Does Cameron think he’s been in Nick Clegg’s pocket these last five years?

The third last Prime Minister’s Questions of this Parliament was just as ridiculous as we’ve come to expect. I lost patience with it at the moment when David Cameron got away with describing Ed Miliband as despicable.

Now, I have many, many disagreements with the Labour leader. I’m also furious with Ed for countenancing some horrible personal attacks on Nick Clegg, not least that appalling Party Political Broadcast during the European elections last year. However, that was an ad hominem too far. Whatever his policy deficiencies, I think Ed is a decent enough bloke who does not deserve that sort of vicious, playground name-calling. Speaker John Bercow should have told Cameron off for that, but he didn’t.

In that same exchange, though, Cameron said something interesting. He talked about Ed being in Alex Salmond’s pocket. This is straight out of this week’s script. Tory whips lined up no fewer than three mentions of it, and the latest Tory poster shows a gormless looking Ed Miliband in a highly predatory looking Alex Salmond’s breast pocket, looking for all the world that he’s going to be gobbled up as a mid morning snack.

Let’s just take what Cameron is saying to its logical conclusion. You have a coalition between a party with the largest number of seats and another party with about a quarter of the MPs. Does that mean that the smaller party is calling the shots? Cameron clearly thinks that he’s spent the last five years in Nick Clegg’s pocket.

We all remember this headline, don’t we?

daily-mail-lib-dems

If the Tories had been in power for the last five years on their own, life would have been very different. I lived through the last time they were in charge during a recession and it wasn’t pretty. Mass unemployment, unrest, poverty, years of misery. Every Friday night News at Ten had their jobs survey outlining how many thousands of people had been put out of work that week. Our manufacturing industries were killed off and everywhere but the affluent south suffered.

When the coalition came to office, the situation was even worse than it had been in 1979, yet after five years of Liberal Democrat involvement, we have 2 million new apprenticeships, record employment and a recovery that is much more balanced.

We know that the Tories biggest tax plan was a tax cut for wealthy dead people. The big tax plan delivered by the government was the Liberal Democrat raising of the tax threshold, benefiting the lowest paid workers as a priority.

Then there’s the significant matter of stopping the Tories from riding roughshod of our civil liberties, human rights and employment rights.

So, David Cameron clearly feels that it’s Nick Clegg who’s been calling the shots these last five years. The evidence is there to back that up. I don’t want us to find out the hard way that he’s right. A Tory majority would be a nightmare that I just don’t want to contemplate.

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

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40 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Mar '15 - 1:30pm

    It is true that Cameron is being hypocritical by saying Miliband will be in Salmond’s pocket, but a coalition with the SNP should still be ruled out. I know people are saying this will help the SNP, but if there is one thing talking down Labour’s poll ratings right now it is the prospect of a Labour-SNP coalition.

    I’m not really qualified to comment much on the SNP, but as someone who lives in England I don’t want them in the government. I wouldn’t mind if they hadn’t started grandstanding about austerity, which can mean very mild spending cuts and tax rises.

  • Julian Tisi 11th Mar '15 - 3:26pm

    I can understand why Nick has been giving PMQs a miss recently. This is what passes for political debate and sadly the media lap it up, as if some piece of personal abuse makes one or other of them more electable and a better person. I completely agree with you Caron.

  • The most worrying thing about this is not that Cameron is a hypocrite over coalition, it’s that the Tories have calculated it is in their interests to scare English voters away from voting Labour by suggesting they’ll be in coalition with the SNP (they won’t). Doing so is guaranteed to sow further division between Scotland and England, which only ever works in the nationalist’s favour, or I used to think it only worked in just their favour, Cameron is now giving every impression that he’d sacrifice Scotland, and the UK, just to win an election.

    That is deeply, deeply worrying and hope wiser heads than his prevail and rein back this catastrophic error of judgement.

  • “… A Tory majority would be a nightmare that I just don’t want to contemplate.”
    I agree with Caron.

    That is why I think our campaign and our leader should stop attacking Labour and concentrate their attacks on the Tories.

    In most of the seats where we have a realistic chance of hanging we need Labour and/or left-leaning voters to get pur Libera Democrat MPs and candidates into Parliament.
    Constantly slagging off Miiband as an echo of Cameron and the right-wing media does not help our folks in the seats we need to win.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 11th Mar '15 - 5:11pm

    John Tilley, I think it’s the perception of imbalance that’s damaging. I don’t mind pulling them both up, cos they deserve it at times, but it can seem a bit skewed towards slagging Labour at times. They do do a fair bit of both, though.

