Deal or no deal? Here’s what I think

Who would want to be in Nick Clegg’s place today? For all the talk during the campaign that the Lib Dem leader would end up as ‘Kingmaker’, that now looks the least enviable position imaginable.

I’ve read and absorbed lots of the commentary of the last 24 hours – both on this site and elsewhere – and am amazed by the striking naivete of those who appear to imagine there is an easy option for the Lib Dems, that whatever choice we make in the days ahead won’t involve compromise and pain. Sorry guys: it will.

Nick Clegg has just three realistic choices, and all of them are unappetising in one way or another.

A deal with the Tories:

Nick Clegg has quite rightly stuck to his campaign pledge to allow the party which won the strongest mandate (most votes and most seats) to have the first option to seek to govern alone, or with other others.

The idea that Nick should have turned around yesterday and said, “I know the people have spoken, but so what, I hate Tories” – I’m only slightly paraphrasing the advice of some on the left – is as ludicrous as it is insulting to the public’s intelligence. Nick’s statement yesterday was both correct and unavoidable given the election result.

But of course there are problems, very big problems, with cutting a deal with the Tories. First and most obvious that the Lib Dems have significant policy differences on quite crucial areas: from tax reform, to the need to safeguard the recovery before cutting public spending, to changing the electoral system.

Secondly, and more tactical, that many of our members, and even more of our supporters, would identify themselves as ‘progressives’, a vague term which can be reasonably translated as ‘anti-Tory’. There is a very real risk that by throwing in our lot with Cameron, or even just appearing to, those progressive voters will desert the Lib Dems in favour of Labour, and that may threaten many of the 57 Lib Dem seats we now hold.

This is a risk of which the Lib Dem leadership will be acutely aware. Four of the key Lib Dem negotiating team – Nick, Chris Huhne, David Laws and Vince Cable – are MPs for seats where the chief challenger is the Tories, and owe their majorities at least in part by appealing to Labour voters. They have a very personal investment in making sure whatever the party decides does not put such support in jeopardy.

A deal with Labour:

If you were to believe lefty commentators such as the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee and Indy’s Steve Richards, the choice for Nick Clegg is obvious: the Lib Dems must throw their lot in with Labour, the only party which appears to be making a serious offer of electoral reform. As they must know, if they put aside their tribal Labour allegiance for one moment, it simply isn’t that easy.

Let’s leave to one side that Labour had 13 years to prevent this situation from arising – 13 years during which Gordon Brown personally was one of the biggest roadblocks to electoral reform – before suddenly deciding overnight on 6th May that it was the best policy since sliced bread.

There is a much bigger problem with any suggestions of a Lib/Lab pact based on electoral reform. First, the combined forces of Lib Dem and Labour MPs is not sufficient to secure a majority for any form of programme for government. Secondly, even supposing the Labour leadership is prepared to concede a referendum on electoral reform, it is extremely doubtful they can persuade every single Labour MP to support it.

Based on policy alone, I think it’s true to say there’s more common ground between the Lib Dems and Labour. But that is not enough if the numbers don’t stack up to support a deal that will last. And it’s hard to imagine a worse scenario for the Lib Dems than that we eventually decide to throw in our lot with Labour in exchange for a referendum on electoral reform, and then find the pact falls apart the first time it’s tested in the House of Commons. A second election would then be inevitable in which the Lib Dems would be punished severely by the voters.

And let’s not forget another simple fact: Labour lost this election. True, the Tories didn’t win it. But only one party emerged from this election with a lower share of the vote. For the Lib Dems to prop up the party which voters have turned away from is absolutely not a risk-free option.

No deal, but allow a minority Tory government:

My guess, still, is that this is what ultimately will happen. The Tories have over 300 MPs, making it feasible that they could put forward a programme of government on which the Lib Dems would abstain in return for some modest concessions.

It has the advantage of keeping the Lib Dems a little more pure. Nick Clegg could claim, reasonably enough, that the party had moderated the worst of the Tory party, and ensured stability in government at a time of economic frailty.

But this middle-way still has its risks. For a start, it will enable Labour to claim the mantle of official opposition. No matter that the Lib Dems would not have ‘done a deal’, that is how it will be portrayed on every single Labour leaflet. This risks a real third party squeeze at the next election: both Labour and the Tories will urge voters to choose the ‘real thing’, a party which will form the next government. And in return for that squeeze, the Lib Dems would have extracted fewer concessions than a formal deal would have made possible.

And of course a minority government will amost certainly mean an election sooner rather than later. No Lib Dem would welcome that. First, we will be blamed for having not put country before party. Secondly, we can’t afford it, at least not as easily as the Tories can. And thirdly, it’s hard to see how a ‘One More Heave’ election won’t see the party’s support squeezed.


Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems are in an extremely difficult position. None of the options open to the party are attractive: anyone who suggests the choice is easy (in whatever direction) just hasn’t thought about it hard enough.

For the moment I am content that we have a serious group of hard-nosed negotiators in our leadership who are as aware of the dangers of our situation as they are of the opportunities. Let us see what their discussions produce before rushing to judgement.

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  • both a minority government and a lib-tory pact would be disastrous for the economy. financial markets do not like minority governments, especially a minority government whose policies would be vigorously opposed by a majority of the members of the house of commons (labour, lib dem, snp, green and others) – a minority tory government will hit our markets badly and may even lead to a run on sterling

    a tory lib dem pact would be slightly better but still very bad for our markets because such a government would be viewed as unstable and short lived because of the huge policy differences – one party wants to give tax breaks to the rich and the other wants to give them to the poor – one is pro-europe and the other is euroskeptic – again disastrous for the economy –

    the most stable government possible would be a coalition of ALL the progressive parties – lib dem, labour, green, sdlp and potentially the snp and plaid – this is what usually happens in most countries where there is PR and a balanced parliament – such a coalition would be stable because –
    1. it would have a majority – albeit a small one
    2. it would represent the political views of over 60 percent of the population
    3. it could move quickly to institute a system of proportional representation – now that labour has accepted that that is the price they have to pay for power
    4. it could call a new election with confidence after instituting PR because it knows that it would win over fifty percent of the seats in a system with PR

    we should do what is in the national interest – the ‘right thing’ as cameron says –

  • Jonathan Hayes 8th May '10 - 1:05pm

    It’s very much a situation of choosing the lesser of three evils alas. I can only hope that the decision-makers take the long-term view and realise that being uncomfortable with Labour, and dealing with the messy situation of a grand coalition with the other required parties, is considerably better than tearing the party apart by reaching an agreement to support the Tories.

    The policies espoused by the Conservative party are not in the national interest and it’s highly doubtful that David Cameron will be able to obtain very much concession to the Liberal Democrats from his backbenchers. The Tory leadership might think that offering a few token cabinet places will dazzle Nick Clegg and the parliamentary party but I fervently hope that they would want more substance than that.

    The fact is that although a Lib-Dem/Labour/SDLP/Alliance coalition would be awkward it’s not quite as risky an undertaking as some people erroneously make out. If Cameron doesn’t become Prime Minister the Conservative party will tear itself apart in recriminations and won’t be a strong opposition anyway, there are already plenty of signs of anti-Cameron feeling bubbling away in the Tory background (read some of the articles in the Conservative press and quiet comments from the backbenchers) and if they don’t get to form the government then they’ll implode in short order.

    This is a once in a lifetime chance of obtaining PR and bringing in real change. The Liberal-Democrats need to have some guts and weather out the storm that would result from propping up Labour in order to do what is best for the country in the long-term.

    It’s the least-worst option.

  • John Roffey 8th May '10 - 1:06pm

    Yes, I agree this a excellent portrayal of the conundrum.

    Just to add that by announcing the Party will not bring down the minority Tory government, unless it becomes obviously very unpopular with the people, might help to avoid being too tainted and raise the reputation of the party in the voters eyes.

  • Jon Bellingam 8th May '10 - 1:09pm

    Think this is a very good summary of where we are – rock vs hard place basically. I think the conclusion is right though – a minority tory government with what policy concessions can be drawn out of it seems the least worst option.

    You’re right there are dangers in this route – but we have to have some confidence in our own ability to state our case and to make the most of vocalising and publicising any wins we achieve. There is a rela chance here to turn more debates on to actual policy substance rather than partisan ya-boo politics of the two party stitch-up. Of course the other two parties will do their best to squeeze us – but when was that not the case? And don’t forget both Labour and the Tories have their own problems after this result too.

    And lastly you don’t mention that a minority government does mean the potential for other parties joining forces to push through other legislation. Our key demand must be legislative time to bring forward a proposal for voting reform. If other parties back it – even if this means trading on AV+ instead of full PR – progress could be possible.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 1:10pm

    “a coalition of ALL the progressive parties – lib dem, labour, green, sdlp and potentially the snp and plaid “

    It would need to include the SNP and Plaid (or else the DUP), even to have the slimmest Commons majority.

  • Roger Roberts 8th May '10 - 1:11pm

    I agree that Nick is between a rock and a hard place but Cameron will never agree to any form of PR and if we do not get that we may as well give up and go home.
    Parthiban’s comment is as good as we could get there doeas not have to be a referendum on PR if the Lab Us and the rest of the parties agreed to it there would be enough votes to push it through the House providing that Lab made sure that all of them voted for it. then we could have an election a year later if necessary.
    To go into bed with the Tories would not sit well with many of the party and I hope Nick realises this

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 1:15pm

    “there doeas not have to be a referendum on PR if the Lab Us and the rest of the parties agreed to it there would be enough votes to push it through the House providing that Lab made sure that all of them voted for it”

    I think Labour would have severe problems delivering a Commons majority even for a referendum. Surely trying to force it through without a referendum is out of the question – as well as being quite wrong in principle.

  • Which ever way this goes I just hope we do not finish with a Labour/Lid-Dem pact in government. I feel it would not last, and will put the Lib/Dems back to where they were before the two David pact.

    For Labour MPs coming out and say no one won this election makes me feel sick. They have 1,000,000 less votes, about 100 less seats, and no longer are the government. Brown has played a big big part to the debt we are in today, had 13 years on how we vote, and only came up on his death bed to change his mind.

    If the Tories do not agree on a way we vote, I think come the next election they would pay for this in losings 1,000,000s of votes, as people would now see just how wrong it is.

    This looking at it on longer term view could be the best way to go.

  • Labour have been rejected by the electorate because of their authoritarian policies and the Liberal Democrats cannot ‘prop them up’ because we are diametrically opposed to them on civil liberties.

    The Conservatives have been rejected by the electorate because of their feed the rich, kick the poor economic policies and the Liberal Democrats cannot ‘prop them up’ because we aren’t inhuman robots who put profit over people.

    This is a good article and I think our ‘only choice’, if we have one, is to reject both of the above for these exact reasons, to allow a minority Tory government (as the electorate have ‘chosen’), and to be brutally honest and open about it. I think on the whole, people will understand – the main problem is that both parties are able to use the media to try and twist and hide the truth. So the Lib Dems need to be working hard to get this message heard. We will not back Labour because of their policies on civil liberties. We will not back the Conservatives because of their economic policies which we believe benefit the rich at the expense of the poor. We will instead stand as an opposition party, and make decisions based on what we believe as Liberal Democrats. This will sometimes mean agreeing with Labour, and sometimes it will mean agreeing with the Conservatives, and sometimes, many times, it will means we will put forward our own far more sensible ideas and they will have to agree with us.


  • @Parthiban
    I’m surprised at your assertion that a coalition of numerous parties, including very small ones, would produce stable government. Surely the opposite would be the case with constant instability caused by it only taking one of the many small parties to upset the applecart.

    I’m not a Libdem supporter but I can understand the LD consistent campaign for some flavour of PR. What I don’t understand is that now we are in exactly the sort of situation that would always arise under PR party supporters seem be totally ill-prepared (and divided) about how to handle negotiations with whichever party is appropriate given the election result. It almost looks like either you guys never really expected to be in government or actually you don’t accept the inevitable result of PR but just maybe wanted it as a way of getting a few more MPs.

  • Martin Land 8th May '10 - 1:24pm

    I think we should just let our Leader lead. That’s why I elected him….

  • I am a supporter of the Hutton Option

    Labour have to bite the bullet – they should support a NIck Clegg led government – lose Brown and keep the Tories out

  • All your analysis is framed in terms of party political interest. Not once do you mention the national interest.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 1:36pm

    “now we are in exactly the sort of situation that would always arise under PR”

    That’s simply not the case. In every election in the last 50 years – with only two exceptions – under PR any two of the three main parties would have had a Commons majority between them. The two exceptions are 1997 and 2001, when the Tories did so poorly that a Con/Lib Dem combination would have fallen short of a majority.

  • I would have liked to have seen a progressive alliance between an enlarged group of LibDem MPs and a Labour Party free of Gordon Brown. Labour is tired after thirteen chequered years in power and has run out ideas – the LibDems would have revitalised the progressive agenda. However, we have lost the election almost as much as Labour has, and to think that a stable government could be created which would necessitate incorporating every single MP who is not a Tory is fantasy. I remember the 1964 Labour government – the Humber Bridge in return for support at the Hull North by-election; the February 1974 Labour government where every inflationary wage demand was granted for fear of losing trade union support; the LibLab pact in 1978 where our major achievement was getting worker representation on the board that ran the post office – how easily were we bought then!; the disreputable deals Callaghan made with the Ulster Unionists in 1979 to cling on to power; the dying couple of years of the Major government and the lack of credit we got with anyone for getting Maastricht through for him. Can you imagine the pork-barrelling that would be necessary to keep a Labour government in power now? Apart from anything else its reliance on Northern Ireland parties could disastrously destabilise politics again in Ulster; and its reliance on Welsh and Scottish Nationalist support would create an opportunity for the Conservative Party to stoke resentment in England where its support is overwhelmingly concentrated.

  • very good post. isn’t the trouble with a minority Tory government that there would be a vote on the Queens Speech. if we abstained (necessary for the govt to survive) Labour would pin us with all the sins of the Tories.

  • Its in the national interest to form a Tor/Lib government: any other government is just unstable and won’t last. The markets could possibly crash and would be blamed on us for not forming a government with Tories.

    We’re screwed whatever we do 🙁

  • Apologies for “spamming” people with something I posted on another thread, but:

    The way I see it, the maths works like this:

    A majority is not 326, first of all. 650 minus 5 Sinn Fein, who do not take up their seats = 645, therefore a majority is actually 323.

    Labour 258+ Lib Dem 57+ SDLP 3+ Green1+ Alliance1=320

    Tories 307 (assuming Thirsk goes their way)+ DUP 8=315

    That leaves the nine nationalists. If they force down a combined left of centre government, they risk a new election, that would deliver a full Tory majority (because fewer Lib Dem MPs) and even worse funding for them. The SNP has already said it would not ally itself with the Conservatives. Under this logic, while they may expect some insulation from cuts, their demands might be moderated to some extent.

    It wouldn’t be pretty, but it could work as long as a PR referendum (STV, AV+ or AMS, not AV) is tied into any overall package and not given to Labour MPs as a separate option.

    The Conservatives, despite playing dirty all the way along, pouring money in from Ashcroft to unseat our MPs and orchestrating a campaign of lies, distortion and misrepresentation in the right wing press, are expecting us to play fair like good little Liberals and become their lapdogs. They told us to stop being holier than thou during the campaign. Well, then why don’t we do that? We must do everything we can to seize the prize of PR. If they were in an analogous situation, they wouldn’t hesitate to force through their demands, so why shouldn’t we?

    We’ve only got one shot at fundamental political change including PR and the time is now. So let’s not waste it.

  • @ Jonathan Hayes

    Totally agree. The Tories are already tearing themselves apart. That is why the right wing press is trying to bounce us into an agreement by Monday. THEY won’t be able to last it out much longer. That is the truth of it.

  • Jonathan Hayes 8th May '10 - 2:01pm

    “The leader of the Scottish National Party, Alex Salmond, is calling on the Liberal Democrats to join a “progressive alliance” – involving Labour, the SNP and Plaid Cymru – as an alternative to doing a deal with the Conservatives, reports BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson.” – BBC News Website

    With the SNP/Plaid Cymru along then the coalition does have a majority in the commons… very much worth thinking about and despite more parties it would be an easier fit day-to-day than Tory/Lib-Dem.

  • Let’s hope Miriam is giving Nick plenty of lawyerly advice about how to get the best out of the situation and nail them down on the detail of it. She’s a highly intelligent woman who grew up in a political environment, so will have some sound words of advice.

    Beats having “Sam Cam” any day.

  • As an outsider (didn’t vote for main 3) I think you would do well to think about a confidence and supply agreement.
    Remember that less people didn’t want the Tories than didn’t want Labour. If you side with Labour, you are going to not be taken seriously about your desire to have the voice of the people heard. If you get in bed with the Tories, you will upset your activists. Let them have their term and make sure they promise to look at electoral reform as part of that term.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 2:11pm

    It’s maybe worth bearing in mind that the Tories can’t take even the DUP for granted:
    “”DUP MP Ian Paisley Jnr has said his party will support a government “which is prepared to do the best deal for Northern Ireland”.
    As coalition talks intensify on Saturday, the eight seats held by the DUP could still be a factor in the formation of a government.
    Mr Paisley said his party was not “ideologically burdened” and was not tied to either the Tories or Labour.”

    At any rate it seems clear that the Tories cannot govern without Lib Dem support.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 2:19pm

    Also worth bearing in mind the result of this Populus poll for the Times (printed under the rather misleading headline “Public want Conservatives to share power with Lib Dems”):
    A Conservative minority government with the support of the Liberal Democrats is, narrowly, the favoured solution to the electoral stalemate, according to a Populus poll for The Times.
    The poll of 514 voters today showed that 53 per cent supported that option, with 47 per cent opposed. A close runner-up is the option of Labour remaining in government in a formal agreement with the Lib Dems. This was backed by 51 per cent and opposed by 45 per cent.
    It was favoured by nearly nine out of ten Labour voters.
    A small majority (52 per cent) oppose the Conservatives forming a coalition government with the Lib Dems, though this is backed by 46 per cent, including about four fifths of Tories.

    Contrary to what certain people are saying, an arrangement with Labour actually appears to be the least unpopular option – and a formal coalition with the Tories the most unpopular.

  • Does there have to be a referendum before we get PR?

    Now that we have had referenda on our membership of the EU (1975) and [in Scotland] on whether there should be a Parliament for Scotland the rules have changed – now big constitutional change requires a referendum and as unpopular members of a coalition and a hostile press we might not win this referendum.

    Better to go for little constitutional changes that would not involve PR eg automatic STV for multi-membered local government wards. As the last House of Lords reform was without a referendum perhaps we could also sneak in an STV elected upper house.

  • @Kizzy

    A promise “to look at electoral reform” is worth absolutely NOTHING.

    For what it is worth, I personally promise “to look at” finding a cure for cancer and a means of generating unlimited free energy from nuclear fusion.

  • To be brief on the current issues:

    Coalition with Labour is better for the country as a whole (and the financial markets) and keeping Gordon Brown is key in terms of stability. This is the best option but it will obviously need the smaller parties to assist in order to give a majority.

    Nick needs to be tough with GB, and negotiating with Cameron was a good move to give leverage on GB, however a coalition with the Tories will never work. The core policies are too far apart.

    If coalition with GB/Labour (Chris Huhne: Home Secretary, Vince Cable: Chancellor)

    If there is a coalition with the Tories, Cameron will agree to things in principle but will not carry them out. The likes of Liam Fox and George Osbourne hold the Libdems in complete contempt, and the Tories will treat the Libdems as an inconvenience rather than an effective partner. It will be a disaster for the Party and the country.

    And we know the Tories will never give us full PR but will probably have an inquiry not leading to anything. The Tories do not want PR; as they know it will dramatically increase our seats and reduce theirs if there is another quick election.

    Hope it all goes well as we are all very fearful of a Tory alliance, after a bit of a disaster for the Party in the election polls.

  • The long term national interest is served primarily by ending a political system so unfit for purpose that it sustains majority governments who do not win the highest proportion of votes, denies millions of people fair representation and encourages the development of a political class as inept as it is inbred. So PR should be non-negotiable, and if we are courageous we will make this clear upfront (in simple terms, the other side in the first negotiation have to be clear that we would go to the Labour Party if we did not get this).

