter attack. – not a withdrawal to protect materiel. We don’t have the support to survive the attrition of this Tory campaign. We must knock it out.

    The Tories are the menace.

  • Glenn “A lot of Lib Dems believe in devolved power, don’t support the renewal of trident and have huge doubts about HS2 so joining the attacks on the SNP can look muddled”

    Yes that’s exactly the problem. The SNP are portrayed as being ‘ the bogeyman’ but a lot of their policies would chime with Lib Dem voters I would imagine. I just don’t understand why we can’t have a rational debate rather than being told all the time that it’s impossible to work with ‘the party that wants to tear the UK apart’ . The SNP might want independence but that doesn’t mean they can get it when the Scottish people rejected that just last year. They also have some good policies – so why is it impossible to work with them in the things that we all agree on? Isn’t that what plural politics is all about?

  • Adrian PR’s scenario looks plausible to me.

    Assume SNP hold the balance between two more-or-less equal large parties (and Clegg is wrong, it matters not a whit whose nose is a few seats ahead!).

    Labour say to SNP: We are not negotiating, but you can either back us, or back the Tories.

    SNP say: If the Tories seek to form a government, we will vote for a motion of no confidence. If Labour seek to form a government, we will abstain.

    Labour then put the Lib Dems seriously on the spot. Clegg, despite knowing that a Tory-LD coalition has no majority, will fight like crazy to keep Labour out. The SNP will shrill that if only Labour would talk to them, that abstention could change to support. In the atmosphere of chaos with no government in sight, public pressure will probably shift very quickly away from “keep those dangerous separatists out” to “get on with it Ed, offer them a few bawbies, and for heaven’s sake get your hands on the tiller before the ship of state runs aground”. Once the public demand it, Miliband will be licensed to comply.

    Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats will finally shut up shop, to be replaced by a new party which genuinely believes in its stated principles, and is not a wholly owned subsidiary of the Right!

  • @Caron
    “armed police in Highlands against wishes of communities”

    The Scottish Police Authority commissioned a survey which found that 53% of Scots supported the police’s firearms policy, with 37% against. “In terms of geography, there are no significant differences either by region or by an urban/rural split, with just over half of all groups supporting the decision.”

    http://www.spa.police.uk/assets/128635/tnssurveyreport

  • Caron
    Leaving policing on one side, the general thrust of your article is absolutely in the right direction.

    We need a positive Liberal Democrat campaign to get people in key seats to vote for us. I thought that was the strategy.

    All this hysteria about the SNP is working to benefit of the Tories. Our main threat comes from the Tories, which is why Cameron the Tory machine have been concentrating on attacking our seats.

    Every candidate in every seat we are likely to hold suffers from the scare about the SNP whipped up by the Tories.

  • Thomas Robinson 26th Apr '15 - 11:22am

    Most of those who voted Lib Dem at GE 2010, and are still intending to vote Lib Dem in GE 2015, will be on the right of politics.

    Clegg is therefore positioning himself as a coalition partner with the Tories whom he rightly thinks as likely to be the party with most seats.

    As to his attacks on the SNP-just another nail in the coffin of most of the sitting Lib Dems in Scotland.

  • Thomas Robinson 26th Apr '15 - 11:28am

    Alisdair MacGregor

    “I wish he’d added “or the DUP”.

    Well, he couldn’t say that in the context of an attack on the SNP could he? The very last thing anyone could say about the DUP is that they intend to breakup Britain.

    However, it appears that an arrangement of UK Government Con/Lib Dem/DUP would be entirely acceptable to Clegg in spite of the DUP being in many ways more profoundly illiberal than UKIP.

  • …too much egg in the pudding?
    My perception from reading many LD comments here, is that there is an extraordinary lack of ruthlessness in the LibDem *psyche*, and I’m still not sure why that is? But it undoubtedly blocks your thinking and actions. Worrying about the taste of the pudding now seems a bit late, when the window of opportunity to ‘sack the chef’, came and went after the 2014 May EU elections?
    And that same lack of ruthlessness, seems to block your thinking in determining future outcomes? If [on the 8th May], Cameron can’t ‘pull this around’ for the Tory party, and Miliband can’t ‘pull this around’ for the Labour party ,.. do you seriously think they will still be (the respective) leaders in the renewed elections that may well be needed later this year?

  • Thomas Robinson 26th Apr '15 - 11:40am

    Here is a warning from history for the Lib Dems re the SNP. It comes from Scotland, naturally.

    When the SNP held only 47 of the 129 seats, just one more than SLAB, after the Holyrood 2007 election, the Lib Dems (16 seats) refused even to talk to the SNP about a coalition unless the SNP agreed not to pursue a referendum (how pointless was that given September 2014).