    Colin, that Nicola Sturgeon cartoon was utterly vile. I can’t see Willie being impressed with it one little bit.

  • Caron
    “….it can seem a bit skewed towards slagging Labour at times. ”

    That will be the thought in the minds of former Liberal Democrat voters and Labour voters.
    We need a goodly number of such voters to hang on to many of the seats where we still have some sort of a chance.

    Appearing to be “skewed towards slagging Labour” is shooting our MPs and candidates in both feet.

    I think you get the point but it does not seem to have sunk in amongst the leadership and the campaign machine.

  • @Colin
    “I just don’t think it’s good for women in politics to be spread out across The Sun like a page 3 girl.”

    You do realise they’ve superimposed Sturgeon’s head on a picture of Miley Cyrus, don’t you?

  • @Colin
    I don’t accept any of those things, no. The picture wasn’t demeaning when Miley Cyrus did it, and doing a bad and very obvious Photoshop job as a gag isn’t demeaning to Sturgeon either – any more so than this Lib Dem poster depicting Ed Miliband as a poodle :-

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/10/03/lib-dem-poster-portrays-ed-miliband-as-bankers-lapdog_n_1934909.html

    It’s just a silly joke, and not a big deal. If you trawled the Sun’s archives you’d find hundreds of similar mocked-up pictures of male politicians, since this is the kind of thing the tabloids do.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 11th Mar '15 - 7:18pm

    @stuart: I am with Colin on this one. (And, Colin, I did mean the Sun thing, though the Guardian cartoon made me howl with fury too. It’s a disgusting way to treat any woman. It’s utter misogyny. You wouldn’t expect anything else from the Sun, but it is unjustifiable.

  • Jack Davies 11th Mar '15 - 7:23pm

    Can I just point out that personally, I have a severe and unparallelled loathing of the Sun newspaper (and the Daily Mail, Daily Express, Times etc.)

  • paul barker 11th Mar '15 - 7:52pm

    Surely the logic behind turning our guns primarily on Labour is that we are far more likely to take votes from them than from the Tories. We & Labour are seen as similar, centre-left Parties & Labours vote has been falling for 2 years while the Tories have held steady.

  • Watching Prime Ministers questions today I like many others was dismayed by the content and tone of the exchange, which really was a waste of everyone’s time. What an opportunity that would have been for a Lib Dem leader to lay down some good points and markers with his two questions. Could have given us a good presentation, above the rowing parties, could have got us a bit of respect. However that is impossible in the coalition situation.
    Such a pity, another opportunity lost because we have stuck with the coalition instead of leaving in January, with a job well done, but then being able to plough a more individual furrow. As with Tuition Fees, not changing the leader, we are reaping what we have sown. Pity.

  • paul barker 11th Mar ’15 – 7:52pm …….Surely the logic behind turning our guns primarily on Labour is that we are far more likely to take votes from them than from the Tories. We & Labour are seen as similar, centre-left Parties & Labours vote has been falling for 2 years while the Tories have held steady….

    We & Labour are seen as similar, centre-left Parties???????????? Pre 2010 perhaps

  • @Caron
    I’m inclined to agree with you about the Guardian cartoon. And I’d probably agree with you about the Sun picture if they’d just stuck her head on a random picture of a woman in a bikini for the sake of it. But the picture has an obvious relevance to the story that, in my opinion, renders it no more offensive than the mocked-up picture of Cameron and Clegg as Morecambe and Wise they put on their cover in May 2010. But I can understand why others might not see it that way.

  • I wrote an article for LDV on offensive cartoons a few weeks ago.
    Offensive cartoons lampooning politicians, the royal family, clerics and people in positions of power has a long and noble tradition.

    In the wake of ‘Je Suis Charlie’ most people in LDV could see the point I was making.

    I may dislike the cartoons attacking the First Minister of Scotland, but politics is better with cartoons, however offensive they might be

    Stuart provides a link to a really trashy, amateurish Lib Dem cartoon attacking Ed Miliband. I had not seen this before and am appalled not by the content but the really poor quality and very immature, tatty appearance. It is rubbish to look at. I guarantee this will have been completely counter-productive. Who on earth was responsible for it?

    Worse than the cartoon was this —
    “… Commenting, a Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: “Ed Miliband’s political education didn’t take place at school in Primrose Hill but in the Treasury under Gordon Brown. He and Ed Balls were special advisers to Brown when they let the banks run amok and claimed to have abolished boom and bust.”