    In the short and medium term, it would almost certainly be better for the country that we respect the wishes of the largest single block of voters, not to mention allow the Labour Party time to find a new leader; as things stand, they are poised for fratricidal conflict and not really the kind of people you’d trust with car keys or heavy machinery. But the long term national interest requires electoral reform.

  • Trevor Haughton 8th May '10 - 2:25pm

    I’m Labour, but have always felt that we as a nation waste a lot of talent from within the Liberal and later Libdem party. A mixed cabinet with Labour could be really exciting, and offer a chance to progress on a variety of issues.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 2:28pm

    If the Scottish and Welsh Nationalists are actively urging an arrangement with Labour, rather than having to be cajoled into it, it must appear more feasible. Such an alliance would have an effective majority of a dozen or so. Not very comfortable, but actually not that much worse than what Major had in 1992 – and he managed to survive for 5 years.

  • @Robert C
    Personally I want political reform but not as much as I want Gordon Big Brother out. I really feel for the lib dem position. From the outside looking in it seems like your hatred of the Tories is more important to you than what the people voted for. As much as we didn’t vote the Tories in, we also voted Brown out. The idea that a non-elected PM will end up staying in because the Lib dems made it happen is really bad for those of us who can’t stomach another 13 years of Nu Labour.
    I think there is a huge groundswell towards political reform anyway I think it will soon be hard for the Tories to ignore. It will happen. But I don’t know if horse-trading is the right way for it to happen anyway. It all feels a bit sleazy to me.

  • In the light of the DUP announcement, I reckon we go the whole hog in funding Northern Ireland generously. They are only 1.7m in total and would be much less expensive than the Scots and the Welsh and much less contentious in terms of UK geopolitics. With the DUP on board too, a majority including various Northern Ireland parties of 328 could be constructed, versus only 307 for the Tories on their own. Even if the Welsh and the Scottish nationalists voted against, without the DUP, the Tories could only make it to 316.

  • @ Kizzy
    “I think there is a huge groundswell towards political reform anyway I think it will soon be hard for the Tories to ignore”

    They’ve done a pretty good job of ignoring it for the last two centuries. Why do you think they would change? The clue is in the name: “Conservatives”. They aim to conserve things as they are.

  • have you read Douglas Carswell’s blog lately?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 2:39pm

    By the way, the headline figure of 306 seats for the Tories appears to include the Speaker, which I don’t think is correct.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 2:41pm

    And some people seem to be putting Sylvia Hermon into the Tory camp by default, which doesn’t seem at all likely considering her recent history!

  • I think a lot of people on this thread need to get real.

    The fundamental question is this – CAN LABOUR BE TRUSTED TO DELIVER PR?

    Now – go away, and LEARN FROM HISTORY.

  • @ Kizzy

    The backbench Tory MPs would rather cut off their private parts with a blunt and rusty knife than vote for any form of PR. They already think Cameron has gone far too far to the left. There is no practical way they can deliver PR even if Cameron promises it.

  • @Tabman

    That is why they need to be nailed into a legally binding package that has a PR referendum as soon as possible as an integral part that has to be voted at the same time as other parts of the programme. No “promises to look at” or commissions. We’ve been there, done that. It has to be in there, non negotiable.

  • Political reform is in the national interest, a Conservative-led government isn’t. And the Conservatives will not let political reform happen. It’s risky, we don’t know how it will play out, but in a fluid and dynamic situation over the next weeks and months there is far more that could work out right with Labour. In the long run if this delivers reform that will be a truly worthwhile outcome ‘in the national interest’.

  • Nick Clegg should simply say that if the Conservatives are willing to allow a referendum on electoral reform then they can do a deal which will provide this country with a super strong coalition government that would satisfy the financial markets. And that in his view it’s in the patriotic interests of this country to do such a deal but that the Conservatives would have to show they aren’t all spin and are really a party of change. After all why would any party want to gag the electorate by not having a referendum? Ouch…

  • It all hinges on parliamentary arithmetic, and I think it can be made to work. If Brown can be persuaded to step down, either now or in a year’s time, when the economy has recovered further and the public finances can be seen to be heading the right way (tax take is likely to recover more quickly than some assume) to preserve his reputation, which is what I think he is worried about, so much the better.

  • Wow a big demo is kicking of in London for electoral reform. Nick Clegg should get out there and address them and say he will not go against their wishes and allow the system to be RIGGED in the favour of the big 2 parties. He should say to both parties that he has had the courage to talk to the people. And now he invited David Cameron and Brown to address the people!

  • Whether or not Nick Clegg views his voters opinions is another matter but judging by the potential outcome of forming a coalition with the tories, he certainly does not value his parties policies. Furthermore I do not believe the electorate voted for a Torly-Lib dem coalition either; or was this just an extra option on the ballot paper which I did not see.

    The lib dems has always been about fairness and so I think it would be unwise to form any coalition under most circumstances as the parties views are different from both the tories and labour party.
    However if the labour party is willing to reform the voting system than I cannot see this as a negative. I understand people might say that now is not the best time to alter the election system what with the current financial system, but looking from another angle, now is the perfect time.

    Another election is likely to take place within a year anyway and if things do not change than I am predicting a similar situation with no party having a majority. Sometimes you have to be selfish in order to be generous, and I think the Lib Dems should form a coalition with the labour party in order to help their own agenda as this will finally give the people of Britain a fairer representation of how the country has voted.

    This is the change that the country wants.

  • “The fundamental question is this – CAN LABOUR BE TRUSTED TO DELIVER PR?

    Now – go away, and LEARN FROM HISTORY.”


  • sorry that was quoting Tabman at 2:44 pm.

  • tonyhill:

    its reliance on Welsh and Scottish Nationalist support would create an opportunity for the Conservative Party to stoke resentment in England

    Having laws that effect only England voted on by only English MPs would go a long way to preventing this. I doubt the nationalists would oppose it either: the SNP long ago stopped voting on English issues.

    A Lab-Lib-SDLP-SNP-PC (possibly plus Green and Alliance) coalition with a referendum on STV (even AV would be an improvement) and the minority parties lessening Lab’s authoritarian impulses seems a viable option, with a shared dislike of the Tories holding it all together.

    And electoral reform surely needs to be a LibDem red line, both for the good of the country and the good of the party. Without it the LibDems will never make a breakthrough. In the UK the only 3rd party breakthrough was in the wake of WW1, in the US it was in the wake of the civil war. Without a disaster of that scale I can’t see it happening again.

    (Personally I’d prefer separately elected executive (single winner IRV) and legislature (STV) but that’s not on the cards).

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 3:22pm

    “Having laws that effect only England voted on by only English MPs would go a long way to preventing this.”

    Do you mean in the future with MPs elected by PR? It could hardly be done now, as the Tories have a majority of English MPs!

  • I am really concerned that a party who considers itself to be fair will even consider doing an alliance with a party that has completely stripped our civil liberties for the past 13 years. With a party that has a leader who the country did not elect (and now you are talking of Labour putting forward yet another leader in the same way). With a party that people essentially voted out. Lib Dems did not win the election. You lost seats. I don’t see why you are expecting all other party activists to drop what they campaigned for, just so you can have your manifesto implemented. You wouldn’t want it done to you, but you are prepared to do it to others. Take a look at New Zealand. Don’t turn people against you just as they are coming around to PR. Good luck to Nick Clegg. It must be a tough decision.

  • kizzy:

    a non-elected PM

    We don’t elect PMs. We elect MPs and they elect PMs.

    Most PMs over the last century first became PMs between general elections, e.g. Major or wartime Churchill.

  • Tim Johnson 8th May '10 - 3:28pm

    The deal-breaker as far as going in with Labour is concerned is that they would have little chance of actually delivering meaningful voting reform. A rainbow coalition’s majority would be hopelessly vulnerable to blackmail and bloody-mindedness. Good legislation on a reformed voting system will need careful preparation and consensus, not rushing through before the government collapses. And if there is a hurried referendum on reform there is a good chance it will be lost – imagine how shrill the Tory-dominated media will be against it.

    The best course for the long-term future of the Liberal Democrats is to take the national interest high-road. That means accepting that we need a government which can rely on a strong majority for the tough decisions about cutting the deficit. Nick Clegg has already talked about a “Council for Financial Stability”. The deal with the Tories should be on those lines. Measures to cut the deficit would be agreed by the “Council” where the LibDems would have the right of veto. Subject to that they would then be supported by Lib Dem votes in parliament (not just abstention).

    The Lib Dems should also take up the offer of a speaker’s conference on electoral reform, while ensuring that it is genuine and not just designed to fail. Something of this kind will be needed as the first step on the road to reform anyway. The idea that the LibDems would be able to force through reform against the will of the bigger parties by exploiting a (probably fleeting) hung parliament situation was always fantasy anyway.

    The LibDems should also require a more positive approach to Europe from a Cameron Government. Demanding that the Tories desert their nutty associates in the “European Conservatives and Reformists” group and rejoin the European Peoples Party, which will give Britain much more influence, would be a good start. Cameron will may be glad to be released from a silly campaign promise. On the other hand it will encourage UKIP to keep nibbling away at Tory votes from the right.

    Politicians may get sneered at for putting the national interest above short-term political advantage but it often pays off in the longer run. (For example, Charles Kennedy’s opposition to the invasion of Iraq.) The LibDems have to show they are a serious political party, worthy of leading the country. Today that means helping to deliver strong government when it is needed.

  • Nick go and speak to that crowd in Smith square, tell them you believe in letting the people decide on electoral reform and that there will be no deals without a referendum.

  • Anthony Aloysius St:

    Do you mean in the future with MPs elected by PR? It could hardly be done now, as the Tories have a majority of English MPs!

    I’m not sure what you’re saying. Electoral reform would be a UK issue so would be voted on by all MPs. The Tories may be left with control over English laws, but democracy can be a bitch like that.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 3:32pm

    “I think anyone who believes a coalition with the Conservatives is speaking for the voters is a ridiculous conclusion.”

    Moreover, if you look at the Populus poll I mentioned above, the implication of the nearly equal support for arrangements with the Tories and with Labour is that nearly two thirds of those who voted neither Conservative or Labour would prefer the Lib Dems to deal with Labour. There can’t be much doubt that the same would be true of those who actually voted Lib Dem on Thursday.

  • amk, you know what I mean. When people voted Labour, they weren’t voting Brown in as PM.

    If Brown remains, I’m leaving the country. I’m not the only one. I guess that is more of a dealbreaker for me than if LibDems leave their party.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 3:36pm


    I just meant that a Lab/LD/Nats government which changed the law to allow only English MPs to vote on English issues obviously wouldn’t be viable after that change came into force, as it wouldn’t have a majority on those votes. But if it were part of a package of reforms that would come into force after a subsequent election, that would be a different matter.

  • Lab/LD/Nats government which changed the law to allow only English MPs to vote on English issues obviously wouldn’t be viable after that change came into force

    The important stuff isn’t England-only though. In particular, such a government wouldn’t lose a no-confidence vote.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 3:43pm

    A rainbow coalition’s majority would be hopelessly vulnerable to blackmail and bloody-mindedness.

    On the other hand, we’re essentially talking about a coalition with only three vital ingredients. You have to ask in what circumstances any of the three would consider it in their interests to bring down the government. In particular, it’s a bit difficult to imagine the SNP soaring in popularity in the near future sufficiently to make that the case, if they were effectively in government in both London and Edinburgh. Ditto for Plaid (mutatis mutandis).

  • I think there is a fourth option, and that is: DO NOTHING. We take our seats, allow Cameron to form a government, but vote on an issue-by-issue basis. Cameron would be Prime Minister, but he would not be able to do what he wanted. He would not be able to take the axe to the public sector, repeal the Human Rights Act or allow nut groups to set up schools at the state’s expense. Sooner or later the hard right in the Tory Party would force Cameron to call a second election. We would accuse him of cutting and running, and would point to the fact that we had curbed his excesses. There is one weakness: we don’t get PR. That would have to wait until we emerged in a stronger position after a second election. If David Miliband or Ed Balls were Labour Party Leader, then a progressive coalition might just be possible, but I don’t think it would endure beyond a few months.

    Everyone is assuming that the DUP would be a reliable partner for the Tories. Not so. Firstly, Ulster MPs rarely show their faces at Westminster and could not be relied upon to attend every division. Secondly, the DUP draws much of its support from the working-class, especially in and around Belfast. While they are socially conservative, they favour public spending and would not want to facilitate the deep cuts that Cameron and Osborne are contemplating.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 3:46pm


    Well, I think it would be daft to make that change voluntarily _before_ introducing a fair voting system. After all, the Tories polled less than 40% even in England.

  • Paul McKeown 8th May '10 - 4:21pm

    Nationalists & Unionists

    Deals with the SNP, PC and DUP cannot involve pork, at a time of financial retrenchment that is fundamentally unfair and unrealistic to the point of being preposterous. Any deal must involve further devolution of powers, perhaps leading to a more federal structure. Salmond would settle for increased tax raising powers, for instance, North of the Border. This is not fundamentally different from our own thinking.

    Coalition of the like minded

    This would involve Lib Dem’s (57), Labour (258), SDLP (3), Naomi Long (Alliance) (1) and Sylvia Hermon (Ind. Un.) (1), a total of 320, generally sufficient to outvote the Conservatives and any one other party. It could not involve the nationalists nor the DUP, nor the Greens, as these parties, although they may have some views in common with the proposed coalition, differ more radically in many areas. This would be very difficult, as it would require the Labour whips to continually threaten public disembowelment for any members of the awkward squad.

    It would require Gordon Brown to step down, it would have to deliver STV and many other Lib Dem policies. It would also require Labour to be serious about the fiscal deficit. I would suggest that it would have to be Clegg as prime minister, with Harriet Harman as deputy prime minister. Darling as chancellor.

    Very difficult, just about possible. If it worked properly for five years the Conservatives would fall into pieces due to internal strains.

    Conservative Minority Government

    Okay – possible – we should require to be treated as a full opposition party, rather than the bob a job monkeys that we are currently treated as. We should also be allowed to present a number of Liberal Democrat bills in areas where we have interests in common. These would require support of the Conservative whip.

    Liberal Democrat minority government

    This has not been mentioned so far, but it might be worth exploring whether we could sensibly govern with support on specific issues from both major parties, to clear up the financial mess and restore public faith in parliament. This would be supported by the whole of the party, the question is whether we could thread the eye of the needle with both Conservatives and Labour; it might be there both least hated option, though financial love from the Conservative, social justice from Labour and Liberal Democracy from us. Any takers?

    I’m not joking.

  • I had thought there was a good chance of a Coalition of some sort but reading the insanity on this site I see the Liberals really are simply the left wing of the Labour Party in a different hat,
    If thats the way it is I say F— you . Support Brown then the next unlected leader and then reap the reward. It will not be long coming and as for PR we can see excatly how that would work. This is it .

  • The choice is simple, form a coalition with Labour, and have what may be the only chance ever for electoral reform, side with the tories, and lose the majority of Lib Dem voters next election.

  • You may wonder whether people would be angry at the Lib Dems for causing temporary instability, but I wonder whether the party and the Left in general would forgive Clegg if he gave up this opportunity to get a referendum on PR.

    There is another option, Clegg could agree to briefly prop up Labour (with or without a new leader) with the SDLP and Nats, just to get a referendum on a system of PR, FPTP or AV+. Then, regardless of the outcome, we have a new election within six months. If you were up-front with the people, I don’t think they would take it out on you. Also, if AV+ or PR were chosen, you would end up with more seats than you have now – even if you ended up with a reduced vote %.

    The only risk is the referendum. Labour would say AV+ was the middle ground, the Tories would say that PR and AV+ would lead to chronic instability and permanent coalition. In the context of this election, you may be unlikely to get strict PR in whatever form.

    Interesting times indeed.

    Andrew, (a libertarian and not Lib Dem voter)

  • Paul McKeown 8th May '10 - 4:54pm

    Whatever happens, the Lib Dem leadership should take a principled decision in the national interest and not allow any Labour-mini-me-ists or other such factions to hold the party to ransom. Let them go to Labour if that is what they realy want: we are Liberal Democrats.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 4:59pm

    “If thats the way it is I say F— you . Support Brown then the next unlected leader and then reap the reward. It will not be long coming and as for PR we can see excatly how that would work. This is it .”

    But the thing is that a poll today showed that the levels of public support for and opposition to an arrangement between the Lib Dems and Labour were almost identical to those for one between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives.

    About a third of the electorate didn’t vote either Conservative or Labour – and of those about two thirds would favour keeping Labour in power. The Tories can claim what they like about having “won” the election, but only 36% voted for them – not much more than one in three. They shouldn’t have the arrogance to assume either that everyone shares their outlook on the world, or that they have some kind of God-given right to govern.

  • Nick has a fourth option – a three party coalition, Nick could say that the unprecedented economic crisis and the election result meant that only a all party coalition would have the mandate to take the necessary action to deal with the crisis. DC would have to PM because he has the largest share of vote and number of MPs.

  • I wish Clegg would come out and repeat, again, that this is the Liberal Democrats – not the Tories, not some wing of the Labour Party. Whatever the LibDems do, they do as the LibDems, not as LibLab or LibCon. Ex Labour voters need to get rid of the bullying mindset they’ve been used to in Labour. They cant stamp their feet and demand that LibDems support Labour. If Labour is so good then why didnt they win?

    The fact is – Labour have driven most of their old supporters away. All thats left is people who stay because their dads did before them – which is possibly the worst possible reason to keep supporting them seeing as they arent at all the same party as they were then, and the world is a very different place too – and the people too bloody frightened to leave in case the Thatcher gets in – which again, Im not keen on the Tories but come on, you live in 2010, isnt it about time you caught up?

    That there are people who abandoned nu Labour for the Lib Dems only to demand that the LibDems join nu Labour just shows how utterly confused they all are.

    Chill out. This isnt nu Labour. Its not always a ‘with us or against us’ situation.

    Anyone trying to blackmail the LibDems to choose between Labour and the Conservatives – how did you miss the part where the LibDems said they want out of the two party system? Its a bad analogy, but honestly it makes me think of divorcing parents at war, mad and vengeful and totally fogged up, with a sensible kid caught in the middle, just trying to get on with things that actually matter.

  • No PR and political reform, no deal! Anything else then a commitment to a nationwide referendum would be unacceptable.

    In terms of other policies, there will have to be some compromise, But I can’t see how the negotiations can continue without a clear commitment from the Tories for referendum.

    If we do go into a coalition with Labour there is potential of 1.propping up a hugely unpopular Prime Minister, 2.eventually undermining any noticeable differences between people’s perceptions of the differences between the Liberal Democrats and Labour party, what might be argued is that Liberals and Labour are all one and the same, and therefore why vote for the LDP?

    Labour has had 13 years to instigate electoral reform. They have done nothing, and imo it a stretch to call them a progressive party. If we join in a Con-Lib pact, we will be able to show are differences , and through constructive negotiations, be seen to be a serious political party. There is a danger of another election being called soon, and then a intensity of this line of thought:

    ie a vote for the LDP is a vote for the conservatives. Lets not forget, WE LOST SEATS, if we had gained seats, then for sure I’d be inclined to stick to our guns lock stock, and say to hell with the Tories. This didn’t happen, partly due to the above line of thought I think. We have to be realistic.

    All that said if Brown goes, and Harman as PM would be good. it is interesting to note that the Labour Party has yet to call a conference of its MPs to discuss how best to proceed.

  • Paul McKeown 8th May '10 - 5:23pm


    Hear, hear! Liberal Democracy, not Illiberal Labourism. Mini me’s should stfu.

    The public will respect any party that puts the national interest before party interest. It was former Labour voters who voted Conservative, giving the lie to the idea that the public is fundamentally Labour. If Labour had earned the public mandate with the largest share of the votes and the largest number of seats, then Nick Clegg would be dealing with them first, but they didn’t. Get over it.

