Clegg: ‘I’d form a new coalition with Ed Miliband’

There was an interesting interview with Nick Clegg in yesterday’s Sunday People:

Nick Clegg would form a coalition with Ed Miliband in the next government, he told The People.

The Lib Dem leader could even stay on as Deputy PM if a general election ­replaced one governing party with another.

His new boss would then be Labour’s Ed. And former Prime Minister David Cameron could be facing him across the House – heading the Opposition.

I visited Mr Clegg in his Cabinet office in Whitehall and he told me: “If the British ­people, like they did last time, say no one lot has won, then I’ll be open to ­working with other parties.”

So, I asked him, if Labour win the most seats can he do business with Miliband?

“Yes,” he said, without much hesitation.

“If the British people said that the only ­combination which could work would be those two parties, in the same way as after the last election the only combination which could work was Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, it would be obvious that Liberal Democrats would need to do their duty.”

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25 Comments

  • And this is newsworthy, how? This is, or should be, Pope-is-a-Catholic stuff. It would be much more noteworthy if Clegg had said that he would *never* form a coalition with Labour after the next election.

  • That is the most sympathetic article I’ve ever seen. Might as well be a Lib Dem press release!

  • Quite – a story we have seen in councils up and down the land. Though it misses out the obvious (and more naturally-fitting) option of a Labour-Tory coalition.

  • Although of course it is simply inconceivable that Labour would do a deal with the Lib Dems with Clegg as leader. I fail to see the political strategy in this latest outburst from Clegg. He’s going to anger his Tory colleagues by talking of their defeat, and he’s going to be laughed at by Labour MPs who know that he’s overseeing the greatest collapse in the Lib Dem vote since the party was founded.

    Now with Vince as leader….

  • David Allen 23rd Jul '12 - 1:30pm

    This is certainly not Pope-is-a-Catholic stuff. For almost all of his leadership, Clegg has delivered regular vitriolic attacks against Labour to demonstrate that he had no real interest in working with them under any circumstances. So yes, it’s a change of tune.

    The question is why. I suspect it’s nothing more than self-preservation. It is an attempt to forestall demands for a change of leader to someone capable of working with Labour as well as the Tories. It doesn’t deserve to work. There is no sincerity in the offer. Clegg might talk about working with Labour, but if Miliband doesn’t kill the idea first, Clegg will surely find an excuse not to carry through with it in reality.

  • Many people will see the soundbite and read no further; leaving them with the impression that Nick Clegg is just a far weather supporter of coalition government…

  • Barrie Wood 23rd Jul '12 - 1:54pm

    Just as LD demanded removal of Brown before entertaining coalition talks Labour would never do a deal with Clegg. Farron – possibly. Clegg trying to sure up leadership of his party with this ‘contribution’

  • David Allen – Clegg delivered regular vitriolic attacks on the Tories before the coalition as well. That’s what happens in politics, it certainly doesn’t mean he is saying he wouldn’t do busy with them.

  • tom, so any harsh words Clegg has for politicians outside his party are just cynical posturing, in reality he’s quite happy to work with them?

  • David Allen 23rd Jul '12 - 4:11pm

    Tom,

    Clegg has made the necessary comments to distance us from some Tory policies. However, I can’t recall anything from Clegg that has ever really ridiculed any of the leading Tory personalities. Can you?

    It has been quite different with Labour figures such as Balls, Brown and Miliband, whom Clegg has taken good care to insult, and thereby alienate beyond all possibility of recovery.

  • A good response there. Better again might be “I want to implement as many Liberal Democrat policies as I possibly can and I”ll work with whichever (other) party leader helps the Liberal Democrats deliver those policies for our voters”.

    It puts the focus on Lib Dem policies and takes it away from the “Is Ed nicer than Dave?” question.

  • Don’t really see that this is news – isn’t this the same line he’s used about coalition with anyone for the past 3 years?!

  • There is only one person we should exclude from any possible future arrangement and that’s Ed Balls. Miliband will probably be gone before 2015 anyway, he is only there by the grace of the Labour press. But this whole question is posed the wrong way around.. the constant ‘LibDems will be wiped out’ line is our opponents trying to create the same old self-fulfilling prophesy, eagerly joined by the satirists. What should be happening is the surge of LIbDem support as our policies come into effect and then we would find the centrists from both Labour and Tory ranks defecting to us. The story is all in the telling..

  • Richard Dean 24th Jul '12 - 8:00pm

    No, no, no. If the British ­people, like they did last time, say no one lot has won, then they will in effect be asking for Nick to be PM in a LibDem-led government of national unity. Miliband and Cameron could share the DPM job, Osborne and Balls could be Alexander’s assistants.