    The SNP had to battle on, against their original intention,s as a minority government with such success that they became a majority government with 69 seats and the Lib Dems 5 (even PR could not save the Lib Dems)

    There are far worse fates than being part of a coalition /arrangement with the SNP 🙂

  • For those who live in Scotland – what is worse, majority SNP rule in the Scottish Parliament, or a majority Tory government in The HoC? From what I have seen, things are not so bad in Scotland, their students do not pay tuition fees and everyone has free prescriptions etc. surely no-one can say the SNP are worse than the Tories, especially now the Tories are wrapping themselves in the English flag?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 26th Apr '15 - 11:48am

    Phyllis,

    I’ve been quite clear that I think that the worst possible outcome of this election would be a majority Tory Government

  • Caron, yes but are the SNP ruling in Scotland as ‘nasty’ as a majority ‘Nasty Party’ would be down here? I don’t have the impression that there is the same demonising of the poor, disabled and vulnerable in Scotland as there has been down here from the Tories (tempered by the LibDems to an extent). And if so many Scots are voting SNP, surely they must be doing something right?

  • Caron,

    I’m sorry but those examples do not fit the “as they come” criterion. ID cards can be put to authoritarian ends but are not necessarily such, my preference would be not to have them. Whilst heavy handed policing is again a tool of an authoritarian state it is only when that heavy handedness is used for the purpose of suppressing freedoms or dissent that it becomes authoritarian, not when it is at the service of law and order in an environment of a consensual independent legal framework. Indiscriminate stop and search for the purposes of deterring crime is not necessarily authoritarian. Doing it to cow the populous or discriminately or to suppress dissent is.

    So what I’m trying to say is that your hyperbole is unwarranted and that whilst they exhibit a less than desirable regard for civil liberties they do not fit the criteria for “as authoritarian as they come”.

  • @John Dunn – yes, whaddya know – liberals are tolerant and unlikely to think the worst of others. Who would have thought it?

  • The worst outcome would be a DUP/ conservative government. I would rather have a conservative majority.

  • “I’ve been quite clear that I think that the worst possible outcome of this election would be a majority Tory Government”

    In terms of evolving the governance of the UK, I suggest a single party majority government of either Labour or Conservative is the worst outcome. Because in both cases, there is no need to take account the viewpoints of others.

  • Jane Mactaggart 26th Apr '15 - 2:59pm

    If Nick will only support the Tories (and doesn’t seem to have ruled out a deal with the DUP), why would I ( or any other woman with disabilities) want to stay in the party?

  • If we assume that the no deals with the SNP is an election tactic we need to discuss is it the right tactic. For the 8% national share it might make no difference because most of it is made up of our core support.

    If you don’t wish to vote SNP and are in a Lib Dem seat is this going to make to vote SNP? I would say no. If you were thinking of voting Labour or Conservative and you don’t wish to see the SNP in government it might persuade you to vote Lib Dem. If you were a Labour voter on the left of the party, you might already have switched to SNP to move a Labour government to the left so this will have no effect.

    If you are a soft Tory in an English seat you may well fear a Labour-SNP government and this might stop you switching to vote Conservative. If you are a soft Labour in an English seat in a Lib Dem – Tory marginal this might convince you to vote Labour rather than Lib Dem. The question is how many soft Labour voters do we think are left and are they going to make much difference?

    Therefore while I think Nick Clegg comments were idiotic in relation to the constitution and what will happen after May 7th I think they might have been a good election tactic, which will not cost us any seats.

  • SIMON BANKS 26th Apr '15 - 8:20pm

    In the first place, anyone can see that the party with the most votes and the party with the most seats won’t necessarily be the same – so why does Nick Clegg persist in talking as if they are the same? Labour could well end up with the most seats but not the most votes. Secondly, the argument that a government headed by a party which came second (even if it was second in both votes and seats) lacks legitimacy is peculiar. If neither of the biggest parties gets a majority, one of them needs to persuade other parties to support them – and a party with less than half the MPs and well under half the vote which cannot attract support from any other party is less legitimate in government than one which fell slightly behind it but can command support from other parties representing other voters. Is Nick Clegg saying that the many local government coalitions or other arrangements in which the biggest party is not in control are wrong? If so, we’ve offended many times.

    Leading on from that, while the intentions and instincts of the SNP are rightly criticised, if they get say 42% of the Scottish vote and 60% of the seats, they will have every right to influence the UK government. After all, like us, they’ve elected MPs in the past and had no direct influence. Cameron and Clegg both campaigned to preserve the union through a No vote in the referendum. The implication of that is that Scotland’s elected MPs should have influence at Westminster. Anyone who doesn’t like that can campaign for Scottish independence. Perhaps that’s what Cameron is about? It would benefit the Tories hugely. Right now the thing most likely to break up the union is a Tory majority government.

    Finally, Stuart Moran has a good point. Doing some of the quizzes that help identify the party for you to vote for brought home to me that on policies, there is a Lib Dem – Labour – Green – Plaid Cymru cluster that’s a long way from the Tories and UKIP. Nick Clegg has managed to give the impression that he’d prefer a deal with the Tories and of course one that kept us in government. And up to then he’d been having a good election.

  • @Michael BG – I agree, Nick (and the LibDems) need people, particularly floating voters, to think that the only way they are going to get a sensible/credible government is to vote LibDem and not think that a vote for the LibDems is effectively a vote for one of the other parties and hence they would be better off voting for someone else if they don’t like who the LibDems are willing to partner with.

    What people forget is that LibDems have shown they are capable of being a mature partner in a coalition and are generally believed that they would work with either Labour or the Conservatives to create a stable government. What Nick (and the LibDems) need is to have circa 50 MPs returned to Westminster so that they can make a difference.

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