  • Not everyone who didn’t vote Tory or Labour want a Lib/Lab coalition. You can say it as much as you like but one poll doesn’t make it the truth. I have never voted Tory but have in the past voted Labour and Lib Dem. If Lib Dems don’t go with the party that got the most votes in THIS system, then I don’t think you are really the party you make out.
    If you had got the most votes as a party, you would be going hopping mad if the third party went and formed a coalition with the 2nd place party. Clegg did the right thing. I hope he works something out and sees above old party rivalries. This type of negotiation is what PR is all about. If you can only form Lib/Lab coalitions because you won’t get into bed with the Tories, then you can’t hope for PR to work properly in the future.

    And to hear talk about forming a progressive Govt. with Ed Balls on this site is really scary.

  • Fraser Giles 8th May '10 - 5:35pm

    you really thing nick clegg could go and cuddle up to gordon brown?

    the most hated prime minister in history?

    then you are all deluded.

    should be a lib/con coalition.

    chris huhne home secretary.
    nick clegg deputy prime minister
    vince cable joint chancellor.
    david laws environment minister

    and a referendum on PR.


  • Cons are not going to giving a referendum on PR, simple, some senior Tories do not want to business with Lib Dems at all.

  • Re the numbers game, as well as the Shinners you also need to take the Speaker’s vote off the total. Also, three deputy speakers have to be found and they don’t normally vote either. Given the current Speaker is a Tory, the norm would be for two deputy speakers to be Labour and one Tory. But whoever they are, the actual number of voting MPs is only likely to be 641.

  • Urban Supporter 8th May '10 - 5:53pm

    I’m not a Party member but a Libdem voter for the last few years. Left of centre, pro-civil liberties, strongly for an ethical foreign policy (marched against Iraq war), for PR. Live in a big city, very few Tories round here. We have a Libdem MP who got in on the back of a massive anti-Labour swing 5 years ago.

    This year I had LD posters up, helped with leafleting, sent a donation to Nick Clegg 2 wks before the election. Was thrilled with the apparent surge in LD support and then gutted as the results came in.

    But not half as gutted as I have been since yesterday at the prospect of a LD-Com deal.

    I am convinced, repeat convinced, that the Libdem support round here, which has been steadily built up by a fantastic team of councillors and our MP, will simply collapse if Clegg makes a deal with Cameron. I’m sure the same holds true in every other urban area in the UK.

    I have a feeling that some of you inside the party don’t quite see what a terrible impression Clegg’s moves are creating to the 100s of thousands of left-of-centre supporters outside the party who have supported the Lib Dems as the most ‘progressive’, ethical force. What’s more, I know loads of people who were, if you like, ‘latent’ LibDem supporters. In other words people who really liked LD policies but were petrified that a vote for Clegg could let Cameron in.

    If a Tory/LD partnership of whatever variety goes ahead — or even if the negotiations with the Tories go on for much longer — the LibDems are in big danger of losing actual left-of-centre supporters like me, possibly forever. And possibly even worse, likely to lose any chance of attracting potential voters who would have gone LibDem but for fear of the Tories.

    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. 🙁

  • Tories couldn’t win out a majority after 13 years of Labour, the recession, huge unemployment, the Iraq wars, expenses scandal, that tells a story on its own.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 5:57pm

    “Not everyone who didn’t vote Tory or Labour want a Lib/Lab coalition. You can say it as much as you like but one poll doesn’t make it the truth.”

    No doubt there will be more polls in the next few days, so we’ll see. But that one is quite consistent with polling over the years that has shown that a majority of Lib Dem voters would make Labour rather than the Tories their second choice.

    And the reason I pointed it out is that I’d seen several comments implying that the Lib Dems would make themselves deeply unpopular if they made an arrangement with Labour. Of course that’s what Tories would like us to believe, but on the evidence we have it’s simply not so.

  • @L – Labour delivered PR through multi-member STV (otherwise known as the electoral system without the undemocratic downsides of AV, AV+ or AMS) for local party elections in Scotland as part of their coalition deal with us in Holyrood. So the answer to your question is ‘yes’; away and ‘LEARN FROM HISTORY’ yourself.

  • Urban Supporter – I couldn’t agree more.

    It strikes me that the Labour Party is a more likely bedfellow for the Tories than the Lib Dems are.

  • @Richard – Indeed, one story it tells is that inspite of the ‘Cleggmania’ result being heavily squeezed by Labour there are a significant number of people who expressed a preference that they would rather we were the new force and not the Conservatives. That said, it would be easier on everyone if part of the coalition deal was that Gordon Brown were to step down at some point in the near future.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 6:01pm

    Oh, and of course I didn’t say anything about “everyone who didn’t vote Tory or Labour [wanting] a Lib/Lab coalition”. On the evidence of that poll it would be about two thirds.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 6:03pm

    “Also, three deputy speakers have to be found and they don’t normally vote either.”

    Are you sure about that? Or is it just that they don’t vote when officiating?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 6:11pm


    Sorry – right you are. So for calculation purposes we should probably make the Tories 305 and the Lib/Lab total 313, with 321 giving a majority.

  • Is this what we want? Hung Parliament comedy: Clegg chooses Cameron

  • It seems to me the sudden rise in popularity of the Libdems was triggered by Nick Clegg convincingly saying “We’re different, We represent real change, We’re not like the two old parties”. Presumably some (many?) of the people who voted Libdem did so because they wanted these things. How will the Libdems keeping Labour in office go down with these voters? New? Different? Change?

    I can see, from reading the comments here, that many Libdem activists are just another shade of left (sorry ‘progressive’) but if it’s the people who supported you in the election you care about, and how they will vote in any future elections, you ought to consider the above.

    From my (non-Libdem) viewpoint I think Libdems would come out of this best going for the supporting a minority Cameron government but not being part of a formal coalition option whilst pushing for PR as far as you can without looking like that’s more important to you than everything else (sorting out the deficit etc.).

  • Tim Johnson 8th May '10 - 7:04pm

    Well, the people who said a hung parliament was bound to be a bad thing, and PR is therefore bad too, because it would give us permanent hung parliaments, must be feeling fully justified as they read these posts. How can you justify taking these irreconcilable attitudes when the whole point of PR is to oblige parties to make compromises and reconcile differences because they are forced to work together? Now this situation has cropped up for real and many of the PR enthusiasts are proving themselves just as doctrinaire and pig-headed as everyone else, if not more so.

    What the current situation requires of the Liberal Democrats, holding the pivotal position in Parliament which they have long prayed for, is to act to give the country the most effective government possible. That has to mean some kind of combination between Lib Dems and the Tories. No other feasible combination has a realistic majority in this parliament. When people start listing coalitions which rely on Lady Sylvia Hermon to turn up, take the whip and toe the line, you need no more evidence of what a batty project some kind of “Progressive Front” would actually be.

    Yes, it’s very disappointing for many of us (including me) that a Labour-LibDem coalition is not a realistic option in this case. If the Tories had won only 10 fewer seats and the LibDems 20 more (including 10 more off Labour) the situation would be very different. On the other hand, if Cameron had won only 10 more seats he would have been called to the Palace by now. But the reality is as it is. The LibDems need to make the best of it, and to do it in such a way that we bring the country better government and are seen to do so. That should be the prime consideration, not despairing claims about “losing left-of-centre support for ever” and that kind of thing.

  • Nonconformistradical 8th May '10 - 7:32pm

    “How can you justify taking these irreconcilable attitudes when the whole point of PR is to oblige parties to make compromises and reconcile differences because they are forced to work together?”

    Actually this is NOT the whole point of PR. There is nothing to say that if – when – we have a fair voting system people will necessarily vote along the same lines as they do now. What it will mean – whatever the type of PR – is no more wasted votes. And STV would mean no more safe seats and maximum power in the hands of the electorate.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 8:25pm


    “That has to mean some kind of combination between Lib Dems and the Tories. No other feasible combination has a realistic majority in this parliament.”

    Well, a combination of Lab/SDLP, Lib Dem/Alliance and SNP/PC would have a majority of 10 by my reckoning.

    Surely it’s at least a possibility worth considering, if the Tories don’t come up with reasonable proposals in the current negotiations.

  • That rainbow alliance would not be good for this nation. Also, It would fall over in seconds. And I would get my banner and would be out protesting that Labour were still squatting at number 10, along with their enablers. Don’t underestimate how bad it will get if Labour stay in, and how bad you will look for keeping them there. Many people couldn’t bring themselves to vote Tory, but they didn’t vote Brown or LibDem either. The 40% who stayed at home were probably the people who usually DO vote. Not all of us are socialists but many of us are libertarian and rolling back the state is really important to us. If you keep Big Brother in, you will soon find little sympathy for your causes.

  • Caroline Dudley 8th May '10 - 8:48pm

    10.7 million people voted for a Conservative government. 18.9 million people voted NOT to have a Conservative government. It is the latter group which deserve Nick Clegg’s support.

  • and how many voted to have Nick Clegg’s support? Maybe you should calculate how many seats you all would have got using the STV?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 8:58pm


    “That rainbow alliance would not be good for this nation.”

    You seem to have a fundamental problem appreciating that not everyone shares your opinions.

    If everyone thought the same, we wouldn’t need to hold elections. And if we did, we wouldn’t need to have these discussions because there would only be one party and it would always get 100% of the vote. Mind you, at least that would give us perfect PR …

  • @Parthiban

    A rainbow coalition would be catastrophic for the economy. The price the SNP, the SDLP and Plaid will put on that coalition will be no cuts for their countries. For starters that will mean England faces ALL the cuts (rioting anyone?) and secondly it will mean that the markets will see that there is no way for england to cut its deficit and we’ll bump down the credit rating.

    Caroline, by that logic 23 million people voted ‘NOT’ to have a Lib Dem government. So surely Nick should step out of all talks and resign as party leader? Of course not, a Lib/Lab pact would have 59% of the vote and a rainbow coalition could hope at most to have 56.8% (assuming SDLP, Green, Alliance, Plaid and SNP support).

    I’ll say this a hundred times, Democratic legitimacy rests with a tory government of some variety, if tribal lunatics like yourself want to ruin the country and prop up a zombie illiberal prime minister solely because he doesn’t wear a blue rosette and he’s suddenly ‘realised’ that PR is a panacaea then go ahead. I just pray no one takes you seriously.

  • right back at you Anthony. I just hope not all your fellow libdems share yours. Seems there are two camps on this blog. I prefer the one, you are not in. Thanks for the chat!

  • Also, just to clarify. As this article points out, we’ll lose voters whichever option we choose, this is not a question of party interest its a question of national interest.

  • The outcome from this is a dry-run for PR isn’t it… the British public’s views on how well this process is working are absolutely critical to the Liberal Democrats future and the likelihood of them backing PR in a referendum.

    The way some of the media and some of you guys talk about it you seem to think someone presses a button and bang we have PR but it can’t happen without a referendum. Has anyone considered the likely outcome of such a referendum. Of course it will be absolutely influenced by what is happening right now.

    A few folk have mentioned the national interest. I don’t think anyone really focused on the fact that there is a national emergency going on right now.

    Has anyone considered the unspeakable fourth option… to win the public’s trust by stating that the national emergency is more important than party political considerations. To visibility put the parties needs to one side, claim the higher ground and win over the public in the process. To show the British people consensual politics can work.

    Any deal to get a referendum on PR could be utterly and absolutely pointless if by that point the public hate us and a no vote on it could set back the opportunity for PR by 2 more decades. The best way to get PR is to do the best for Britain right now and that isn’t a weak government with the party most of us prefer. I’m afraid we simply have to respect the fact that most people voted for the Tories and they are the only opportunity for a strong government.

    It’s time to drop the dogma and get on with what we all wished for… consensual government. Do it well and we might get it again, if not it’s gone!

  • Many people who voted Lib Dem, did it because they wanted Lib Dem, not a LibLab/Rainbow coalition.

    Please don’t assume a vote for Lib Dems was a vote for anything but the Tories. It might have been for anything but Labour.

    I think that entering a formal coalition with either side would be a serious mistake. Either way I don’t think that the Lib Dems would ever be taken seriously as a real party again, they’ll be seen as an add on of whichever they side with.

    I don’t think that a deal to allow the Tories to pass a speech and budget would be seen the same way. And the Lib Dem’s could then use the opportunity to show how good legislation can be passed without the type of Government the country is used to. Not forcing things though on a majority, but creating legislation that can be genuinely agreed on by a majority. Show people you are a serious INDEPENDENT party.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 9:30pm

    “Please don’t assume a vote for Lib Dems was a vote for anything but the Tories. It might have been for anything but Labour.”

    I don’t think we need to assume anything. We know that opinion polls have consistently shown that when Lib Dem voters are asked for their second choice, support for Labour is higher than support for the Tories.

  • Anthony, it was in response to this:
    “18.9 million people voted NOT to have a Conservative government”

    Many people didn’t vote not to have a Conservative government. They voted for the party they wanted.

  • To coin an expression from Vince Cable, I find the suggestion in Stephen’s article that letting a Tory minority administration to assume power would allow the LibDem party to remain “a little more pure” to be “utterly nauseating”. What on earth is the leadership for – purity for its own sake?!

    What the leadership need to wake up to is that they are inevitably going to pay a political price for securing PR, but my word it will be a price worth paying.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th May '10 - 10:07pm


    Just trying to help you avoid needless assumptions by providing a little information.

  • Be careful what you wish for!

    As I recall part of our pitch at the GE was that voting Lib Dem, and electing Lib Dem MPs would strengthen our position to implement policy, especially in a hung parliament.

    Well, hung parliament it is, and suddenly it’s :

    you can’t prop up discredited Labour / you can’t support the Tories

    So what are Nick and his colleagues supposed to do? Hide in a cupboard?

    Let them get on with it; let them make their best judgement; and then support them!!

    Loyalty is an admirable quality.

  • David Pollard 8th May '10 - 11:45pm

    First, its the others who are scared. Let’s leave them to stew for a bit.
    Second, time is the key. If we do not get a PR referendum with the Tories we say to Labour that we will do a time limited deal. We agree a policy for dealing with the deficit which include a key role for Vince Cable in the Treasury, even if not the Chancellor. This will calm the markets immediately. We agree to bring forward a bill on a referendum on PR and hold one. Gordon Brown stays on as PM for a fixed length of time to allow him to leave office with dignity (which of course he does not deserve) and the Labour party elect a new leader. We should agree a two year timescale for these things to happen, Then have a general election based on PR.
    If Cameron is in opposition the party will get rid of him as a failure and we will be back to the nasty party.
    All quite straight forward really!

  • Libdems – Whichever scenario you choose here, you will lose votes at the next election and you will lose supporters and activists immediately. You are basically stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    I’m not a Libdem but have voted for you in the past. My own thoughts are as follows:

    If you go with a Labour/rainbow coalition with 4 or 5 parties, you may appease more activists and true Libdem supporters in the short term. However, in the medium term this is really an unworkable solution to implement policies, as each party will be demanding their pound of flesh for support. i.e. Any SNP involvement will be demanding millions for Scotland, Plaid Cymru (same for Wales), Unionists (same for Ireland). In this current climate, splashing out millions in bribes just won’t cut it… It’s will end in chaos and an early election… Labour will stab you in the back and claim only voting Labour and strong government is a solution. You will lose a lot of long term support. The markets won’t like a coalition of upto half dozen parties – it just won’t work, especially with the tribal Labour party at the core… They can barely maintain discipline in their own ranks.

    PR – You won’t get PR with a Tory coalition. But you will get influence, help to provide a stable government and get some of your policies implemented. If you seriously want PR – and cannot come to a deal with the Tories here and now in a hung parliament then it will send big ripples to the public… PR means hung parliaments and if deadlock is what we get in this situation then PR does not look very attractive to the public at all.

    I think the Tory coalition is your best bet… but if you are considering the damage to your overall vote then you have to accept the fact that you will get this whatever you do. If you are considering doing the best for the country in the short term then the Tory deal is the only viable option.

  • David Pollard – I hope you don’t seriously expect 22% of the vote if PR was implemented?

    I for one have voted LibDem on several occasions and know plenty of others who have – many Tories and many Labour supporters. I’d hazard a guess you’d be more around the 12% mark on a pure PR vote as you’d lose every tactical voter in the country.

  • I agree with David! …and Nick
    Lb dems should go into coalition with the conservatives. It’s more moral than a deal with Labour (given the electroate has rejected them) and more preferable than a conservative minority government. As part of a deal Vince Cable and Nick Clegg should get positions around the table. We should agree fixed terms and equality of constituencies – but if voting reform is the big sticking point – why not make it a stipulation that it is included as a referendum with the next general election ballot papers? This would leave the LibDems and conservatives to go their separate ways in the campaign during the run up to the next election and whoever wins would have to pay heed to the result. I recognise this means a 4-5 year delay (depending upon the agreed fixed term limit) but if PR is included as a separate issue on the next ballot, whoever would win would be obliged to follow the will of the people. I think this could be acceptable to both parties

  • Anthony Aloysius St 9th May '10 - 12:23am

    Just a bit more information about public opinion on deals and coalitions:. Here are Anthony Wells’s comments on a couple more polls:
    A YouGov poll in the Sunday Times … Asked who should form the next government 48% of respondents thought there should be either a Conservative minority or a Con/LD coalition. 31% favoured a Lab/LD agreement.

    ICM also have post-election poll. They found similar preferences on who should form the government, 51% wanted a Conservative minority (18%) or Conservative/LD coalition (33%) and 32% wanted a Lab/LD coalition.

    And on electoral reform:
    62% said they supported a change to a more proportional system, with only 13% supporting FPTP … if this question is a repeat of one of YouGov’s previous electoral reform questions it is probably a big jump in support for electoral reform.

    ICM however found considerably less support for electoral reform – 48% supported PR, but 39% supported sticking with FPTP.

  • Andrea Gill 9th May '10 - 12:47am

    #IagreeWithcrewegwyn 🙂

  • Bradley Colmans 9th May '10 - 1:00am

    Sorry but its as simple as simple can be. This is the one and possibly only chance to get a PR referendum and secure a fair future for all voters not just us. That is the only thing Clegg should care about. Nothing else matters. Let them give the Liberals no cabinet positions, we know the next Parliament is going to be bad for whoever is in charge.
    I am dismayed that Clegg is putting short term selfish political aims for a measure of power, for the long term advancement of the party. Without a guarantee of PR we will never ger rid of this system as why would the Tories or Labour ever vote for it freely when it would be ruinous for them (turkeys voting for Christmas?).
    Thats why it is so very very simple and no one should be muddying the waters like they are now. Like Brown stay on if thts what he wants, let them face up to the mess that they created. Just get that promise of an immediate PR refurendum and the future is bright. Nick dont sell this party down the river just for a few cabinet posts, or is it all about you getting a bit of power and not what is right.
    So its simple, do a deal with the party who will give us PR, if not walk away. SIMPLE

  • I’d hazard a guess you’d be more around the 12% mark on a pure PR vote as you’d lose every tactical voter in the country.

    When asked “if you thought the Lib Dems could win, for whom would you vote?” Lib Dems score much higher than 24%. I’m trying to find some good references (anyone care to help?), but it seems to range from between mid 30%s and 50%.

    The “a vote for Lib Dem is a wasted vote” and “voting Lib Dem could let the Other Lot in!” effects are much stronger than you seem to think.

  • David Allen 9th May '10 - 1:17am

    “Nick Clegg has just three realistic choices, and all of them are unappetising”.

    Stop crying into your beer. Your glass is half full, not half empty! We won a moral victory, which was only snatched away from us by the polarising blackmail of FPTP. We have more power than we have had for a generation. We must believe in ourselves, and we must use it well.

    The minority Tory government is the worst of the three options. Instability and a quick second election would be inevitable. Both Tories and Labour would blame the instability and the cuts on us. We would get slaughtered at the next election.

    We must make a deal. Our strength lies in playing off the two sides against each other, until one side makes us a decent offer. We have to be open to either. We can’t afford the indulgence of saying “never prop up Labour” or “never help the Tories”.

    We must look to the future. Gordon’s present unpopularity is largely irrelevant. In three years’ time, whoever is PM will be wildly unpopular.

    We must of course make fair votes the key. But we must also be realistic. Several times we have been promised reform, the Blair-Ashdown pact being only the latest. Every time, the big parties have managed to weasel out. Let’s not kid ourselves. However hard we try to lock up a promise, it could happen again.

