There’s zero chance of Clegg cutting any boundary deal with Tories over party funding

There’s zero chance of Nick Clegg cutting a deal with David Cameron on boundary changes in exchange for party reform — that’s the firm message I’ve got from some of those closest to the Lib Dem leader in response to my post last night, Nick Clegg should say no to any link between state funding and boundary changes.

It’s pretty rare for in-the-know Lib Dems to contact me unprompted about a story and to refute it in no uncertain terms: we’re just not that kind of a top-down party. So when I get various messages with outright denials that there’s any truth to Ben Brogan’s claim in the Telegraph that such a deal might be struck I take it seriously. Just as I take seriously their point that this is deliberate mischief-making by the right-wing press to try and instigate divisions within Lib Dem ranks. And just as I take seriously also their point that Nick Clegg is trying to show real leadership on reform to party funding by ensuring that it is in no way tied to any form of party-political advantage, including and especially anything that could benefit the Lib Dems.

In my own defence, I said the Torygraph article was most likely August silly-season ‘kite-flying’. The push-back I’ve had to that is that by quoting it on LibDemVoice at all it gives it a legitimacy it doesn’t deserve. Which is a fair enough criticism, and one I’m happy to acknowledge here.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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13 Comments

  • But just because you have had that response, Stephen, to a particular aspect of your article (linked to your headline, and the Torygraph source of that), does not show you are any more right about the meat of your article, which was, of course, a strong plug for your views on “no more state funding”.

    There are several very strong arguments for more state funding, eg taking influence away from the big funders – making it less likely that we go down the US road towards highly corrupt and undemocratic politics. But as I said last night in response to your original post, the challenge for us “party fans” is, how do we show people we do have a purpose beyond collective self-aggrandisement, self enrichment etc, which the general public believes. More and more people are moving away from political parties, stoked in no small way by the decisions the Lib Dems took two years ago.

  • I agree with you that there is (or should be) no chance now that the LibDems will change our position on the boundary changes (excepting, of course, the obvious if unlikely one that the Tories suddenly decide they will vote for Lords reform after all). But I’d be pretty confident that there are some senior Tories who think they can find something else to throw Clegg in the next year in return for the boundaries – and Nick’s bound to come under intense pressure along these lines. This is surely the origin of the Telegraph story – not any views coming from senior LibDems.

    All the more important that the line in the sand is clear and deep from the beginning. Watching Tories complaining about a relatively minor ‘unfairness’ in First Past the Post brings a certain twisted satisfaction, after all?

  • If the Conservatives want Lib Dem support for boundary changes, they’re going to have to offer to scrap Trident, join a reformed Euro, and abolish the monarchy. There’s no deal to be done here.

  • The case for state funding of political parties is one thing. The breathtaking idea that it should be offered in return for a vote on boundaries is quite another. It would be blatant and embarrassingly obvious gerrymandering. Money, nicked from the State by the Tories, packaged up into a plain brown envelope, and posted to the Lib Dems in return for their help with a Tory gerrymander.

    OK, we can calm down, it isn’t going to happen. I may not be Clegg’s greatest fan, but even I can see that he’s not harebrained enough to fall for that one!

  • This “deal”, as seemingly identified by all sides, is non existent, a non – starter, and a non-story. The only point here is for Stephen to get his views about state funding out there. That is why I responded.

  • Paul Walter 15th Aug '12 - 4:38am

    Stephen, I don’t think you need to defend posting about this here.
    If anything, this BB claptrap shows that the Tories are now realising how stupid their Lords Reform rejection was. The full ramifications are beginning to sink in. I say we should start embroidering the banner that the whole Commons Lib Dem party hoists as it walks through the “No” lobby for the boundary propsosals. The Tories have made their bed, now they can lie in it.

  • Paul, I don’t fully understand your post. I take it as disagreeing with my position, but what does that mean? As a Party, we just go round listening to any old rumour mill story, and rule out any link with anything? Your term “embroider” seems to imply something similar. If that is your meaning, all those of us who accept that the boundary changes should not be brought in if there is no appropriate constitutional change, will agree. A simple message – no further unrelated deals.

    If your meaning is deeper than that, something like “we all know we should never have agreed to such boundary changes, but we need to tell a complicated story (‘embroider’) in order to justify the change to the electorate”, I do not agree with that. This is the sort of tactic the electorate hates in politicians. As espousers of the new politics, we should be avoiding this sort of thing.

  • - Stephen W

    It wasn’t a lie. The coalition agreement is one package not a series of bilateral deals.The whole question of a ‘link’ is completely spurious. It was invented by the right as as cover for breaking the coalition agreement yet still requiring the Lib Dems to abide by the provisions they favoured. We can break the agreement, they squeal, but you can’t because you said there was no link! But if you made an agreement with someone and they broke one part of it would you still feel bound by that agreement? Of course not, yet that is apparently what you expect of the Lib Dems.

  • Tim13
    When I wrote “embroidering” I meant literally embroidering – with a needle and thread – the banner to unfurl when we go through the lobby. That is, we should do it with great ceremony because it will be a very important moment for the party.

  • Peter Watson 15th Aug '12 - 10:49pm

    @AndrewR
    Either Clegg was correct when he said boundary changes and lords reform are not linked, or he is correct when he says that all items in the coalition agreement are linked. But both cannot be correct. He also pushed the bill through parliament defending the boundary changes on its own merits, as increasing the fairness and reducing the cost of the House of Commons, but without mentioning Lords reform. And if all items are implicitly linked in the coalition agreement, why did it make such an explicit link between boundaries and an AV referendum.
    Equally, the coalition agreement only explicitly committed the partners to forming a committee to bring forward proposals, and Clegg indicated in an answer to a parliamentary committee that the coalition agreement was satisfied by bringing forward the bill.
    The more its authors quibble over what the coalition agreement says and what it means, the less valid it becomes.
    My own view is that a coalition agreement cobbled together in a few days is little more than a statement of intent, and should certainly not trump pledges made to the electorate and manifestos which were subjected to public scrutiny and debate.
    Lib Dems have been naive and/or incompetent in government. At least opposing boundary changes might pragmatically save a few LD MPs, but it still requires legislation to reverse the bill previously passed so is not simple, and does not look principled or competent.

  • The only deal I would do in exchange for boundary reform is extending STV in local government (which we already have in Scotland and Northern Ireland) to England & Wales. We could also throw in further concessions on local government.

    Has some advantages too for the Tories, with the tide turning against them, because it would give them representation in the northern cities, deprive Labour of majorities in places like Birmingham, and prevent wipe-out of Tory authorities in London such as Ealing and Hammersmith in 2014.

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