    So Ed Mioband was said by this Lib Dem spokesperson to be responsible for sub-prime mortgages in the USA, the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the collapse of the entire banijg system around the world???
    Do me a favour !
    No wonder we have been doing badly in the polls if this is the sort of genius who is a spokesperson for our party.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 11th Mar '15 - 10:26pm

    Stuart, do you seriously think they’d have put Ed Miliband’s or Alex Salmond’s face on Miley’s body? Of course they wouldn’t.

  • Philip Thomas 11th Mar '15 - 10:53pm

    @Paul Barker- yes, and the way to attract Labour voters is to attack the Tories (and put forward socially liberal policies). Attacking Labour just makes soft Labs think we’re Tories in yellow jackets and why bother voting tactically when all you’re doing is choosing between the Tory in blue and the Tory in yellow? We know there’s a big difference- but it isn’t clear enough to the voters: so we have to attack the Tories.

    On the other hand, everyone knows there are differences between Labour and the Lib Dems- possibly even exaggerated in popular perception. So less need to attack Labour…

    .

  • Philip Thomas 11th Mar ’15 – 10:53pm

    Perfect summary of the political realities, Philip. I assume you are not from the Western Cape!
    Even at this late stage I hope someone at the top of the party reads your comment and learns from it.

  • Paul Barker: “Surely the logic behind turning our guns primarily on Labour is that we are far more likely to take votes from them than from the Tories. We & Labour are seen as similar, centre-left Parties…”

    Both sentences are the opposite of the reality. It’s a bit like saying “Osborne attacks Labour, so that he can persuade socialists to vote for Osborne and against Cameron”. In other words, it’s nonsense, politics does not work like that.

    By repeatedly attacking Labour, the Lib Dems show that they are aligned with the Tories.

    The Lib Dems are no longer seen as “similar centre-left parties” to Labour.

    The Lib Dems are losing voters to Labour, and the more they show that they are aligned with the Tories, the more votes they will lose to Labour.

    But hey, that’s the strategy, that’s what Clegg believes in, so onward march. Tally ho!

  • So there we have it – the UK state is now so broken that one party can demand that another does not do deals with a third, and commentators here support that because the third party, although democratic, is a Scots one?!

    Welcome, rUK, to a hint of what Westminster government has felt like in Scotland for three centuries.

  • And I don’t know why Milliband doesn’t demand that Cameron won’t deal with UKIP or the DUP.

  • johnmc 12th Mar ’15 – 12:21am ……..And I don’t know why Milliband doesn’t demand that Cameron won’t deal with UKIP or the DUP…..

    Probably because, as the two parties will have less than 15 seats between them, Cameron would immediately rule out any deal…
    However, with “Dodgy’ Dave’s selective memory on his promises (NHS, demanding TV debates, immigration, etc.), he’ll have no problem with ‘forgetting’ yet another pre-election promise should the need arise….

  • Peter Watson 12th Mar '15 - 9:18am

    johnmc “one party can demand that another does not do deals with a third, and commentators here support that because the third party, although democratic, is a Scots one?!”
    In the debate over the SNP’s role in the next parliament I am struck by the hypocrisy of the those parties that campaigned fiercely for Scotland to remain in the Union and are now outraged by the prospect of Scotland influencing the way that the rest of the United Kingdom is run.

  • I rarely watch PMQS these days. Cameron rarely answers the question unless it is to agree with the Tory questioner. The gratuitous insults would not be accepted in a properly chaired meeting in any other forum. The Speaker should put a stop to it. Zero tolerance would be acceptable even to the extent of suspending or even cancelling the sitting. Why Miliband doesn’t refuse to get involved I don’t Knowles. Little wonder politics is discredited!

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Mar '15 - 10:35am

    Caron Lindsay

    John Tilley, I think it’s the perception of imbalance that’s damaging. I don’t mind pulling them both up, cos they deserve it at times, but it can seem a bit skewed towards slagging Labour at times. They do do a fair bit of both, though.

    Well, I was involved in a long discussion about it here a short time back, but, again, to give a classic example, when Nick Clegg jumps up and says “I’ll take the place of Cameron in defending this government in a debate with Miliband”, it’s all part of putting across the impression that Liberal Democrat and Conservative are just two versions of one thing, so if you’re in favour of this thing you vote for it, and if you’re against it you vote against it. Voting for it means voting Conservative, because why would you instead vote for this funny little differently labelled version of the same thing? Voting against it, obviously, does not mean voting Liberal Democrat.