    Let’s think what a Con-Lib government might look like in three years’ time. It would be a gift to Labour propaganda. Labour would be reborn as the popular defenders of the masses against cruel Conlib cuts.

    Let’s think what a Lab-Lib government might look like in three years’ time. It would be an open debate, in which we would win some of the internal arguments, with help from people like Compass. With any luck, it might be a chance to curb the worst excesses of statist power, take charge of sound finance, and get some recognition as a constructive force.

    Now, this wonderful “inquiry on voting reform”, Mr Cameron. You should watch your back! If you don’t raise your offer very soon, we could be gone. And then you will be toast. Liam Fox is after your job!

  • Dave Allen ..are you the comedian? You do have power but don’t forget that you lost seats. The Libdems are like a bunch of people who have discovered christmas and are now opening everyone else’s presents. Stop being so cocky. You didn’t win remember?

  • Paul McKeown 9th May '10 - 2:07am

    @Tim Johnson
    When people start listing coalitions which rely on Lady Sylvia Hermon to turn up, take the whip and toe the line, you need no more evidence of what a batty project some kind of “Progressive Front” would actually be.

    Tim, what do you know about Sylvia Hermon that I don’t? I should say that I was born in South Down, whilst she represents North Down, but unless my compass has gone completely haywire, I would suggest that she would not necessarily be antipathetic to the project. Her voting record in the previous parliament was almost entirely according to the Labour whip, except notably for the Trident replacement, which she opposed. Somewhere between Labour and Lib Dems, and almost entirely opposed to the Tories; the UCUNF deal left her saying that her party had left her. Rather authoritarian from the point of view of Lib Dems, but please bear in mind who her high profile husband was.

    I am not opposed to a deal with the Conservatives, and have some, possibly misplaced confidence, that if it went well, that the public would view it as a positive achievement for us, and it could remove some fears about collaborative politics, going some way towards debunking the “strong government” myth.

    However, I do fear that the Conservatives would not play by the rule-book, and undoubtedly any breach of co-operative discipline would be paraded in the Tory press as a demonstration of our bad faith, weakness or lack of realism.

    I have made a couple of postings on the Labour List blog, which can be found at . These were well received. My second posting was this:

    >>>Peter, Ludwig,

    >>>Thank you for your kind replies, I have to admit to feeling slightly intimidated on writing on a Labour oriented blog!

    >>>Okay, I suspect things may be moving quickly in a different direction, now, but I would like just to present my thoughts briefly, to present what I think is a workable deal between Labour and the Lib Dems.

    >>>I should say that I have no fundamental problems with Nick Clegg dealing with the Conservatives, but sometimes when I read some of the comments on ConservativeHome, for instance, my hair is simply raised. The truth is that the Tories do (and have done in my personal political memory) suffer from a frightening degree of entryism from the hard right. Labour has its own problems, but not of that nature, certainly not the haters and closet Rhodesians. And I’m not here to lecture, as I’m sure many of Labour’s problems are obvious to many of its members, anyway. Lib Dems, too, have to realise that the public were not, in the end, entirely impressed with our platform either; we can’t put a disappointing result completely down to an antipathetic press.

    >>>What I would like to do, though, is put a few thoughts down regarding possible cooperation between our parties in the interest of the British people.

    >>>Firstly, the country is currently walking day by day closeer and closer to a fiscal cliff. That must be the first priority of any political collaboration. I am sure that most Labour voters and members are aware of that too. There simply cannot be any extravagant spending promises, but what we should endeavour to do is spread the pain around and ensure that those most able to deal with the pain do, rather than those least able to.

    >>>There has to be a total sense of personal responsibility amongst all the members of such a parliamentary coalition; there really can be NO egotistical grandstanding, as I called it, as the numbers simply cannot stand for it. All for one, one for all. It should not have to be said, but, nevertheless, I do fear the awkward squad. The Labour whips would have to have complete confidence in a deal, otherwise it is simply not worth attempting.

    >>>It is pointless attempting any rainbow coalition. There can be tacit understandings with the SNP, PC, DUP and the Greens, but ultimately the differences are too great for any formal part of a coalition. Tacit understandings must certainly not mean pork barrel, that would be irresponsible. But Liberal Democrats, for instance, would probably be happen to explore a much more federal structure to the United Kingdom, e.g. with greater tax raising powers for Scotland, that sort of thing.

    >>>I would suggest that the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, our sister party, represented in the parliament by Naomi Long after a stellar electoral performance, could certainly be part of a deal. I would also suggest that your sister party, the SDLP could also easily fit in a coalition. And finally, I would suggest that the Independent member for North Down, Sylvia Hermon, could easily fit in the tent; if such a party existed she would represent Moderate Unionist Labour.

    >>>As for the formal structure of a coalition, it really does mean Gordon Brown stepping down. The public rejected him, it would simply be arrogant not to accept this. We should face the fact that we would be presented as a “Coalition of Losers” by large sections of the media.

    >>>I fear that I may be met by tribal howls of derision, but I would suggest that in such a tie up, the natural candidate for Prime Minister would have to be Nick Clegg. The reason is, for me at least, obvious, as he at least stood for the job. The Tory press would never let it rest if another “unelected” Prime Minister was the result. For balance, I would suggest that the deputy PM would have to be Harriet Harman, she is your deputy leader, and she speaks Labour, which would be absolutely necessary if the parliamentary Labour party is to be on board the deal. (If you were to go into opposition, I would advise otherwise, but that would, of course, be your own business.) Reflecting parliamentary arithmetic, I would suggest that the natural candidate for Chancellor would have to be Alistair Darling.

    >>>Does any of this make any sense from a Labour perspective?

    >>>I understand that events may be overtaking us, but I write in hope.

    >>>Your Liberal Democratic friend,
    >>>Paul McKeown.

    It might make interesting reading for my Liberal Democratic friends to read the (positive) responses that I received. I would welcome comments.

    I do understand that it is likely that we will do Con/Lib, but I also think that, both for ourselves and for the country, that we should have a sensible backstop.

  • Stewart Christie 9th May '10 - 2:24am

    It’s just over 48 hours since the results started coming in, and although it hasn’t quite gone the way we all hoped for, I do not believe for a minute that Nick doesn’t know what he’s doing.

    The results of Thursday’s election are probably the worst scenario anybody could have wished for. From any reasonable analysis the constituency results show that there isn’t any kind of uniform swing or change in any area; the electorate are as angry and confused as everybody else with a vested interest. If it can show anything, it highlights the need for a change from a negative to a positive process of voting.

    However, we are in the midst of the worst crisis this country has ever faced and we do need to stand above traditional factional lines. If this is hard for us as liberals, please stop and think how hard it is for those who have far more entrenched ideals regarding the future of our nation. Taking the moral high ground and doing what is right in the long-term may cost us in the short, but surely this is what we stand for?

    There are some very tough decisions ahead for all parties, not only ours, and I do not think this one is the most difficult we will face. We have to support and moderate the most credible party for government and this is the Conservative party. This doesn’t mean we have to take seats in cabinet – far from it. We have to support and influence the tough and immediate choices that need to be made regarding the economy, but we do not need to enter a formal coalition. “Supply and Demand” works well in New Zealand and is what we would hope for in any reformed system. The Conservatives cannot and will not support any form of PR without splitting their party and Labour are in total disarray. There is no benefit to the country, or indeed us, by taking sides. If previous experience from the first Scottish election in ’99 is anything to go by, we have planned for this eventuality. It may not seem like it at times, but please give Nick and the Executive the benefit of the doubt.

    What we have to learn from this election, and learn very quickly, is where we went wrong. The Liberal Democrats (and the Alliance beforehand) were always the best at mobilising local support, not just at election time but all year round. We’ve lost that along the way. How many times have you heard “we never saw the Liberal candidate” or “we never got anything through the door” this time around? It doesn’t take money, just passion, and we have an abundance of that. Whatever happens we have to prepare for the next election because it isn’t going to be in five years this time around.

    Stop and think. Why do we have parliamentary candidates from outside of constituencies? If you think that’s bad enough, what about prospective councillors from three boroughs away? Why has this happened and where did we lose our USP?

    Let’s do what we have to and make the country work without selling our souls and take the time to analyse where we went wrong. Everyone else is – let’s not deny ourselves the same opportunity.

  • There is this crazy assumption by LibDem activists, that most LibDem supporters are left of centre themselves, more closely aligned to the Labour rather than Conservative parties. That might be true amongst activists but not true amongst the population as a whole and we need to be very aware of this. There are many who don’t know what we stand for; they think we’re nice and cuddly. In fact, one of the reasons Cleggmania collapsed was because people began to look at our policies on immigration, defence and Europe and they didn’t like them. If we don’t understand that and remain as arrogant as the other parties, then we are creating insurmountable problems for ourselves. The front bench of the LibDems is broadly right of centre – Vince isn’t for sure but others most certainly are so economically they represent many of our voters by being closer to the Conservatives. And we also should recognize that Cameron is not Thatcher, has radically different views much closer to the LibDems than many like Liam Fox on the right of the party. Of course there will be some right wing Conservatives that hate a coalition with us but don’t you think that’s also true of Labour with those on the left as radically anti-Europe and anti-PR as they are on the Tory right? And if we tie up with the nationalists in a coalition, then the English will never forgive us and we’ll lose the south-west, we’ll lose our hold in the south. Cable and the others who are worried about the Conservatives running against them in their constituencies need to be very afraid if the LibDems work with the Scots and Welsh to keep the Tories out and a Scotsman in parliament. However, I’m going to leave my last comment until last. We have an unprecedented crisis in this country right now and if we jerk around instead of getting stability with the Conservatives quickly, then Britain wont’ be worth governing anyway. It’s incumbent upon Nick Clegg to act in the national interest rather than in our own interests for now – so far he’s been giving the right impression. Let him help resolve the crisis first and then resume the fight later. If he isn’t allowed to do that then the LibDems will never be forgiven. Right now the least worst option is a Conservative/Lib Dem coalition. Oh yes, one more thing as someone more economically aligned with Nick than Vince. If we think we’re permanently going to be in coalition with Labour once PR is in place, then we become in essence part of the Labour Party so we will have to find ways of working with the Tories in the future to have any credibility or identity so you’d better get used to it.

  • Julian Woodward 9th May '10 - 7:50am

    I feel that the assumption in many of the above comments that Labour is “progressive” and the Conservatives are not is deeply flawed. Is Labour’s rough-shod trampling of civil liberties really “progressive”? There is also a tendency to confuse “change” with “progress” – is the ID Card scheme “progressive”, or is it just change? Is the dumbing-down of school academic standards “progress”? Is the rampant abuse of the Parliament Act to bypass democratic process and force unpopular legislation through “progress”? No.

    The black-and-white characterisation of the Conservatives as being on the side of the “rich” is also very shallow. By instinct the Conservatives are on the side of the moderately well-off, and the few “rich” happen to benefit as well from tax changes designed to help ordinary people. In the end, given the current economic crisis and over-arching need to cut the deficit, it’s not an argument that needs to be had today.

    The Lib Dems and the Conservatives share one key idea: the subjugacy of the state to the individual. Labour views the state as the solution to all problems. Their solution to the current debt hole is to keep digging: borrow yet more money to employ yet more people in the public sector, and then somehow magically rein in spending in a year or two. To do the latter they would have to shed all the newly-created jobs anyway, albeit conveniently delaying that truth until after the election.

    Standing back, I can easily imagine Clegg and Cameron working together. Both leaders are “progressive” by instinct. Sadly, both parties are full of fearful and unthinking political bigots, but that’s human nature, and the true mark of Clegg and Cameron’s leadership will be whether or not they can bring those people with them.

    I also believe that a combination of the two sets of policies could be better aligned with the national interest than any single party’s set of policies.

    Lib Dems: get rid of the silly and tokenistic “scrap Trident but replace it with something else equally expensive” policy, and drop the daft and unworkable “regional immigration” idea (which might work in a nation the size of Canada but is plain nonsense in a nation where you can drive from one end to the other before teatime), but push for a rebalancing of tax policy (in fact, push for a wholesale reworking of the tax system which none of the parties seem brave or “progressive” enough to suggest) in favour of those at the lower end of the financial spectrum. Crucially, hold firm on PR.

    Conservatives: wake up and smell the coffee on PR. Many in this country, including many Tory voters, will never forgive you if you block it now. And give up on the silly soundbite politics (how many times has Cameron said “jobs tax” as though it’s a new tax rather than an increase in an existing one?) which is so 1990s. Reach a compromise on immigration: the LibDem regionalisation idea is daft, yes, but their instincts are right.

    Possibly the biggest gulf between the two parties is their attitude to Europe. The solution there is probably to agree that any significant new European legislation should be put to referendum, and that any overt Conservative moves away from Europe will be put on hold for the lifetime of this parliament. It’s a moot point anyway: the EU – particularly the Euro-zone – is in deep trouble at the moment, and more EU political reform wouldn’t wash with the other large nations so any potential policy clash won’t arise for a number of years.

    During the negotiations LimDems should concentrate on two priorities only:
    (a) working with the Conservatives to resolve the financial crisis
    (b) taking advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for electoral reform
    The reality is that with the scale of spending cuts and tax increases that are going to be required for (a), there’s little room for many nice frilly hand-outs anyway, at least not until the end of this parliamentary lifetime.

    A solid and lasting arrangement – coalition or otherwise – with the Conservatives represents the best chance EVER to reform our outdated, unfair and nonsensical electoral system. That is the long-term prize. The short-term one is a stable and strong government that can dig our nation out of the economic mire. Anything else can, and will have to, wait.

  • Clearly between a rock and a hard place for Nick & Co. But for those of you thinking that we can coalesce with Labour, forget it. 13 years of lies, spin, twisting, ‘back of fag packet’ constitutional changes, Iraq, extraordinary rendition – need I say more? Any party that props up Labour loses all credibility and deserves no electoral sympathy next time around. Labour LOST – geddit?

  • “We ordinary voters want to vote 1,2,3 instead of X, so we can chuck out rotten MPs and end safe seats.”

    Really Dane, my expenses fiddling multi-millionaire MP just re-elected with 60% of the vote ?

    So the seat is still safe, the contest still beteen one party with hundreds of thousands to spend on campaigning and the other with a couple of thousand and i an still unrepresnted because my vote is worthless.

  • It is probable that neither Labour or Conseravtives can deliver their MPs to vote for a referendum on electoral refrom.

    What is anyone going to do if they don’t turn up or vote against the whip ?

    Already comentators are suggesting merely undertaking a boundary review for AV+ could take 6 years.
    So the realistic choices may be AV or STV based on existing constituencies. It is worth noting the STV in 3 member seats is more favourvable to Lab and Con than the 5 member seats of a more proportional STV arrangement.

    I believe a two year anti-Conservative government could survive – if the deal was an election on AV in 2012 and
    other refrom. (assuming it’s not blocked by the lords) which in anycase needs to go asap and be replaced by a STV elected alternative.

    Two year would both give a chance for the recovery to carry on and for year of deficit reduction measures to be put in place. It would also give labour plenty of time to get rid of Brown. It woudl also make it hard for the Conservatives to campaign on the theme “these cuts are bad vote for us and we will make them bigger ”

    A referendum on PR will be very difficult to win.

  • Mouse broadly speaking I agree with you. But what if the Cons offer to put a referendum on AV to the electorate? I think the Lib Dems may take that because they may feel they can get a bill through parliament with a 3 line whip on Conservative MP’s and also a Labour party under pressure to convert their last gasp conversion to AV into something tangible.

    Not perfect but achievable

  • The Conservatives have no intention of agreeing anything this weekend. Their key aim is simply to keep the Lib Dems talking to them and prevent them talking to Labour et al. until next week.

    Letwin is an investment banker. He knows that if no deal is agreed by Monday the markets will go crazy. As sterling plunges, bond yields rise, and share prices fall, the Tories reason that there will be no time for the Lib Dems to negotiate with Labour and the smaller parties, so they will be bounced into a bad deal.

    Parallel negotiations with Labour and the Tories is the only sensible course. And they must begin in earnest today.

  • How many people will leave the Libdems if Nick forms any coalition with Cameron???
    Lots i imagine, and i certainly will be withdrawing my fees and donations every year.

    A very sad time

  • This post is very disappointing. It is not because the choice is between bad option that there is not one much better than the others.
    1) If the LibDems fail to grab the electoral reform chance now we may have to wait decades again
    2) Any deal with the Tories will cost dearly to the LidDems at the next election as most Libdems voters are on the left
    3) Once in office the Tory PM will be able to decide for a new election. They will be likely to do as soon as possible to ask for a strong mandate. Any difficulty in the coalition will give them this opportunity, and Libdems would be wipe out.
    4) Because of 3), LibDems will be in a position of weakness when supporting the Tories, if they oppose the Tories on several points, the Tories can argue of this opposition to call new elections.

    Finally, a left government is the best option for the country for many reasons. The truth is that Clegg is now considering backing the Tories to gain votes as being the “Honest Party” is putting the party’s interest in front of the national interest. But is is also naive, supporting the Tories will be an electoral disaster for the LibDem, who will lose a lot of support and perhaps have to wait 20 more years before having a chance to get electoral reform.

    Yes the choice is unpleasant, but anything but supporting a Left coalition will be political suicide for the LibDem. Your patronising appraisal of left LibDem voters is quite distasteful and looks like a poor rationalisation of the awkward choices of Clegg.

  • Initial nailing of colours to mast: I am a Conservative.

    Firstly I pity the LDs for the choice that has to be made. I personally do not see how the “rainbow alliance” will work in practice. I suspect the smaller parties will demand their pound of flesh for every vote they have to do, ie. money! I think the LDs need to think about how furious the people of England are going to be if it becomes clear that all of the necessary cuts are falling in England with nothing or very little being cut in NI, Wales and Scotland. In many English constituencies the LDs would be the only party that the people could lash out at for the unfairness, particularly in the South and South West.

    As others have said PR almost always necessitates coalitions and compromise. How is it going to appear to the country ( and why would they vote for PR) if the LDs tear themselves apart just at the idea of forming a coalition with another party. You all need to grow up a little and show that you are big boys and can debate and reach agreements rather than throwing your toys out of the pram at the first sign of a compromise with the Tories. Supporting the Tories would allow a sizeable coalition majority and the ability to moderate the most right wing part of the Tories. We might actually get a situation where parties work for the good of the country rather than them spending their time dismantling the Utopian vision of the last party and installing their own.

    Best of luck!

  • Go to, the brilliant website run by LibDem, Mike Smithson and go through the last few weeks’ recent history. You’re wrong, wrong and wrong again that most LibDems prefer Labour to Conservative. That just isn’t true. That was true pre-Cameron but it’s now fairly evenly split. Julian Woodward is quite correct that for many of us the biggest issue is the libertarian issue where the Conservatives and LibDems are fairly close together and Labour is at the opposite end of the spectrum. It worries me that there are people on this post who seem more concerned about ‘brand’ and their raw emotions and as I wrote earlier, were this to be carried through into a “new world order” would put the Lib Dems into a permanent alliance with Labour. Is that what people are advocating because if you are, watch half the LibDem vote be sliced off at the next election and then the LibDems will be back to being a rump? And, more important, if the Lib Dems don’t show a willingness to act responsibly with the winning party and really form a meaningful coalition, then that will be used to destroy the public’s desire for PR and any referendum will be lost. Once we’ve lost that referendum then it will be another generation at least before it’s offered as an option because through our own stupidity we will have lost the legitimacy to argue that it’s in the publics’ interest.

  • Everyone should just calm down and let the elected party and leadership decide what to do for the best. this clamour to ‘look at me, I’m SO going to resign if we go in with X (or Y); can hardly be helping. More to the point, if we are able to achieve PR – and I have been active for 28 years for this more than for anything else – this sort of bargaining will be the norm, and we shall have caused it. In fact, we want it! it’s called consensus politics.

    While we’re waiting to see what’s possible, why don’t we have a positive debate about the great things about being a liberal which isn’t centred on ‘because I hate the Tories (or Labour)’. Here’s mine: because no one has ever died or been tortured under a liberal government (unlike, say, communist ones, conservatives ones, fascist ones, nationalist ones, theocracies ….