  • Peter Watson 24th Jul '12 - 10:49pm

    @Simon
    “However, that he actually said it now is noteworthy.”
    I’m not so sure. It seemed to be a fairly reluctant response to a direct question and he only said that if the only combination was government with Labour the Lib Dems would do their duty.
    What if Labour is the biggest party but coalition with the conservatives also yields a majority? What if that is still not a majority: would Lib Dems prefer a blue rainbow coalition rather than form a majotiy with Labour? I do not see evidence that the Lib Dems are approaching the next election with an open mind about who (whom?) they would form a coalition with.

  • I really think people should bear in mind how seldom general elections have produced hung parliaments even when the Liberals/Lib Dems were considerably more popular than is indicated now by the opinion polls. It’s happened only twice since the war – in 1974 and 2010. Unless there is a dramatic revival in Lib Dem popularity it is very unlikely to happen in 2015, and if by some fluke it did, it would be almost inconceivable that the Lib Dems would be in a position to give a majority to both of the other parties. That hasn’t happened since the 1920s.

  • @Peter Watson: I think Nick Clegg’s answer to your second question was clear enough: what “works” MEANS what forms a majority. So if after 2015, the choice was Labour + LibDem = Majority, vs Conservative + LibDem < Majority, then we would talk to Labour. To the first; he did not say what would happen under that scenario, but I strongly suspect we would do what we said we would do in 2010, namely open negotiations first with the party with the most seats.

    No this is not noteworthy; people in the party but not in government have been saying it all the time for the past 2 years, and it is self-evident to anyone who understands how coalition governments work. What's noteworthy is the reaction of the political commentariat, many of whom seem still not to have quite got to grips with the fact that the Lib Dems and Tories still fight each other in by-elections; consider this article as an example
    http://www.periscopepost.com/2012/07/nick-cleggs-openness-to-a-liblab-alliance-plunges-the-coalition-into-crisis-boosts-ed-milibands-pm-prospects/
    The headline in particular is nonsense: how can the Lib Dem leader saying what his party might consider after the next election possibly cause a crisis for the Coalition formed in *this* parliament? But it would seem that there are /still/ commentators for whom the Coalition government must mean some sort of political marriage or merger, rather than a deal necessitated by electoral arithmetic.

  • Peter Watson 25th Jul '12 - 8:18am

    @Chris
    I think that support for the two big parties as a proportion of the total vote has fallen over the years, making hung parliaments more likely and making the Lib Dem failure over electoral reform even more disappointing.

    @Alex Macfie
    Before the 2010 election, Lib Dems and Conservatives were opposition parties so going into coalition together is not too much of a shock. After the next election, I think it will be more difficult for Lib Dems to go into coalition with a party that opposes and wishes to reverse much of what Lib Dems have done in government. I think this is not a problem with coalition government per se, but the adversarial nature of british government and opposition, and the convention of cabinet collective responsibility, mean that disagreements and negotiations are secret and both coalition partners enthusiastically support policies that contradict their previous positions.
    I understand why Clegg cannot get dragged in to speculation about all of the scenarios that an election might thow up, but I would welcome a simple statement of principle that the Lib Dems would be willing to work in the national interest with any party with whom they can find common ground. Clegg’s apparent reluctance to embrace possible coalition with the opposition after an election suggests that he would prefer more coalition with the conservatives even if they are not the largest party and it leaves the suspicion that he might prefer an electoral pact before the election.

  • “I think that support for the two big parties as a proportion of the total vote has fallen over the years, making hung parliaments more likely and making the Lib Dem failure over electoral reform even more disappointing.”

    Sorry, but even if this historical trend continues, it’s still going to be the number of seats the Lib Dems win that will be the crucial factor in determining whether there’s going to be a hung parliament. You have only to ask yourself how many parliamentary seats you expect the Greens, UKIP, the BNP and others to win at the next election. There may well be a continuing protest vote against the two main parties, but if it’s fragmented among parties with little or no parliamentary representation then a hung parliament is very unlikely.

  • I am interested to see that, mirroring most mainstream commentators, Nigel Nelson either didn’t ask, or didn’t report any question he asked NC about the possibility of a Labour – Tory working arrangement, should those two parties again come first and second , both n MPs and vote share.

  • Richard Dean, so right. As has happened in councils across the country Labour and Conservative will sell their souls to stop us taking control. A LibDem Govt or a Tory-Labour coalition are possible outcomes, but only if our media stick to reporting the news instead of trying to lead it.

  • Simon Hebditch 26th Jul '12 - 9:25am

    If there was to be a new alliance between Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens, we will have to change our leadership and not just Nick Clegg. Danny Alexander would have to go as well as one of the architects of the fatuous economic policies being followed by this government.

  • Since the Parliamentary Liberal Party will be able to meet in a telephone box after the next General Election, the chances of Nick Clegg forming a coalition with anyone would seem somewhat remote to me.

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