    Now, the argument put against me was that this was just some sort of tactical manoeuvre, and no-one outside political junkies is paying much attention to all these arguments about the TV debate format, and it wasn’t getting interpreted the way I was saying it would get interpreted, so it’s just me being one of those people who lacks a sense of reality and doesn’t understand how coalitions work. However, my point actually was about the subliminal message being put across here. It’s just because most people won’t be paying much attention to it that it’ll just slip into the back of their minds and they won’t even consciously remember it. It will just be another part of why, if they were one of those many people who used to vote for us because they saw us as the best (either in policy or in chance of winning locally) opposition to the Conservatives, they won’t be voting for us this time.

    I’ve tried, remorselessly, to defend us joining the coalition and our role in it, since it was formed. Although I’m very unhappy with many of the policies and the general direction of it, I perfectly well understand the argument that it was the best we could do under the circumstances, and the alternative (minority Tory government engineering a win, backed underhand by Labour, in another general election shortly after) would have been far worse. Yet, arguing this point is like banging one’s head against a brick wall. Whatever careful logical arguments one puts against it, one is just met by “nah nah nah nah nah, you’ve rolled over and given up your principles just to gain ‘power'”. I put “power” in quotes because those using this word actually don’t mean “power” they mean “government posts”. And when I say this, I don’t just mean people who come to this site to say “nah nah nah nah nah” to us, I mean people I know personally who have in the past been reasonably loyal Liberal Democrat supporters.

    Yes, we are in a difficult situation, and it was always going to be like this the first time we joined a coalition, and those of us who thought about it for many years before it happened, and saw how these things tended to work out elsewhere knew very well that the role of a junior coalition partner is always to take all the blame and none of the credit. It was made worse here by the fact that our coalition partner was the one most of our voters probably would not have preferred.

    But it was also made worse by the fact that we have had a concerted push within our party by a small but well-funded faction who have been very keen to push it more towards the Conservatives in economic policy. That makes it SO much more difficult to argue the case for the coalition and its compromises as a necessity, because it helps give so much credence to the response “Oh, you’re only saying that as an excuse, secretly it’s what you wanted in the first place”. Sadly, our leader has made that very much worse by his evident bias towards that faction in the people he chooses to promote and use as advisers.

    Whether it is him or those advisers, they seem to be intent in pushing out message after message that has this subliminal effect, that changes people’s perception. We should have been very cautious because it was always going to be interpreted that way, but instead our party’s national leadership did the opposite of being cautious on this matter.

    I feel the only way out of the hole they have dug for us is something big and dramatic between now and election day. Something like a savage denunciation of the Conservative Party and all it stands for coming from Nick Clegg himself, a message that says this government, thanks to its Conservative Party domination has just got so much wrong, with an extra twist coming from it coming from someone who was trying to work with them and so knows more than most what they are all about. But I’m not holding out much hope for it happening.

  • I normally agree with John Tilley, but on this occasion 🙁

    Ed Milliband was in the Treasury under Gordon Brown. He and Ed Balls were special advisers to Brown when they let the banks run amok and claimed to have abolished boom and bust. The two main Global Financial markets are the UK and the US. Gordon Brown and Labour were responsible for oversight of the regulators etc in the UK. They were so happy that the City continued to finance their madcap PFI schemes at huge cost to future generations, and the huge fictional profits brought in by those institutions that they looked the other way. Their efforts to continually redefine start of the economic cycle to justify pouring ever more money into the economy, while pretending it was an end to boom and bust were totally inexcusable.

    The world wide banking system did nearly collapse- The UK is a large part of it. Lehman Bros failed and others nearly did, they all worked in London as well as the US. US sub prime mortgages were a fundamental factor, but there was so many similar things going on in the UK which contributed massively. Brown, Balls and Milliband’s fingerprints are all over it. They do deserve to be called on this.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Mar ’15 – 10:35am I feel the only way out of the hole they have dug for us is something big and dramatic between now and election day. Something like a savage denunciation of the Conservative Party and all it stands for coming from Nick Clegg himself, a message that says this government, thanks to its Conservative Party domination has just got so much wrong, with an extra twist coming from it coming from someone who was trying to work with them and so knows more than most what they are all about………….

    How can Nick Clegg denounce the Conservative party after supporting them on NHS changes, Bedroom , tax, etc… Any such statement will just be greeted with ridicule by Labour and the Tories. Both would shout, “If you felt this way why have you waited until two months before the GE”…. Last minute ‘conversions’ are suspect

  • Oh I feel depressed. Soft Labour voters thought we had betrayed them as soon as we went into Coalition with the Tories. We can’t get them back by attacking the Tories now as Expats says. Soft Tories may still support us where we are battling against Labour so if we attack the Tories too much we may lose them. We are up a creek without a paddle and we keep on digging that hole, to mix a metaphor. The only way for us to go is the weak argument that it would have all been a lot worse without us. That may just work in seats we have held for a while but it’s pretty feeble. What our leaders should NOT do is talk about future coalitions as this makes us look even more unprincipled than we did when we went into Coalition in the first place. Can’t we just be honest and say that the voters have steadily punished us throughout this Government and we have heard that message ( we are being unbelievably deaf not to hear it at the moment) and will take an opportunity to regroup over the next Parliamentary term.
    NB I am rather deaf myself so feel OK with that reference.