  • “It has the advantage of keeping the Lib Dems a little more pure.”

    Does “confidence and supply” really do that?

    You are too young to remember February 1974. That was the first election I voted in and I remember it clearly. It was the last time that we had a hung Parliament. The Liberals and Thorpe decided to keep their hands clean, then went away and waited for another chance to make a deal – for 36 years.

    Washing your hands of the issue may make you feel good, but it doesn’t enhance your reputation – think of Pontius Pilate.

  • Any thought of the Liberal Democrats tacitly supporting a Conservative minority government from outside ought to consider the situation in Canada, where PM Stephen Harper has kept the Conservatives in power by aggressively — some have said dictatorially — using the prerogative powers of the executive in order to govern in defiance of the non-Conservative parliamentary majority, using a policy of divide and conquer to ram its policies through where possible, proroguing parliament and governing by fiat whenever the Conservatives were threatened.

    Nobody should think that David Cameron would shrink from such methods, or would not cling to power by any means necessary, even in the face of a larger parliamentary opposition. Once in power, even a minority Prime Minister has enormous powers that could and would be used to benefit the Conservatives politically at the expense of all other parties. There are many prerogative powers possessed by the government that have fallen into desuetude simply because the government has always had the support of a parliamentary majority. These powers could and would be picked up and dusted off by a government that wishes to govern in defiance of parliament, among them being threatening dissolution, proroguing Parliament, right the way up to threatening or using the Royal veto — which is indeed “no longer used”, as the parliamentary handbooks would have it, but only because no Prime Minister of the last three centuries has seen the necessity of advising the monarch to use it. If, however, the non-Conservative majority of parliament should pass a bill introducing (say) PR electoral reform, nothing could stop David Cameron from “advising” (sc. demanding) that the Queen refuse assent.

    Tacitly supporting a government in which you have no say doesn’t absolve you of responsibility for its actions, but quite the reverse; it gives you the worst of both worlds, saddling you with responsibility for its actions while denying you any influence over those actions. There should be no agreement which does not involve seats in the Cabinet and a significant role in the government, proportional to the number of votes received in the general election, and the power to veto the worst Conservative excesses.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 9th May '10 - 12:05pm

    “By the way, I’m sure no-one is under-estimaing how damaging a deal with the Tories could be. It might just wipe us out in the north, Wales and worst of all Scotland.”

    I think if the deal were of the kind that’s being suggested by the press – a formal coalition with no meaningful commitment from the Tories on electoral reform – you could reasonably add the rest of England to that list.

  • Slight problem with your opinion – like many other commentators – is the deluded notion that ‘the voters’ have turned away from the Labour party.
    The figures don’t say that. Around 6.2% have, but the rest of their previous supporters still voted for them.

    If you believe in a PR system you must surely use it in your arguments.

    The Conservatives have pushed this line that whoever gets the largest rise in support has won, follow it at your peril.

  • Jason Shouler 9th May '10 - 12:45pm

    “And it’s hard to imagine a worse scenario for the Lib Dems than that we eventually decide to throw in our lot with Labour in exchange for a referendum on electoral reform, and then find the pact falls apart the first time it’s tested in the House of Commons. A second election would then be inevitable in which the Lib Dems would be punished severely by the voters.”

    This is once in a lifetime opportunity which translates to all or nothing and it’s the time for courage.

    The hard fact is that unless PR as achieved now then it’s all over for the party. I can’t seriously see Cameron agreeing to PR (or at least not his party) but if he can pull it off then fair enough.

    A deal with GB as suggested by The Guardian seems the safest option (based on change of PM within say a matter of weeks). The coalition should hold as remember all the smaller parties stand to gain from legislation of Electoral reform.

    Once legislation is passed then the situation becomes a lot more stable as both of the larger parties lose all incentive to bring down the government.

    Of course it could still go wrong but what we want now is COURAGE and not WEAKNESS!

  • Unless the Tories have moved in negotiations on electoral reform, then we must start talking to Labour + SNP, Plaid, etc now. That doesn’t mean we should stop talking to the Tories but we need to get something resloved quickly for the good of the markets. Talking to Labour now makes sense. But negotiations should not include Gordon Brown.

    If Labour want a deal then the simplest solution may be to put Nick Clegg in as PM as they can the sort out their internal disputes in the background. Would Labour go for that?

  • As a Tory, I don’t envy your position – just remember
    – we are not all thatchers children – most of us are normal people
    – the national interest thing is just a smokescreen(everyone is saying it) – do what is strategically right for you
    – don’t imagine that the people who vote for you are all motivated by you not being tories – you have sound ideas and people – so be confident
    – you can’t trust the Labour option – not because they are all bad people ( Ed Balls/ Peter Mandleson are of course) but that option won’t be alive long enough for you to get the referendum done – it will take 2 years and the rainbow coalition won’t be in existence for more than a few months
    – if you can agree a roadmap with Cameron to a referendum (which he and I might vote against – but you will win anyway if that argument can be made and the right PR option is selected – then that has to be enough for now – not even John Redwood can argue that the voters deserve the chance to consider the matter outside of an election.
    – if you select an option with “legs” and you get some sort of electoral change that favours you – then you have time to justify your decision to the electorate – if you go with something that fails then in October when the next election happens you might be wiped out and a tory landslide is inevitable (both because of the failure and the lack of money that both you and Labour have to fund another campaign.

    Anyway – I am glad its not my call – Clegg got you back to 24% and you even flirted for a while at 30% – so just back someone who resonates with the voter rather than pure principles which might see you cast into oblivion

  • I spent many hours in the last month delivering leaflets in Horsham which had much to say about Francis Maude and his dubious expense claims. I can’t conceive of members of my party sitting in a Cabinet with him.

    When the Tories became alarmed at Nick Clegg’s surge in popularity, George Osborne sent the Tory dirty tricks department into overdrive, called in the Tory poodle papers, and gave them smears to use against Nick. Could any of our senior politicians sit in a Cabinet with Osborne?

    I worked enthusiastically in this, and previous election campaigns, because I believe in PR, I am pro-Europe, and I believe in tax breaks for the lower paid rather than for millionaires.

    If we prop up a Tory government without immediate legislation to ensure that the next election is fought under PR, we will be hung out to dry by the Tories when it suits them. We would get some of the blame for their nasty policies, we would alienate vast swathes of support, and without PR, we would be back to where we were twenty years ago. As soon as the keys to Number 10 are handed over to Cameron, we are at the mercy of the Tories.

    I believe that our only hope is as part of a ‘rainbow’ coalition, however unstable that might seem. Labour has promised immediate legislation on voting reform, not a committee of enquiry like the Tories. This coalition could be for a fixed time, say a year, after which an election would be fought on PR. I believe that offers us the best hope of coming out of this “rock and hard place” situation with PR and without being decimated at the polls.

    Charles Kennedy once remarked that “Labour are our rivals, the Tories are our enemies”, and I think that still applies today. At least the Labour Party seems to have people (some of them highly placed, such as Alan Johnson) who believe in electoral reform, although I accept that too many of them have come to that belief far too late in the day.

  • and of course i meant that not even John Redwood can deny the voters the chance to consider the matter …

  • Anthony Aloysius St 9th May '10 - 1:14pm

    “the rainbow coalition won’t be in existence for more than a few months”

    I wish I could understand why this is said so often.

    Obviously such a coalition would end only if one of the partners thought it was no longer in their interests to be part of it. More than that, it could only be brought down if the Tories could muster a majority against it.

    Which of the partners would leave? Obviously not the Labour party. Obviously not the Lib Dems. So that leaves me wondering in what circumstances the nationalists would think it was in their interests to side with the Tories, bring down the government and precipitate a general election. I simply can’t see it.

    I think the biggest problem with the “rainbow coalition” would be not its stability per se, but whether the Labour party could deliver a Commons majority for electoral reform.

  • David Lawson 9th May '10 - 1:45pm

    Our vote in the next election, whenever it is, will be under pressure (seats are harder to predict). A good example just now on world at one with Labour guy saying that voters would not have realised that a Lib Dem vote was a vote for Cameron. We face a high risk of a squeeze from both sides (as Stephen Tall explains well above).

    It is hard to see anything that works for us apart from a written agreement for a PR referendum this year. The suggestion, also on world at one, of a two year talking shop is utterly and completely unacceptable. In any event the Tories will call another election before any bill for PR resulting from the referendum (if won) is put to Parliament. But we must at least be guaranteed the referendum.

    There might be one alternative – an elected upper house chosen by PR and local govt by PR. This would leave the H of C as the only non-PR forum. The trend would be on our side and the gain itself significant. If the H of C is a deal breaker for us both then the Lords and local govt might allow us to leave the H of C for the moment.

  • I see a Conservative supporter has posted here with the words

    Supporting the Tories would allow a sizeable coalition majority and the ability to moderate the most right wing part of the Tories. We might actually get a situation where parties work for the good of the country rather than them spending their time dismantling the Utopian vision of the last party and installing their own.

    Exactly what they would you like you to believe and what I’m afraid is the trap that Nick is falling into to. Cameron is damaged goods as far as the right of the Tory party is concerned – there will be no moderation there – and I believe any agreement with him by Clegg will result in…

    1. A massive fallout between the urban and rural liberal party
    2. A situation where Cameron agrees some sort of shallow stitch up on PR and then promply allows his party to actively campaign against it.
    3. The Liberals confined to political history for a generation by a an unforgiving public who dont want to understand the nuances of power sharing – they just want a fairer voting system.
    4 A Conservative government returned with an increased majority with Cameron smiling at the naivity of the Liberals

  • Even if you take PR out of the equation, the manifesto that the LibDems campaigned on is miles away from the Tories. Also, from all the twittering, blogging, commenting, etc. it seems that the core LbDem supporters would consider a deal with the Tories as a complete betrayal.

    Quite a few people have said that it’s dangerous for Clegg to prop up Labour becuase the electorate would seriously punish the Libdems in the next election. I don’t really understand this: 29% of voters actually voted Labour and if what I said in the previous paragraph is true then most Libdem supporters consider themselves much closer ideologically to Labour than to the Tories anyway and would prefer this option. The rest of the electorate voted Tory or for a nationalist party and will probably do the same in any subsequent election.

    So ultimately, from a LibDem perspective, as to how the electorate will view the decision taken by the party will depend on its own supporters and what they would prefer. This would suggest that the safest thing for the party would be to try to work with Labour.

    Apart from jobs for Clegg, Cable and maybe a couple more senior LibDem individuals, I don’t actually see any benefit for the LibDem party in joining the Conservatives. In fact, a deal with the Tories seems incredibly dangerous to me. It will alienate the majority of LibDem suporters and, as Mel has pointed out pointed out, the LibDem party would take some of the blame for the deep cuts the Tories will undoubtedly make.

    In my opinion, if Clegg choses a deal with the Tories he is betraying the values of the LibDem party, the core LibDem supporters and (because of the Tories’ position on PR) the future of the LibDem party, all for short-term personal gain.

    My fear is that Clegg is too ambitious personally to make the right call. The prospect of power clearly went to his head after that first leaders’ debate and affected his judgement for the rest of the campaign. I’m sure he put a lot of people off by proclaiming that it was a two horse race between the LibDems and the Tories and his urealistic ambition to be PM.

    The LibDem party members should make their opinions clear to Clegg and he should do right by his party and not be motivated by short-term personal gain.

  • good debate – now here’s what nick should do.

    have balls of steel, have a go at uniting all progressive parties in a lib-lab pact. don’t support gordon, but fight to be PRIME MINISTER. libdems can either have the power of veto in a deal with the conservatives, and be damned if they use it, or try and form an alliance with labour, and let the other minows face the responsibility of bringing it down.

    on policy terms, as the article states, a deal with the conservatives throws the libdem progressive tag out of the window. they are just a german FDP.

    join with labour, get rid of brown and lead the coalition, and make the case to be the real progressive option.

  • @ paul
    As the conservative supporter I can unfortunately see your points 1-4 happening if the LDs go into a rainbow coalition but with ‘Labour’ replacing ‘Conservatives’. In my constituencies Poole and Bath (Student there), both of which are currently LD, the reams of LD blurb always said Labour cannot win here so there is no point protest voting. I think that may no longer be the case if you were in the ‘rainbow alliance’. I am also not sure why anyone thinks the Tories are less likely to be honest than Labour, as far I can tell a Labour promise is just about worth the paper it is written on.

    For those using statistics to back up your points, in general you are being tainted by party affiliation. Unless I missed it there was no box to fill in to say why I was voting as I was. At this point in time nobody can say:
    “62% don’t want the Tories . eg. If I lived in a LD – Lab marginal there would be no doubt that my X cross would be by the LD name as I would vote tactically. Through use of selective statistics one can come to any almost any conclusion. For example I suggest that 27 million people want the Conservatives in government as the 16million who didn’t vote were obviously happy to have a Conservative government. This is patently bunk but illustrates that stats is not just a case of bunging numbers together until you get a number which fits your argument!

  • passing tory 9th May '10 - 4:50pm

    To those who say that a Lib/Lab pact is the way forwards, I would suggest that you look at this from the Tory point of view. From a purely political perspective (i.e. party interest) there is nothing that would suit the Tories better. There is a desperate need to scale back public spending, and to build up private sector (especially areas like manufactuing) to compensate, and it is pretty clear that Brown is simply not in a political position to deliever this (e.g. with the influence of the unions), even if he were philosophically inclined to do so (which he isn’t). The easy Tory choice is to let Clegg and Brown talk to each other and then scoop up the bloody pieces in October.

    However, this path is clearly not in the country’s interest, and I think it is to the credit of both Cameron and Clegg that they realise this. For one thing, the numbers are so very slim where a Lib/Lab coalition is concerned – think of the compromises John Major had to give in order to keep just a singel party in power with almost no majority ….

    Also, we are in a financial position where we cannot afford to mess around. The word on the grapevine suggests that the financial position is rather worse Labour had previously indicated, and if you were a guilts trader on Monday morning then you would you price the risk of UK government debt if you see a leader of a thrid party who clearly puts partisan interest above national interest? What impact do you think that would have on Sterling and on interest rates??

    I don’t envy Nick Clegg’s position, but then this is what he wanted, wasn’t it …and if yoiu guys are really so attached to Labour (and are not just Labour trolls trying to muddy the waters) then you could always have joined them and instigated change from within …

  • chunter chunter chunter

    moan moan moan

    now get on and either back your leader or get yourselves a new one

    Leadership is all about doing hard stuff and if you don’t back his judgement get someone who you feel comfortable with – you are a broad church party unlike others – you pick up from the right and the old left – so don’t be surprised if this is hard for you given the bandwidth you take support from.

  • passing tory 9th May '10 - 5:06pm


    wow. ex Labour cabinet minister prefers Labour to Tories. whatever next.

  • @Passing Tory

    Doesn’t mean she’s wrong

  • Anthony Aloysius St 9th May '10 - 5:26pm

    passing tory

    That’s a bit of a silly thing to say. Shirley Williams was a Lib Dem, if not quite when Nick Clegg was in short trousers, then certainly when he was a member of Cambridge University Conservative Association …

  • passing tory 9th May '10 - 5:26pm


    Of course not, but background is frequently a significant factor in how people see these issues.

    And the fundamental issue remains whether Clegg want to act in the interests of party or country. Not a nice choice, I’ll grant you, but one he presumably signed up for a long time ago when he chose the Lib Dems. And of course, it was Shirley Williams who sacrificed the education of two generations of children for her own ideology on social engineering, so she has previous on this 🙂

  • Anthony Aloysius St 9th May '10 - 5:29pm

    “And of course, it was Shirley Williams who sacrificed the education of two generations of children for her own ideology on social engineering, so she has previous on this”

    If nothing else, that’s another good illustration of the gulf between the parties.

  • passing tory 9th May '10 - 5:31pm

    @AAS (sic)

    So absolutely no Lib Dems would ever refer to the politics of (even retired) Tory politicans in the 1980s? Pull the other one.

  • I don’t agree with this ‘party or country’ line. To imply that it is Nick Clegg’s responsibility to the country to form a coalition with the Tories is nonsense.

    It’s perfectly possible for the LDs to agree to support a minority Labour government on vital economic issues and, as Shirley Williams has suggested, all three main parties need to work together on trying to sort out the deficit.

    The markets may well react badly on Monday becasue of the present uncertainty, but they will settle down once it’s clear what form a government will take. Ultimately, it will be the policies that will be judged by the markets and there’s no reason why what Shirley Williams is suggesting should not produce sensible policies.

  • Sorry, minority Conservative government!

  • David Allen 9th May '10 - 5:49pm


    “I think the biggest problem with the “rainbow coalition” would be not its stability per se, but whether the Labour party could deliver a Commons majority for electoral reform.”

    Yes, so let’s get this settled at the outset. We require every Labour MP to sign, now, in public, an agreement to be bound by the results of the forthcoming referendum on electoral reform. If they can’t all stomach that, then we know where we are.

  • passing tory 9th May '10 - 5:58pm


    That is not quite what I said, was it? There is a fairly clear financial adavantage to the country in having a stable government (and if you think there isn’t, then I invite you to answer the guilts trader question in my first post), and from that point of view there is definite value in coalition over confidence and supply. However, even I can see the whopping great political heffalump trap this creates politically. So there is a balance between country and party and I don’t really see the value in pretending otherwise.

    Of course, there is also an aspect of whether you believe Labour’s plans or the Tory’s plans are better for the country and, yes, fundamental matters such as whether the emphasis in reducing the deficit should be on lower spending (Tory) or higher taxation (LD) would have to be hacked out as part of any deal. This makes the analysis gets harder if you are trying to judge the mertis of a Lib/Lab/++ coalition against one of the Con/Lib options but this is not a variable if we are considering the merits of coalition vs confidence and supply between LDs and Conservatives.

  • @passing tory

    Ultimately, it depends on your point of view. I am convinced that this country needs and deserves a new electoral system based on PR. I’m very relieved that the Tory’s did not win an overall majority and, although this election has created a situation that is presently very uncertain, it means that our politicians are having to learn very quickly to try to work together. Due to the economic situation the stakes are very high so they will have to sort something out. This is very good pratice for a future of consensual government.

    All parties have agreed that spending will have to be reduced and, although they’ve been coy about taxes, we all know that there will be rises. The main difference is the timing of cuts and the nature of tax policy. Personally I agree with GB and the LDs that cuts that are too deep too soon with endanger the recovery and I completely agree with the LDs on making sure tax policy is fair and does not just favour the rich. The fact that Cameron has done nothing about the Ashcroft revelations says a lot about his values to me.

    Cameron feels he has a mandate to govern, fine let him get on with it, but at least he will have to consult with the LDs to get support. I don’t think that the LDs should join his govermnment

  • Observations from an open but not deliberately irritating Conservative.

    1None of us would start from here!

    2 If you don’t like this kind of horse trading, and vesting power in your leaders to duck and dive as they see fit, are you sure that PR is for you?

    3 You are rightly prioritising the public interest ( as I am sure is David Cameron). He and Nick Clegg have had some briefings from the Treasury which may contain some market sensitive information. Brown did not have the financial review before the election. Nick Clegg might be seeing some seriously scary stuff and this might convince him that fast deal is necessary. Just as he has some “red lines” he will know that David Cameron is constrained in what he can offer and carry his party. The upshot is this. If he appears to be letting David Cameron off the hook, will you give your own man the benefit of the doubt that sometimes “less is more”. He may only be able to explain his reasoning fully some time down the line.

  • As Anthony Aloysius says above “the biggest problem with the ‘rainbow coalition’ would be not its stability per se, but whether the Labour party could deliver a Commons majority for electoral reform”.

    The irony of this conundrum is that Gordon Brown still is, even wounded, the most ferocious shark in the tank. And Lord Mandleson is still the most subtle serpent in the pit. They are both necessary for the survival of any coalition with Labour, and trying to remove Brown as part of a deal is counterproductive to the Lib Dem cause.

    Yes, you could discard them and you may then get a nice, clean, fairly untainted, new leader that Nick wouldn’t feel contaminated by. But you may also get instead someone who is incapable of delivering the Labour awkward squad into the lobby for Lib Dem policies in general, let alone PR. Despise him as you must, Brown has both the personal motivation and the political means to hold a coalition together. Once the coalition is founded he will do everything in his power to maintain it, as his premiership could only last as long as the coalition does.

    Cameron, on the other hand, only has the motivation and the means to sign up for a coalition, not to maintain one. There is always the secondary option of a minority government, which he can take at any time. Is anyone really naive enough to suppose that he wouldn’t be able to find a plausible reason to break any agreement whenever he wanted?

    Call it a coalition of losers if you like, but a pact with Labour must be the better option. In any case, why should the weak not act collectively against the strong?

  • passing tory 9th May '10 - 7:58pm


    I am not sure it is correct to say that the biggest difference is the timing of cuts and the nature of tax policy — you have been reading too much of the LD propoganda. The biggest difference is the balance between cuts and tax raises when cutting the deficit, and the difference between investment in the private sector vs the public sector for job creation (cf. differences on NIC). You will not be surprised that I don’t think that the LD approach is in the long term benefit of the country, although on the positive side I think that the differences represent a fairly small proportion of the total, which is always a good starting point for negotiation.

  • passing tory 9th May '10 - 8:04pm


    No, just v.poor at spelling. Too much time spend working with abstract squiggles and concepts and not enough with words. We all have our crosses to bear.

  • The extremists in each of the three parties seem to be in control of the present negotiations and the great majority of the population in the ‘common sense’ centre are going to lose out again. Cameron and Clegg are probably representative of this majority but they are about to be neutered by the Thatcherite British Empirists, who think they have a birthright to run the country and the champagne socialists who are only after power and self interest. The left wing of the Lib Dems are mostly too idealistic to organise anything.

    My voting pattern since I was 18 in 1970 goes something like – Tory, Tory, Tory, Tory (Maggie in 79), Lib, Green, Green, Lib dem, Lib dem …. to 2010. This includes general and other elections.

    If there was a ‘Democracy’ party I would vote for it and so that is why I vote Lib dem. The question is how can Nick Clegg neutralise the extremists in his own and the rival parties.

    Well he could agree to support the Tories in a minority government. No deals, just done on trust. Any attempt to push through extremist Tory ideas would be blocked. The Tory extremists would soon show their true colours and allow Clegg to withdraw from the arrangement.
    Then in 6 months time when Gordon Brown had been replaced by A.N. Other he would be able to make overtures to both sides and hold the extemists to ransom. Probably by then Cameron would be struggling to hold his party together and he would be replaced by a true Conservative, one who would be unelectable by the majority of the voters.

    Clegg must keep his powder dry for as long as possible.

  • Andrea Gill 9th May '10 - 8:50pm

    I am positive we can come to an agreement with the Conservative party that will suit both parties and most importantly the country as a whole. Structurally the “Labour State” is far removed from both our own and the “Big Society” decentralised model of government. Let’s not push for PR right away but get a guarantee on reform (which was in ALL 3 main parties’ manifestos) with a look towards full PR within X months.

    Success of any referendum on PR heavily relies on us, and I mean both Lib Dem and Conservative parties (because having had a good long think about this, a Lib/Lab alliance will not work), proving to the nation that we are actually capable of dealing efficiently with the results of something other than outright victory through FPTP.

    If we can’t demonstrate that two parties can work together then what hope do we have of expecting anyone to trust us to form a government from a full PR “mosaic”?

  • Andrea Gill 9th May '10 - 8:56pm

    Keith – “If there was a ‘Democracy’ party I would vote for it and so that is why I vote Lib dem. The question is how can Nick Clegg neutralise the extremists in his own and the rival parties.”

    I would think a Lib/Con coalition would do just that?

  • Carol Andrews 9th May '10 - 9:00pm

    I hope lots of supporters get to read this. It has put some of my unease to one side and reassured my common sense that the Negotiators will work hard for the Party. It makes me sad to hear Lib Dem supporters say they will turn away from the party if a deal is done with the Conservatives. I agree that we must wait and see what is on offer and then make our decisions.

  • Andrea Gill 9th May '10 - 9:17pm

    Carol – I agree. We wanted to be in a position to be part of government, if we can’t prove that we can deal successfully with this situation by working with the party that got the most votes, then we are not a credible political party.

    We have a unique chance to show that we can make a difference, and while there are touch times ahead, there is a very real chance that can prove that our ideals and ideas can work. If we balk at the idea of a coalition with either Labour or Conservatives, then that makes us as bad as them because it would rather indicate that we’d only be happy ruling as a majority rather than working together to make our government work.

  • Cllr Alex Perkins 9th May '10 - 9:37pm

    I trust everyone has read Shirley Williams excellent piece on this issue. She has it absolutely right. There is little more to say than that. To form a coalition with the tories would be a betrayal of our voters, our supporters and our principles. They may have the largest number of MPs, but they are still in a minority. Let them then form a minority government. We should decide upon the merits or otherwise of each bill as and when they put them forward – and vote accordingly. Quite frankly, the prospect of anything more is inconceivable!

  • C H Ingoldby 9th May '10 - 10:14pm

    Reality check time.

    A Lib Lab coalition isn’t an option. It wouldn’t have enough MPs to run the country, regardless of cynical and untrustworthy Nationalist Parties. The Nation needs a new stable government fast. That can only happen with a Lib Con coalition. The National interest needs a Lib Con coalition.

    Which comes first:? Country or Party?

  • @ Alex Perkins

    I totally agree with you

  • While I believe the Con/Dem (ha!) coalition would lead to the most stable situation for the country as a whole, I really hope that they can broker a deal which allows the LibDems as little compromise on key issues as possible.

    Excellent post.

  • One of the problems is that in the south of England most Lib Dems would never dream of voting Labour and in the North would never dream of voting Conservative. In many respects they are different animals.
    What they have in common is a sense of fairness, respect for the environment and libertarian values, something sadly lacking in either the Labour or Conservative parties.

  • allentaylorhoad 9th May '10 - 10:58pm

    “Which comes first:? Country or Party?”

    They should be synonymous. I don’t think we propose policies in our manifesto which aren’t in the national interest, do we?

    As far as I’m concerned, there must be no backtracking over PR. If Clegg supports the Tories without a guarantee on electoral reform before the next election, I will quit the party, and I doubt if I’ll be the only one.

  • C H Ingoldby 9th May '10 - 11:58pm

    ”I don’t think we propose policies in our manifesto which aren’t in the national interest, do we?”

    I think refusing to participate in a coalition needed by the nation because the conservatives won’t agree to everything wanted would be a selfish act, not a principled act. Some compromise will be needed by both sides. Some of those compromises will be painful.

  • allentaylorhoad 10th May '10 - 12:20am

    If Clegg jumps into bed with Cameron, it could be a marriage made in hell. Just look at what they’ve all said about each other:-

    Cameron on Clegg: “Clegg wants to hold the country to ransom”…”he wants to have a permanent hung parliament so we never have a strong or decisive government”.

    Clegg attacks Cameron: “Cameron is oozing breathtaking arrogance…..actively stoking up fears in the markets, actively destabalising the pound which reduces the governments ability to borrow. He is saying vote for us or our friends in the City will lay waste to your economy, your wages, your jobs”.

    Chris Huhne on William Hague’s friends in Europe: “He is a skinhead who has toured the beer cellars of Europe, and has come up with the dregs”.

    Chris Huhne on Cameron: “Dave’s dumped the Tories long term allies to jump in bed with wackos and weirdos. He says he cares about human rights, but then cuddles up with Latvians who celebrate Adolf Hitlers Waffen SS”.

    Chris Huhne on Osborne: ”George Osborne has never done a real job, never run a budget, never even hired or fired.”

    Vince Cable on Osborne: ”Your tax and spending plans are fundamentally dishonest. You just want another chance to get your noses in the trough and reward your rich friends. You are using schoolboy economics, your proposals aren’t worth the paper they are written on”.

  • 1. If the Tories offer senior cabinet posts, including a leading role for Mr Cable as Chancellor or head of economic taskforce and a referendum on PR (even if they do vote against it en masse) we must take it. It’s a risk, but crucially it allows us to show competence in government – this is actually what a lot of LibDem sympathisers admit to fearing when they don’t vote for us, that we lack experience or the ability to get in. Then we have a moral and substantative argument when the PR referendum comes around, giving us a balance of power to counter the right-wing independent media. But this strategy quite crucially demands us to be brilliant – failure a. plays into the hands of Labour and what appear to be Labour activists infiltrating our party support and b. makes us look weak. Do or die, a rare opportunity.

    2. If we are merely offered senior cabinet posts without PR, reject. Otherwise it’s mere opportunism from Clegg and co, and that is exactly what we are not.

    3. If 2. holds, force Labour’s hand. This so-called Rainbow Alliance – which has to include everyone we bloody can, regardless – has a brief to stabilise the economy, vote on PR. Cannot be headed by Brown, which is a deal breaker, as it therefore becomes a propped-up, unelected Labour government run by a statist, authoritarian liar who is almost as far removed from our philosophy as Ian Duncan-Smith. And not Balls, crikey, not Balls. We take key positions until PR, then election. Fixed date. The only risk is we get drowned out in the in-fighting and back-stabbing as Labour regroups and bullies. Need to be strong, and even-handed.

    4. If Labour/Brown refuse to yield, screw them all. We take the moral high ground – neither party is serious about forming any kind of coalition. The resultant fall-out would be interesting to watch – the only people who want FPTP are Tories anyway, who form the minority of mainstream voters and thus need it to protect their imbalanced interests.

    What has annoyed me most about the fall-out of Clegg merely being correct and honourable in meeting the Tories is this what I sense is Labour-propagated myth that somehow they are progressive (ID cards! Illegal wars! Torture! Statism!) and that we have more in common with them than we do the Tories.

    Let’s get this straight. This Tory party isn’t Thatcher’s party. The Thatcherites, and the Traditionalists, still exist, and are squeezing Cameron’s balls on this, but if we’re serious about moving this country’s political system towards a social democracy with fair taxes, fair public services and fair voting then why not help the moderniser, Cameron, stabilise his party in the centre?

    And let’s get this straight. This Labour Party isn’t the one briefly headed by John Smith. If you’re serious about Liberalism, and Democracy, you do not do business with Brown, who is authoritarian and unelected.


    Mr Brown has offered PR on a plate. Mr Cameron has set his face against it. ( A Committee to report indeed ! ).

    Plus there are quite a few Labour ministers and parliamentarians who are longstanding supporters of PR so even if for Brown it is a deathbed conversion his colleagues are still more likely to prove trustworthy on the issue than is a Party which ( as it is perfectly entitled to do ) strongly opposes PR.

    What happened to Clegg’s BRAIN during the campaign ? If you believe in PR as the fairer system what is the logical or moral theory underpinning the idea that the minority party with most votes / seats has some kind of ‘right’ to form a Government ?

    The only Party with such a ‘right’ would be one with 50% plus 1 – and no such Party exists.

    What is more important is that a substantial majority of the electorate did indeed vote for Parties which support PR ( or a referendum on such as in Labour’s case). And that majority can be easily put together in terms of seats in the Commons as well as votes.

    Surely that voting majority has its own right to expect that the Parties they voted for will now get together at least for as long as necessary to at last change the vilely unfair voting system ? Everything else can wait a year or so. We need the version of PR which allows voters to not only vote for a Party but also prioritize in order of preference the candidates on that Party’s List.

    Meanwhile as to the economy Alistair Darling and Vince Cable share far more than either does with the repulsive publicschoolboy Osbourne.

    The real problem is that Cleggy shot off his mouth a few times too often during the campaign and now he’s afraid of looking inconsistent if he goes into alliance with Mr Brown.

    Well, having come a poor third, despite this time getting a good hearing, he’ll just have to eat a bit of humble pie : the idea that just because he has a personal dislike of Brown because of some slight or other, real or imagined, he will construct great theories to obstruct the obvious : a temporary alliance of Lib and Lab in Government to get PR through – is just repellant.

    He disguised the privileged, entitlement, publicschoolboy arrogance quite well at first but half way through the campaign it showed through – maybe that had a lot to do with the falling back in the vote. Maybe that’s what he and Cameron have in common after all : Born into privilege; the best education money can buy; and stuffed with a sense of entitlement for breakfast lunch and dinner; never had to work to put bread on the table in a real job outside the fairyland of politics – where do the similarities stop ?

    Yes Brown ‘lost’ the election – but only on the same basis that Cameron lost it, as did Clegg – none of them came close to 50°/° plus one.

    Now it all seems to come down to Mr Brown lacking the oleaginous soft-soaping capabilities of fellow publicschoolboy Cameron. I’m no great supporter in principle of Brown – I think he has got a lot wrong in terms of wasting public money ( though I did not notice LibDems or Cons objecting at the time ).

    But I do think that whatever else you can say about him he impresses as a politician guided by what he believes ( sometimes erroneously ) as being for the overall public good. Cameron impresses as someone guided by what will get him and his worthless cronies into power for its own sake. ( Well luckily it hasn’t worked unless Clegg turns out to be his saviour.)

    Until this week I had thought Clegg came into the first category and had more on that account to share with Brown.
    It’s now clear I was mistaken.

    Before this weekend I had some faint hopes for British politics. Now the disillusion is total. And it comes from the Party I thought was the most idealistic.

  • Keith – totally in agreement. If anything the Southern switch has become more pronounced recently towards ‘never voting for Labour’ thanks to the scary anti-civil liberties stance Brown’s Labour has taken.

    People have to understand that we are a different party to both: we share Libertarian ideals with the Tories, welfare and tax ideals with (old) Labour and a mixed economy with (nu) Labour. But there are plenty on all sides that we do not see eye-to-eye on: I personally just feel Labour’s recent record is so much worse that, with a step back, a deal with Brown would be untenable. The Tories may have systematically destroyed our industry and played pass the parcel with our economy but an illegal murderous Iraq invasion that made us a terror target? The 40-day detention proposal? ID cards? Unelected Prime Ministers clinging on to power like a crazed sub-Saharan dictator? Makes the poll tax and CJA look like child’s play.

  • Rhys – that’s exactly the kind of angry, bullying tactics we’ve come to expect from Labour types 🙂

    Brown is unelected. We can’t work with him. Lose the attitude and the weird anti-publicschoolboy rants (Ed Balls, Millibands, Darling all privately educated), no-one won the election outright and the shrieking serves only to drive us away.

    Obviously our instinct is to work with Labour, drive PR and represent the centre-left majority. But it cannot be with Brown.

    Maybe you’re suggesting that Clegg shouldn’t be professional and honourable in talking to Cameron, but that kind of ya-boo politics is exactly what we don’t do.

  • I’m suggesting above all that Clegg should be LOGICAL :

    viz – if you believe in principle in PR then there is zero logic or morality to saying that the party which under FPTP gains the largest minority vote thereby acquires some kind of preferential ‘go’ at forming a Government.

    So even if one Party got 33 per cent and the other two ( which had more in common – esp on PR – ) each got 32 then that Party with 33 per cent still gets first ‘go’ ? It’s not the Eton Wallgame you know – people’s lives are affected by what Government we end up with now and in the future.

    If instead there exist potential partners who share more ideals and policies and with whom a coalition would represent over 50 per cent of the votes cast and which can survive a Commons vote then surely that is the way logic leads.

    Not to mention the fact that Cameron has reneged on ‘cast iron pledges’ even to his own membership : he is quite clearly ( as he is entitled to be ) AGAINST PR whereas Labour has come round to it and is offering prompt arrangements for a referendum on it.

    Yes I am angry – betrayal tends to have that effect on people. But the anger hasn’t clouded my though processes – whereas pride and electoral rejection seem to have clouded Clegg’s.

    And as to Clegg’s publicschoolboy sense of entitlement and arrogance : well others are entitled to disagree but that’s what I saw from half way through the campaign and increasingly see. He and Cameron just do look like peas in a pod.

    And I just can’t credit that he’s allowing a personal antipathy to Brown to be a factor. What will Clegg say to the membership when at the right moment in the opinion polls Cameron discovers a new circumstance , abandons him and the coalition and goes for a majority in a new election ?

    Clegg ( and you ) must be blind if you can’t see this coming.

  • Even if the Labour leadership promise a referendum on PR, would they be able to deliver? I mean would they be able to guarantee that all Labour MPs would vote in favour of the bill? How could a deal be structured with all the members of a ‘rainbow coalition’ so that a referendum would definitely be held by a certain date?

  • Julian Woodward 10th May '10 - 6:30am

    Mark – agreed, there’s a huge question mark over Labour’s ability to deliver on a PR referendum (or anything at all, for that matter) if they lead a fragile and probably short-lived “rainbow” coalition.

    Brown’s death-bed conversion to the cause of electoral reform was a profoundly cynical move, designed solely to seduce LibDem voters. A PR referendum was in the 1997 Labour manifesto, and they had 13 years to honour that promise:
    We are committed to a referendum on the voting system for the House of Commons. An independent commission on voting systems will be appointed early to recommend a proportional alternative to the first-past-the-post system.

    What’s more, many of the commenters seem to be missing the point that Labour have MORE to lose from PR than the Conservatives do. Labour had the lowest votes-cast-per-seat-won count of any of the parties (apart from the DUP) last week. Admittedly the Conservatives weren’t far behind, but it demonstrates that the current system is distorted in favour of the two large parties, and of those is distorted more in favour of Labour than the Conservatives.

    If you subscribe to the theory espoused by many above that there is vastly more affinity between Labour and LibDem than there is between Conservative and LibDem, then PR – which removes the need for tactical voting – would result in vastly greater attrition of voters from Labour than from the Conservatives in favour of LibDem.

    Whichever way you look at it, the biggest loser of all in a switch from FPTP to PR would be Labour. Which probably explains why their 1997 promise of a PR referendum was an empty promise, and their current sudden recollection of that broken promise is equally without substance.

  • A lighter note……..

    One thing I would say is that I’m enjoying the debate here immensley as a Labour supporting and PR supporting individual…as the FTSE is up over 200 points this morning (so much for the doomsters) perhaps we should do this more often 🙂

  • Malcolm Todd 10th May '10 - 10:09am

    Rhys said:


    From Brown’s statement on Friday:

    My view is clear, there needs to be immediate legislation on this to begin to restore the public trust in politics and to improve Parliament’s standing and reputation, a fairer voting system is central.

    And I believe that you the British people should be able to decide in a referendum what the system should be.

    A “fairer voting system” is how he has described the barely-any-improvement-at-all AV proposed in the death throes of the last parliament. Labour has not promised PR. Brown has, like Cameron, offered to do exactly what he said he would do in the Labour manifesto: provide a very losable referendum on a voting system that can’t remotely be described as PR. (And I’ve already posted here on historical precedents to beware of in accepting even that promise.)

  • Setting aside the trivial point that a couple of weeks ago the entire Labour contingent at Holyrood voted en bloc against a resolution calling for PR in all UK elections and that as far as I am aware this also carries over to the Scottish MPs (Tom Harris for example) so I hae me doots about Labour’s commitment to PR, the so called rainbow coalition doesn’t add up. It would be dependent on either SNP participation or acquiescence and in an election year in Scotland, Alex Salmond is going to micro manage every breath it takes to the SNP’s advantage and Lib Dem (and Labour) disadvantage. If the SNP is ruled out then the DUP has to be relied upon and will the SDLP, Alliance and independent MPs be happy with their presence? I suspect not.

    Al this boils to the simple fact that what most of us would instinctively prefer cannot be seen as a stable government and therefore the reality is a coalition with the Tories, acquiescence on a confidence basis or complete withdrawal and let them make each case on its merits. I’d prefer the last but this lays the party open to a charge of party before country from the gutter press so on reluctant balance the middle choice seems unavoidable.

  • It’s very worrying that Clegg has dropped the term ‘electoral reform’ and is now talking about ‘political reform’. It sounds like he’s sold out….

  • Interesting comment from Nick Robinson on BBC explaining Paddy Ashdown’s line of reasoning:

    There are probably not a majority of MPs currently in the House of Commons who would support a referendum on PR. If this is to change in the future then the solution to the current state of afairs must clearly show that stable government can emerge from a situation where no party has a majority.