  • Sue S 12th Mar ’15 – 3:17pm……. Soft Labour voters thought we had betrayed them as soon as we went into Coalition with the Tories.

    There were two possible options “Support on a “confidence and supply” or “Coalition”. I would have preferred the first but was willing to give option 2 a chance….However, within days we had the ‘Rose Garden’ episode and later the “75% of government policies are LibDem”; we the broken promises of NHS reorganisation, Bedroom tax., etc…..

    You can’t undo 5 years in 50 days….

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Mar '15 - 5:31pm

    expats

    How can Nick Clegg denounce the Conservative party after supporting them on NHS changes, Bedroom , tax, etc…

    Well, there you are. You appear to be unable to distinguish between agreeing to something because it’s a compromise, and supporting it because it’s what you’d want if you could get whatever you like.

    I live in the real world. Every day I have to do things that if I could do absolutely what I liked I would not. You clearly do not live in the real world, because you do not understand this basic principle.

    I appreciate, however, that so much of what Nick Clegg has said and done has made this a much harder point to get across. So, sorry to have been rude to you.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Mar '15 - 5:34pm

    expats

    There were two possible options “Support on a “confidence and supply”

    Confidence and supply means voting for their budget, and all the cuts that necessitates (“supply”) and voting for anything else they or Labour choose to label as a “confidence” issue (“confidence”). Just tack a confidence clause on any bit of Tory nastiness, and bingo, we’d have to vote for it under “confidence and supply” .

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Mar '15 - 5:45pm

    Sue S

    Soft Labour voters thought we had betrayed them as soon as we went into Coalition with the Tories.

    Why should we take the blame when it was the way the people voted and the way the electoral system distorted that vote (and the people of this country voted two-to-one to retain after a campaign in which Labour and Tory supporters said that distortion was the best thing about it) that left us with no alternative?

    If we should have a government of the biggest party, and it’s fine to prop up that party with extra seats by using a distorting electoral system, then what are people complaining about when we gave them what they said they wanted by two-to-one, with many prominent Labour figures loudly supporting propping up the Tories by having an electoral system which means 50% more votes than us gives them 500% more seats?

    Why can’t Nick Clegg say things like this? Why instead do we pretend that “No” vote never happened? Why do we let that myth that we were in a “kingmaker” situation persist, when the balance of the two main parties and presence of other parties meant that a coalition with only one of them was workable? If coalition with the other was workable, why doesn’t the other just offer terms for it and then condemn us for not accepting them?

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Mar ’15 – 5:31pm…I don’t feel you’ve been rude; just a bit ‘patronising’…You don’t appear to have read ‘wot I ‘rote’… I have read most of your posts and, were you our rep, I would have no problem accepting your reluctance… Sadly, in the real world (as you put it) at no stage did Nick appear to have been ‘reluctant’; that is why Nick cannot suddenly distance himself from Conservative policies…

    Matthew Huntbach 12th Mar ’15 – 5:34pm ,,,,We would have avoided being associated with anything on NHS, Bedroom Tax, Cuts, etc….All of which have caused the losses of Local representatives, MEPs and our current woeful standing

  • Philip Thomas 12th Mar '15 - 6:39pm

    Classificiation digression. If someone is going to vote Labour whatever we say to them, that isn’t “Soft Labour”: it is “Labour”. By definition, “Soft Labs” are persuadable.

    Political affiliation isn’t set in stone. When we lost “Soft Labs” in 2010, they became real “Labs”. They are not the votes we are chasing at this election: the “Soft Labs” at this election were more than likely “Probable” LDs in 2010 who we have to win back. (Speaking in broad terms: there will be many individual exceptions). I’ve met Soft Labs on the doorstep- they appear susceptible to argument (Which is why they are recorded as “Soft Labs”)…

  • @Caron Lindsay
    “Stuart, do you seriously think they’d have put Ed Miliband’s or Alex Salmond’s face on Miley’s body? Of course they wouldn’t.”

    I think you may have to revise that opinion…

    http://www.newstatesman.com/sites/default/files/images/CAamrpOW8AAT5Lz.jpg

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