    In the long run, if PR is at some point achieved, the LDs need to be seen as being willing and able to form a government with either Labour or Conservative. If the LDs now basically say that they are not willing to work with the Tories because they are closer to Labour ideologically, even though a Lib/Con government would have the stongest mandate, that is effectively perpetuating the two party mentality.

    Most importantly, since what the LDs want is a referendum on PR, it is ultimately the British people who need to be convinced that PR can work. If a stable coalition government does not emerge from the current situation, it would be a practical demonstration to potential supporters of a change to PR that in reality it doesn’t work.

    For me, this is a very interesting argument that makes a lot of sense. PR is no good to anyone in Britain if it can’t be shown to work…

  • But the situation has changed since Labour did not obtain a majority.

    And many Labour parliamentarians are on long record as favouring PR – whereas no Tory ones are..

    Thus why not at least be conducting parallel negotiations with Labour to be able to make fair comparison with what each potential coalition could offer ?

  • This is such a fascinating situation. I find myself being pulled in different directions by good arguments for all three scenarios.

    One really postitive thing that has come out of all this uncertainty is that it seems to have generated an incredible amount of interest, debate, discussion and, for a lot of people, a re-engagement with the political process.

    It’s amazing how the internet, with all the blogs, tweets, punditry and commenting, has enabled ordinary people like us to exchange our hopes, fears, opinions and ideas!

  • Anthony Aloysius St 10th May '10 - 1:03pm

    “For me, this is a very interesting argument that makes a lot of sense. PR is no good to anyone in Britain if it can’t be shown to work…”

    Maybe not, but the real reson why most MPs don’t want PR is that it would prevent their parties from holding power alone, and put large numbers of them out of a job!

  • Julian Woodward 10th May '10 - 1:06pm

    Mark – well said.

  • Peter Scott 10th May '10 - 1:40pm

    “there doeas not have to be a referendum on PR if the Lab Us and the rest of the parties agreed to it there would be enough votes to push it through the House providing that Lab made sure that all of them voted for it”

    I thought we were democrats? If so we can’t change the electoral system to benefit ourselves without allowing the people a vote – many would say that 77% voted against PR last week, certainly 77% didn’t vote FOR PR.

    I think this is a very accurate analysis. I would add that I don’t think sitting on the fence is an option – we have been campaigning for years on the advantages of a coalition government with us in it. Can we maintain any credibility if we now say “we won’t help either Party despite the need for stable government, because it won’t benefit our Party”? I can understand those who say this, but it won’t wash with the electorate and we will be crucified at the next election for putting Party before country.

    If we really can’t consider making a deal with the Tories then we should just close down the Lib Dems and join the Labour Party as there’s no point being a pressure group.

  • allentaylorhoad 10th May '10 - 2:53pm

    One argument that seems to crop up is that we shouldn’t be pushing for PR, just concerning ourselves with the economic recovery. The two things are not mutually exclusive. The entire government does not deal with the economy, and there is no reason that plans for electoral reform could not be made alongside budgetary considerations.

    No doubt if the economy had been thriving, we would have been told that there is no need to change anything in our electoral system, so we can’t win either way. Well, this might be a once in a lifetime chance to get the PR which I assume we all want.

    No PR, no deal, or many members will wonder what we’re doing in the party.

  • Peter Scott 10th May '10 - 3:06pm

    Posted 10th May 2010 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Interesting comment from Nick Robinson on BBC explaining Paddy Ashdown’s line of reasoning:

    There are probably not a majority of MPs currently in the House of Commons who would support a referendum on PR. If this is to change in the future then the solution to the current state of afairs must clearly show that stable government can emerge from a situation where no party has a majority.

    In the long run, if PR is at some point achieved, the LDs need to be seen as being willing and able to form a government with either Labour or Conservative. If the LDs now basically say that they are not willing to work with the Tories because they are closer to Labour ideologically, even though a Lib/Con government would have the stongest mandate, that is effectively perpetuating the two party mentality.

    Most importantly, since what the LDs want is a referendum on PR, it is ultimately the British people who need to be convinced that PR can work. If a stable coalition government does not emerge from the current situation, it would be a practical demonstration to potential supporters of a change to PR that in reality it doesn’t work.

    For me, this is a very interesting argument that makes a lot of sense. PR is no good to anyone in Britain if it can’t be shown to work…



  • Whicn idiot LibDem Press Manager let David Laws do a completely unprofessional press conference on a mobile phone LIVE to the world???

  • I think that the original report was relayed via the mobile phone of a reporter – I’ve just seen the video of that statement on BBC and David Laws was very impressive

  • Richard Hill 10th May '10 - 5:04pm

    I have been a Lib Dem supporter all my life, fighting for Lib Dem values and fighting against Tory values. I have been very ill ever since Nick Clegg anounced that he would be talking to the Tories over possible power sharing deal.

    Nick Clegg and his team must understand the implications of making a deal with the Tories. The future of the Lib Dems will be stained forever. It will always be Lab v CONLIB.

  • Having voted Liberal for the past +50 years, if you strike a deal with Labour then that will be the last time my vote goes to you. Nick left us with the impression that he could not deal with Brown. This is the same as not dealing with the Labour party. They are all tared with the same brush. NO DEAL with LABOUR, the Tories won.
    Strike a deal with The Tories now. Go for it.

  • Peter Scott 10th May '10 - 5:31pm

    LOL. just listened to Brown. If Nick Clegg puts our Party before the country then the country will never forgive him or our Party. A couple of by-elections and we’re up the creek. Crazy. I suggest we drop the “democrats” part of the name.

  • Like many lib dems if I had been asked pre 1997 whether I could ever foresee any day that we would reach a deal to enable the Tories to govern,th eanswer would have been obviously no. However, the last 13 years have demonstrated that the labour party cannot be trusted to deliver a truly progressive future. The authoritarian nature of labour’s apprach to civil liberties (vis blunkett and clark), the mass proliferation of CCTV, the ID card bill, control orders, the asbo culture, the tinkering with jury trials are all an anethema to any Liberal. Had the Tories taken such an approach then we would not have been surprised but this was a labour government that did so.

    The deathbed conversion to PR by Labour is, as many have observed, borne out desparation.

    The moral approach has to be to at least allow the Tories to govern as a minority provided there is signifcant movement on voting reform. This is only way in hich the lib dems may ultimately supplant labour as the truly progressive party.

  • And now, after Gordon Brown’s statement?…

    Curiouser and curiouser…!

  • I am a political science teacher in the United States. I am intrigued by the three party system in Britain. I do not understand why the Tories would not benefit by PR as much as anyone else would. After looking over the electoral map, there is no way that the Conservative Party has more than 330-335 seats period at any election. So I think their voters would like to have more of a reason to vote. The Labour party has places where they win even if their vote nationally suffers mightily. In Scotland, the Conservatives are all but a dead letter. Which leads me to believe that there are just as many places where the Tories would benefit from PR as lose. I guess that would require them not to be so hidebound all the time.

    I would love PR in the US. Especially in some of our bigger cities, which are run top-to-bottom by the Democrats. If a progressive, or Republican candidate could get 15%-20% of the vote and then get representation, the turnout of voters would be much higher and Democracy would be allowed to work better.

    Lib Dems keep up the good fight. I think if the Tories were smart, they’d accept some form of PR, I mean, they might actually get an MP from Liverpool or Manchester.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 10th May '10 - 5:41pm

    “The moral approach has to be to at least allow the Tories to govern as a minority provided there is signifcant movement on voting reform.”

    But isn’t it clear that after four days of negotiations there hasn’t been significant movement on voting reform?

  • There is clearly a moral requiremen for Nick Clegg to stand by his words and aim high. By forcing the issue on PR – whichever form that may be, Mr Clegg has the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to drag the UK into the 21st century, to bring us closer to accepted democratic systems widespread around the world, not just Europe, to facilitate the wishes of the UK population. Any alliance with the Tories is tantamount to accepting that some people, parties and ideas have a “right to govern”. On top of that, abandoning fundamental democratic ideology (PR) in exchange for a few toothless cabinet posts would be the ultimate betrayal. Mr Clegg should gird his loins , keep the faith and force through not a referendum, but guaranteed legislation making PR one of the first to be passed.

  • Sir David Steel spoke an awful lot of sense this afternoon on BBC News Channel. There is no rush to form a government, we are not and should not be beholden to either the “markets” or the Tory press. It is quite normal for full coalition negotiations to take a fortnight. Constitutionally, Mr Clegg, and the others leaders to be fair, have acted with exemplarary integrity. We as a country are now experiencing contractions, prior to the (perhaps painful) birth of an entirely new, genuinely democratic system.

  • Will this now force Cameron concede more and ultimately to offer a referendum on PR? And if so, should Clegg go with the Tories?

    It’s undeniable that, in terms of both share of the vote and seats, a Lib/Con coalition would have a stronger mandate than a coalition with Labour and a combination of some minor parties.

    But could the LD party ever bless a coalition with the Tories?

    Can someone explain whether it is actually possible for the leadership or either Labour or the Tories to guarantee that their MPs will vote to support a bill to hold a referendum on PR? How much control does the party leadership have over its MPs?

  • In response to “dash” – the tories would lose seats nationally under any of the possible forms of PR. There are 2 factors to take into consideration here – In many constituencies, Tory MPs are returned with a vote that is less than 40% of the total vote of that constituency. It is common for a result to look like this : Conservative 17 100, Labour 15 500 Lib Dem 11 500, Others 5 000. Secondly, the Tories usually poll 35-44% of the total vote.This automatically entails less than a majority in Parliament, even if the type of PR – Alternative Vote for example, was more localised in effect, allowing Tories to gain seats based on local support, not national trends. Either way, the result is the far fairer distribution of seats between all parties, and an absolute end to the notion of a political class in the UK that assumes a “right to power”

  • Mark – Party leaders have a lot of control over their MPs. They have “The Whip” !!

  • Nick – Does that mean then that if both Cameron and Brown (still) include a referendum in their offer it can be accepted from each of them with full confidence that a referendum will actually happen?

  • There seems to be a consensus that the economy is the most important issue facing the country and deficit reduction is going to require decisive, confident and quick action…

    Could Vince Cable and George Osborne really find common ground? I don’t have such a problem imagining Cable and Darling developing a productive working relationship.

  • Peter Scott 10th May '10 - 6:53pm

    @ Andy Williamson:

    Yes, good article. Unfortuantely for the LD Party the two party squeeze will still happen, possibly even quicker, consider this:

    Milliband runs and wins a Labour leadership contest. During his honeymoon period in the autumn he constructs a disagreement with the LDs (Over, say, ID cards) and then says to the electorate “I do not want to be another unelected PM. I want my own mandate.” and goes to the country. Even if he breaks a pledge with the LDs not to do this the pledge was negotiated by the discredited brown so is worthless anyway in the eyes of the electorate.

    We’re doomed!!

  • Andy – After reading Shirley William’s comment yesterday, I was of the same opinion as you. Having read a lot more comment from many different sources, I now think that the LDs should get involved contstructively and positively in a coaltion government with either the Tories or Labour.

    I think this because I feel that a successful, working example is the best advertisement for PR and a future with a new political system in the UK based on coalition government.

    For me, a referendum on PR is really fundamental. This has already been offered by Labour and might also now possibly be matched by the Tories. But even if a referendum is held, the British electorate have to vote for PR so it needs to be demonstrated that coalition government can indeed work in Britian.

    Assuming a referendum on PR is held (looking quite possible since it is already on the table) and assuming the public vote for it (who knows), the ‘squeeze’ that you talk about is no longer a danger because the two party system will finally have been changed. In this context the LibDems’ proportion of the vote will be reflected in parliament in any future general election.

    I wonder if the Tories can bring themselves to offer a referendum on PR too…

  • Peter – Couldn’t this be avoided by having a fixed term of office agreed as part of any coalition deal?

  • Wow! Just heard William Hague’s statement. These are amazing times!

    Truth is stranger that fiction 🙂

  • Peter Scott 10th May '10 - 7:25pm

    @Mark, trouble is that any new Labour leader will not feel bound by something negotiated by Brown and will (imho) use their honeymoon period to stitch us up at an opportunistic time, probably this autumn. A new unelected PM will not go well with the public and (s)he will have a lot of sympathy in doing this.

    Why do I also get the feeling that we thought we were stitching the Tories up but Cameron has had us outmanoeuvered all along? He is going to come out of this with the moral high ground, but not needing to risk the unpopularity of having to deal with the defecit. I can hear him now, “I tried to get the Lib Dems on board to do the hard things the country needed, but they put Party before Country and went with Labour. 6 months on and the defecit is growing etc, etc”.

    I think a deal with Labour will also kill PR stone dead. The Tories got the most votes and the most seats – The electorate can ask: if the Lib Dems can’t deal with the Tories now what circumstances do they need? and if they can never deal with them what’s the point of voting LD instead of Labour? People are not stupid – they will see this straight away as going against natural justice. Nick was right insofar as the British believe in fairness. We tread a dangerous path.

  • Peter Scott 10th May '10 - 7:29pm

    The Tories have realised we’re going with Labour and the AV offer is just to make them look good.

  • @Mark andPeter Scott – I just nipped off for a shower and suchlike, logging back on I find the political landsacpe has flipped again! Im not sure that the tories have given up Peter, that the offer is just window dressing. Im pretty sure they mean it – Did you see the grimace on Hagues face when he announced the offer ?? The Tories can see any chance of government disappearing rapidly in the direction of Millbank, and they have panicked – to our favour Im glad to say. Neither the Labour Party, nor the Tories can afford to stitch the Lib Dems up by claiming illegitimacy of the deal done with Brown, to justify abandoning the promise of a referendum. Also, Brown looks like he will stay on through the confidence legislation, and only stand down in September. The Tory press must be grinding their teeth !! Anyway, We have reached the endgame now, as I dont think the Labour NEC will sanction any further concessions to the Lib Dems – like AV+ or STV voting systems

  • @Peter, I guess this is a danger as you say and the risk would depend on the form of the agreement.

    In any case, I do think that this is an incredible position for the LDs and their leadership to be in after winning a lot fewer seats that they’d expected. Clegg, Cable, Huhne and Laws have clearly been negotiating very well. Now they need to make a decision and ‘seal the deal’ quicly and confidently and get on with participating professionally in government, implementing as much of the LD agenda as possible and trying to ensure that the public vote for electoral reform.

    On balance, I think that a Lib/Con government would be more representative of the wishes of a majority of the electorate. Labour have been in power for 13 years and they were definitely punished in the election.

    I suppose there is a danger that a Labour party in opposition, with a new leader, might change their minds and decide to campaign against electoral reform in a referendum. This would mean that the LDs would be the only party campaigning for a change and they only have a fraction of the resources of a combined Tory/Labour anti reform campaign. Although, presumably the Guardian, Observer and Independent would help to back a yes vote in a referendum…

  • Looking a little further ahead – Assuming a majority of the electorate vote for electoral reform – the AV systemand hopefully do so with a resounding majority – (the yougov poll was 62% in favour), The Lib Dems can expect between 70 and 90 seats at the next parliament, with approximately the same number of smaller parites in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. (currently 28 MPs). This would then require the Tories or the Labour party to win around 320 of the remaining (approx 550) seats – highly unlikely. The Lib Dems could then again force the issue of PR in a hung parliament and bargain hard for regional STV – thus hammering the final nail into the coffin of 2 – party politics in the UK 🙂

  • Peter Scott 10th May '10 - 7:57pm

    Wouldn’t a referendum have to have equal public funding as per the EEC referendum then?

    Pointless otherwise I’d have thought.

  • @Peter & Nick – This is mad! Are you listening to the BBC? They just reported that Labour are offering a bill to bring in AV directly and ALSO a referendum on a more radical form of PR! I can’t believe this! 🙂

  • @Mark and Peter – I must have missed that while I was writing my last comment !! Happy Days 🙂 I must at this point admit that this is exactly what I personally dreamed of

  • Peter Scott 10th May '10 - 9:03pm

    Posted 10th May 2010 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    @Peter & Nick – This is mad! Are you listening to the BBC? They just reported that Labour are offering a bill to bring in AV directly and ALSO a referendum on a more radical form of PR! I can’t believe this! 🙂
    Nor can I. Democracy is dead.

    I didn’t vote Lib Dem to get a permanent Labour government.

  • They haven’t done a deal with Labour yet. It could still be a Lib/Con coalition…

  • Thanks Nick for answering my question.

    But if you take the hidebound, stodgy attitude out of it, the Conservative Party has not got 40% of the national vote in nearly 20 years. They have failed to be a factor in Scotland, and they do not compete everywhere. They have to realize that any government they try to form on their own is going to be weak: They will never get a Thatcher style majority again. If they are that resistant to changes they know have happened to their country, then they have little right to run a government anyway. In that case the Lib Dems should leave them to flutter in the wind and take PR to the country with Labour.

    How difficult are regional disparities in the country for your cause? We have them here. The Republicans and Democrats are becoming more regional in scope, with few actual battlegrounds. We also have a much more difficult two-party system to crack, as most states severely limit ballot access for anyone outside of two big parties. And all federal-state commissions are divvied out to members of one of the two big parties. Just interested, as I am teaching a comparative politics class this summer and may use this election as a point of emphasis.

    I am just really supportive of a third party option in the US. I like what you are doing in the UK. We need more variety in the US. Maybe you could send us some imports?

  • What exactly is this “huge danger” of Mr Clegg entering coalition with the Labour Party ?? Firstly, Prime Ministers are not elected – individual candidates are, and from those MPs, each party chooses its leader at any time they wish to. This tends to undermine the idea of a “second unelected Prime Minister” that the BBC, the Tories and no doubt tomorrow, the right-wing press are yelping about. If a calm look is taken at the necessary coalition partners, its clear that the Sinn Fein MPs will not sit in Westminster – meaning we have 645 sitting MPs – a majority then becomes 323 – requiring only the SDLP (3), Caroline Lucas and the SNP (6). In fact, Caroline Lucas’ support may well not be necessary.The SDLP can be relied upon to take the whip, and the SNP will not allow any minor details of policy to preclude their joining government . Instant PR could well consolidate their MPs positions, and perhaps even increase their number by 1 – 4. Add to that their loathing of the Tories, and I can see exactly what all the political commentators are screaming for – a strong, stable (non-tory :)) government

  • @Dash – you are very welcome 🙂 In the UK, there is still a significant element, perhaps as much as 30% that consider themselves to be the “governing class”, and are terrified of what has just happened here. These are exactly the people who we must never again allow into power – they are so terrified of not being in government, that they have swallowed a bitter pill and offered a referendum on AV to the Lib Dems – this is anathema to the Tories. As far as regional disparities go Dash, they are a factor, but not if the new government brings in AV legislation. AV operates at a local level, using the same constituencies as we have now, so regional bias doesnt affect the results at all, voters’ second choices are the determining factor in the case of no clear winner in the first count. In the case of AV+, or STV, multi – MP regional constituencies are used, so regional bias towards a smaller party – Sinn Fein, or UKIP for example, could lead to them returning more candidates than a in a single constituency form of PR. It sound like the 2-party system in the USA is very firmly entrenched 🙁

  • This has been a very strange day, but I trust Nick Clegg, his past career was a trade negotiator. But he have to look at the result of this election. The reason we failed to win more seats was not because Lib Dem voters wanted a tory Govenment, it was because he failed to win the potential labour seats. where we were in big fights with the Tories we won in many cases with a larger majority for example, Cheltenham and Westmorland. this in my opinion is because most Lib Dems or potential Lib Dem voters want to keep the tories out becuase we fear what they will do. In the Election we stood for a fair Britain and that is what we should still stand for and after great consideration in my opinion we should go for a LD/Lab agreement.

  • For the good of the country, I think LD’s should accept the Tory offer of a coalition until the next election. After all, ending the coalition would effectively force an election. Once out of the economic crisis LD’s can reconsider their position. Hopefully, the situation would play out as Nick Hirst suggested earlier. But I also think that LD’s (and I consider myself a supporter) should demonstrate to the Tories that balanced parliaments can work. Plus the extremes of difference will ‘moderate’ the eventual policy. It also gives LD’s “practice” at governing in readiness for the next election.

  • Nick,

    I guess I am not that used to such a class-heavy system. (Here, even Republicans (the party of the rich!?) run working class people.) We have billionaires running both parties, for the good of the working man! We also have an unlimited campaign, since there is no limit on what people or corporations can spend on political topics.

    Yes it is very entrenched. Way over 75% of Congressmen and women are returned with more than 50% of the vote. Our turnouts are also really low (45-50%), so that plays a large part. We have primaries, but that only plays to the extremes in both parties.

    And in most states there is a one-party system. Try being a Democrat in Wyoming for example, you cannot expect to get elected to federal office at all. Kansas has not returned a Democratic Senator since 1932. Likewise, New York, California, and Illinois are Democratic bastions that hardly ever return Republicans. Chicago and Boston haven’t elected anything other than a Democrat mayor and City Council in over 100 years. Whatever one’s ideology, this does not breed good governance. Competition does, but the two parties don’t want that.

  • Our turnouts are also really low (45-50%)

    Presumably you know this better than I, but I was under the impression that US turnouts are given as proportions of eligible voters where European (including British) turnouts are given as proportions of registered voters. So although there is a difference, it’s not quite as large as appears.

  • As an American but someone who thought he understood how the system of government work in the UK, I am not lost. I don’t get the part about needing electoral reform. How does it work now and what are the Lib Dems seeking to change?

  • maybe AV for westminster though AV+ would be fairer. STV for a new Lords and council election would be something to push for.

    I can’t say I’m any more happy about doing a frail deal with the ‘war party’ that has stood in the face of PR. It’s not a very nice taint and the arithmetic doesn’t really support it.

    We need to choose a future of our own influence. Our best influence is in government and a stable government that can reform and decentralise.

  • AMK,

    You are right. Our turnouts are measured by eligible voters. However, that number is the usual Presidential vote. In mid-terms, like 2010, we will be lucky to achieve 40%.

    In the UK, I guess the Lib Dem voters are going to have to be willing to trust their MP’s and their leadership. And they should know that forcing another election is not the worst thing in the world either. If your supporters are as principled as they sound on this web dialog, then I think you have little to fear. Which Labour-Lib Dem supporter is going to be soft-headed enough to support the Tories anyway? Keep fighting for your values. Keep pushing for reform.

  • I think it would be very interesting if LDV now polled its members again with one question:

    After today’s developments, should the LibDems form a coalition with Labour or the Conservatives?

  • Grattan Endicott 10th May '10 - 11:49pm

    It is obvious that the Tories are not offering the LDs what they are looking for. The more difficult question is whether Labour has on offer a package that makes it worth the risk of resting the LibDem weight on the Rainbow ladder. If, as reported earlier, a bill would introduce the Alternative Vote and thereafter there would be a referendum that would offer the electorate possibilities of staying with that or progressing to AV-plus or of going back to FPTP, then the prize is value for the risk.

  • P.S. I aslo think that Clegg and his team should take a decision tonight and make a statement tomorrow morning before the markets open. Another day of to-ing and fro-ing will look indescisive, opportunistic or both. It’s time to get to work.

  • Lib Dem supporters should trust in the party’s negotiators and stop being brow beaten by the Tory press – the press are the people who got our vote down by frightening voters and vilifying our leader.

    Negotiating two ways is important as it shows we are open to ideas – can’t see Labour succeeding though as they are disunited and the numbers don’t add up – maybe we should try a grand coalition now they’re converging and see if we can attract MPs across to join a national government.

    Can’t rush this as the prize is worth the additional day or two.

  • Grattan Endicott “It is obvious that the Tories are not offering the LDs what they are looking for”

    How so? Please don’t let the media fool you into anything… 🙂

  • The offer presented on the TV by Hague is completely worthless. The vote on the bill to have a referendum would be a free vote. If Cameron can’t be persuaded to whip it, there is then no offer of any substance on electoral reform from them.

  • @Ljudska – A free vote? Really? Then you’re right, it is worthless. What about the Labour offer? Would that be a free vote too?

  • I remember hearing Hague say that the Tory party would be free to campaign against AV during the referendum, but I didn’t hear him say that the bill to hold the referendum would be a free vote.

  • passing tory 11th May '10 - 6:15am

    I thought the wording of Hague’s statement was that it would not be a free vote (i.e. the coalition would deliver a referendum) but that we would be clear to campiagn against during the referendum itself.

    I am not quite sure why LDs think that Labour+LD+others can pass AV through the commons without a referendum. It would take a miniscule number of rebels to defeat it … and there is a strong moral case for not passing such legislation without a referendum (a moral case that I suspect the electorate may spot, even if the LD party faithful are blind to).

    But good luck negotiating with Balls etc. I am beginning to think that you guys deserve each other. If Clegg really was going behind Cameron’s back all the while, then how is he supposed to be trusted in coalition?

  • Andrea Gill 11th May '10 - 6:36am

    I hope it is now clear that the most Labour or the Conservatives are able to offer is a referendum on AV.

    Aside from the fact that this rainbow coalition doesn’t add up, we’d frankly look rather churlish to reject a Lib/Con coalition now, with a comprehensive set of compromises, cabinet seats & the same offer on AV as Labour offer. And at least Hague was honest about keeping the option open to campaign against it, because Labour would likely do the same.

  • A minority Tory Gvt would be the worst possible outcome. Partnership Gvt with them is in the national interest and is more important than party purity. We are in danger of looking ridiculous (and worse) if we now prop up a beaten Labour Party.

  • Andrea Gill 11th May '10 - 9:08am

    Fact is that the Tories want to work with us, they do NOT want a minority government. Labour themselves are not really up for it, many there do not seem to believe that Lib/Lab would or could work.

    I hate to admit this but the Tories are fast on their way of coming out of this looking like the only sensible party, thanks to Nick et al suddenly “going behind their backs” and looking willing to ditch all this hard work just to please the grass roots and Lord Ashdown’s obsession e.g. the Lib/Lab coalition. Reality may well be different but for crying out loud please stop your own people shooting off their mouths on the radio to undermine the possibility of a stable and cooperative deal.

    Our credibility is eroding fast and if nothing decisive is done today I can’t see us standing any chance at the next election, be that this year or in 4-5 years’ time.

  • Agree with Andrea – Credibility is turning into a fast sinking ship around these parts… And everyone I speak to is saying “If this is PR then you can keep it!”.

    Basic reality that everyone at LDHQ has to face up to is that the main topic of the election was NOT proportional Representation… Yes, people wanted electoral reform but by that most people mean being able to kick out corrupt MP’s and actually being able to cast a vote… Not ripping up the whole thing and starting again.

    Love or hate the Tories, if LD are seen to be propping up a lame duck Labour government which has been utterly rejected by the people (And really, all this talk of a ‘Progressive’ alliance is straw clutching straight from the pen of Alistair Campbell) then they can kiss goodbye to any kind of popular support for the next 20-30 years… And NO amount of PR will help that.

  • Just to add to the Mes & Andrea’s comments.

    It is possible that Balls could become the next Labour leader and appoint Brown as Chancellor [who moves back next door]. The theme of this election has been change!

    I am afraid the Party is fast becoming a laughing stock.

  • As a longstanding Tory may I first say the quality of debate on this sight is very high. Good responses to a good article.

    Id like to add a few thoughts. First you seem to ignore the English Scottish position in this. England voted Labour out. Labour polled what 27%? Thats a disaster. This may not have mattered years ago but it will matter now particularly if you prop up a Labour PM with SNP votes. There is plenty of resentment in England already, ask anyone with kids about university fees and the SNP know this and will exploit it. I dont think this any coincidence at all that the 1st Labour MPS to oppose this were John Reid and Tom Harris

    Secondly Im mystified about the vitriol about working with the Tories. It seems to me that you would get a lot back. Reversal of the authoritarian state, large parts of your education policy, and possibly big changes on tax. I love your idea on no tax for lower paid, Ive been pushing it in the Tory party for years, and hope it can be afforded. Even if you get nothing else thats more than you have achieved in 30 years.

    All this stuff about hating us. So what. We hate you to. Your relentless smear campaigns hidden behind the holier than thou pontificating about being diferent to the other parties. Your pompous carping about policies when many of your alternatives are nothing more than debating hall fodder with no basis in the real world put forward only because you know they wont be used. Dealing with you is only possible becasue Cameron has shifted the party to the centre, and further on some issues, and Labour have left us in a dire situation that compromises have to be made. If the bond markets turn against us the speed and severity of the damage will I think shock many contributers to this website. You may say dont let the market determine our democracy. I agree. Thats why you dont blow up the public accounts in the 1st place. We are where we are. It needs grown up behaviour from all concerned. Compromise isnt nice but then neither is paying 6% extra on your mortgage rate. Ask the Greeks.

    Also I should remind you that this isnt just your choice. the anger in the Tory party at the way you have handled this when we have gone so far in good faith is very real. Personally I think Cameron should have already pulled all his offers to you and see where that leaves you. I doubt if you can pull a deal with Labour off and if you dont you will be the public scapegoat for all of this. In a normal world Id be very happy not to interupt while you are making a mistake of such epic proportions. But its not normal times is it.

    Finally a question. A LD friend told me he felt you were about to support a coup by 4 of the main players in a party that lost an election. Campbell and Mandelson arent even elected and are the antithesis of your views on Govt. You will keep the most unpopular PM in our history in office until September? Even suggesting it will have materially hurt your standing. Doing it will be a disaster for you , what am I missing?

  • Tony Butcher 11th May '10 - 11:08am

    It Is The British Electorate Who Are Truly Progressive:

  • George Kendall 11th May '10 - 12:00pm

    The Tories are offering AV with a referendum. Labour are offering AV without a referendum, plus possibly a referendum of PR at a later date.

    Labour clearly can’t deliver on PR at a later date, all it’d take is a dozen Labour MPs to vote against, and it’d fall. They would have every right to, because it wasn’t in their manifesto.

    So the advantage of Labour’s offer is they’d give us AV without a referendum. But could we, with integrity, do that? We’ve always promised a referendum on fair votes. Imposing AV without a referendum would, rightly, be seen as breaking the spirit of that promise to the electorate.

    The Tory offer of an AV referendum is risky. They’d campaign against. But they’d be campaigning against a background of growing unpopularity, as they/we implement nasty cuts. Would Labour be able to oppose it with any integrity when it was in their manifesto? I think we’d win.

    I think the country needs stable government, so I think the Lib/Con option is the only real option.

    But Clegg is right to open negotiations with Labour. If we do go into a Lib/Con pact, the membership and the wider country, need to know we’ve explored the other options. I don’t think they’re viable, but he should not make a decision without demonstrating that they had been explored.

  • David Weisbloom 11th May '10 - 12:02pm

    Greetings from Channel 4 News

    Very interesting article by Stephen Tall today. Can we talk, Stephen? Please call me on 07968 409955.

    I’m also keen to talk to other Lib Dem activists with strong views about what’s going on at Westminster.


    David Weisbloom

  • we are Lib Dem. members in Richmond N.Yorks. let the tories go it alone. Lib Dems vote against any una
    cceptable policies. This should have been decided earlier in the negotiations before we got into this mire. We didnt canvass and leaflet to back the tories They cannot be trusted.They will use us as scapegoats

  • Linda Howells 11th May '10 - 1:39pm

    I voted for change, not just a change of party but a change in the way we do our politics in this country. I want PR, but I also want adult politicians who concentrate on working for the good of the individual, nation and world. I admit that I don’t agree with much of the what the Conseravtives say but I want consensus politics where all parties are working for the good of all. That means that all parties need to agree the plan. I may be a dreamer but I believe that there is a chance that there are enough politicians from across parliament that could agree for them to be able to work together. Then let the extremists in all partries carry on disagreeing. Let the centre large majority do it for themselves and the country. Stop the party tags being a boundary to sensible politics. Come on Liberal Democrats show us that you can pull both sides in to the middle.

  • Paul Krishnamurty 11th May '10 - 2:03pm

    If I were Nick Clegg, I would say the following.

    The LDs have two priorities. Firstly, to ensure a stable government. Secondly to represent the 7M people who voted for us, by pursuing the key policies that we were elected on.

    Pursuing those policies is incompatible with a formal deal with either party, neither of whom share our values and priorities. We asked the Tories repeatedly during the election campaign to explain how they would fund the pupil premium. They never responded. We have already explained how we would fund both that commitment and our fair taxes programme. Until the Conservatives can provide such clarification, we cannot sign up to any deal. It would be an unstable arrangement, because we disagree on so many core issues.

    However, we recognise that the Tories won the most votes and seats, and that we need a stable government during the economic crisis.

    So we will do the following. We will not oppose their Queens Speech or budget. After that, we will assess each bill on its merits, and vote accordingly. We will retain our independence, and continue to fight for the ‘fairness agenda’, on which we were elected.

  • David Sheppard 11th May '10 - 2:16pm

    Oh just get on and do a deal with the Cons.No matter what we cannott possibly win and are going to have loads of upset members.I would sooner do what was right for the country and that means stable government.No good shouting from the sides all the time! ConDemNation winning here!

  • For a successful future as a party and to demonstrate the case for changing to a system of PR and coalition government, the LibDems must be open enough and flexible enough to be able to work effectively with either Labour or the Conservatives.

    Formal talks have been held with both parties, which is correct, but now it’s time to make the right decision.

    The ‘rainbow’ coalition is clearly not a stable option. Clegg and his team should do the deal with the Tories and get on with the job of governing the country.

  • Paul Krishnamurty 11th May '10 - 2:50pm

    Well it looks like the LDs are finished as a political movement. Those of us sick of the tired 2-party system, of endemic corruption, worship of oligarchs, will have to seek a non-parliamentary route to change. When there are riots on the streets, Clegg is going to seriously regret destroying all that optimism.

  • Jeanie Falconer 11th May '10 - 3:01pm

    It is simply not credible to go with a Lib Lab construction; they are defeated, discredited, exhausted and need a rest. Whatever they promise, they cannot deliver. The internal unrest in the Labour party and the rest of the “coalition” would ensure that we would be VERY far from the stable government we need at this time. A deal with the Tories has honour in that they won most votes, the most seats and together we can provide stable government, a way forward for the economy and at least some deliverable progress on political reform. I just hope we’re grown up enough to take the opportunity and use it properly for the good of the country, the economy, the restoration of personal liberties, and of the party.

  • For a successful future for the party and to make a convincing case for a change to a system of PR based on coalition government, the LibDems must be open enough and flexible enough to work with either Labour or the Conservatives.

    They have had formal discussions with both parties, which is correct, but now it’s time to make the right decision.

    The ‘rainbow’ coalition is clearly not a stable option and there is serious opposition to it within the Labour party.

    Nick Clegg and his team should do the deal with the Tories, take their place in government and get on with the job of running the country.

  • “Oh just get on and do a deal with the Cons.No matter what we cannott possibly win and are going to have loads of upset members.”

    Now don’t be such a pessimist. Do you as a party member trust your elected representatives to deliver at all? Part of the process is trusting Nick Clegg and your people to do the right thing, while also remembering that if the Tories or Labour are willing to give you 80% of what you want, you should take it.

    Also, a great case for PR would be making the government work better in coalition with either of the other parties. Then the stigma of only one-party government working would be gone. It works in Germany and to a lesser extent in Italy. Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I thought Liberals were born pragmatists. I guess I could be wrong.

  • sullivan becher 11th May '10 - 3:42pm

    The alliance that has not been mentioned is the Conservative/Labour alliance which blocks proportional representation. The present system suits them both, with unadulterated power swinging from one to the other every ten years or so. Proportional representation lifts political awareness, interest and voting numbers in percentage terms wherever it is used. Proportional representation shakes off the tribal bigots at either end of the political extremes. Nick Clegg should make an agreement on a referendum for proportional representation a prerequisite for any alliance he should make with any party. If he fails to achieve an agreement, he should call for a re-run of the election. The country would respect him for standing on his principles. The other parties would have passed up the opportunity for immediate firm government in favour of preserving their own cosy status quo.

  • Derek Houston 11th May '10 - 4:07pm

    I think that unfortunately we are in a position where the ongoing media narrative has us on the back foot. There are a number of areas where I think our positioning, both during the election campaign and after it, has not helped.

    For example, for a number of years commentators (and in particular the hypocritical right-wing press) have been complaining that an overweening executive has rode roughshod of parliament, using it only as a rubber stamp. With a balanced parliament, we have the opportunity to trumpet a new politics where parliament is supreme – where issues are decided through a process of debate, persuasion and consensus rather than through the whipping system. Instead, we have embraced the conservatives’ narrative of a “strong and stable government” – confusing the concept of good government with a strong executive.

    This has not been helped by the fact that parliamentary processes are based on an outdated adversarial system. This is particularly evident in the way the budget is handled. The executive present a budget to parliament, without any prior debate or discussion, and parliament then vote for or against it. In the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly, where there was a built in presumption of a balanced parliament, the systems for determining the budget are far more open and inclusive – they encourage and support cross-party discussions and consensus.

    Apart from being a point of interest to political anoraks, this may cause us major concerns if we decide to enter into a confidence and supply agreement with the Conservatives. Under that type of agreement we will need to agree to (or at least sit on our hands, which perceptually is not much different) to the measures that the Conservatives put forward in the 50 day emergency budget. Measures which we spent the election saying would have a disastrous effect on the economic recovery. I hope that throughout the negotiations we have not lost sight of our proposals for a cross-party economic council to bring forward an agreed budget to deal with the deficit.

    One final, slightly off-topic point. I wish we could stop referring to the markets as investors – they are speculators, or at best traders, and should be portrayed as such.

  • I withdraw my statement. I confused the Tory position with what it was the day before. But when will the AV referendum bill be presented? Just saying there will be one isn’t much.

  • The media pressure to bounce the LDs into a decision is extraordinary. If I were a LibDem negotiator I’d want it in detail and in blood if I were going to even contemplate a deal with either Lab or Con. And that takes time.

    But it looks like a Lib-Con deal is imminent. This isn’t an appetizing prospect, even if a referendum on electoral reform is delivered. All we can hope is that the Lib Dems don’t get eaten alive by the Tories, don’t lose sight of what they stand for, and manage to put the brakes on the worst excesses of the Tories.

    Then cross your fingers that when it all falls apart, which presumably will be soon, the electorate are able to differentiate the parties and LDs aren’t wiped out as a punishment. But I suspect that our democracy isn’t quite mature enough to cope with that.

  • Traitors. 30 pieces of Ashcroft silver. Spend it wisely as your party is finished.

  • Paul Krishnamurty 11th May '10 - 7:45pm

    A very sad day. Well, you won’t be getting my vote again, nor many others I suspect. When the Christian Right and their dumb allies are found out, Labour will storm back with a big majority. Meanwhile, the Greens will thrive.

  • I live in a large village in Norfolk and we have over 70 Lib Dem voters which has been wonderful in such a Tory stronghold.

    I’m afraid that most of us are now walking away from the party with our votes and memberships.

    Good luck with the CONservatives.

  • Do wish the tribal Labourites would go moan at their own party not pretend they were ever part of ours. They failed to use the 13 years to get real changes – watch this space the LIB DEMS are coming!

  • Alex Alexei 12th May '10 - 9:02pm

    I voted Lib Dem for the first time this election; a tactical vote for Susan Kramer to keep Zac “non-dom mate of Dave’s” Goldsmith out. Never again. She lost, but now I realise that it wouldn’t have made any difference if she had won. Vote Liberal – get Cameron. Lib Dems just committed political suicide.

  • I have a message for you, Nina: but not one that you’d print.

    Ask what members think, rather than fishing for idiots who don’t understand the purpose of the Lib Dems is not to be Labour’s bulwark but to get our policies enacted. If this coalition helps us do that, we support it.

  • Colin Warner 13th May '10 - 12:51pm

    No deal, but allow a minority Tory government:. That would have been the best optio, but you’ve chosen to throw in with the “Nasty Party”. I’ll give the coalition 18 months – 2 years before it goes pear shaped. LibDems are toast. One of the saps who voted LibDem to keep the Tories out, Whoever said vote Nick get Dave, make you right fella…..

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