Nick Clegg: Governing with Labour and the SNP would be a recipe for “insomnia and instability”

The Guardian is doing a series of interviews by Phoebe Greenwood with the leaders of the parties, in the run-up to the general election. This week, it is the turn of Nick Clegg. There is a sixteen minute video of the discussion, plus a couple of summary reports.

Highlights from the interview are:

    • Nick says he is more anti-establishment now than when he joined government five years ago.


    • He feels that some sort of governing arrangement with Labour and the SNP would be a recipe for “insomnia and instability” in parliament, which would eventually hit people in the pocket.


    • He acknowledges the damage done to the party over tuition fees.


    • He is conciliatory towards Tim Farron.


    • In a series of quick fire questions he says he prefers Top Gear to the Great British Bake-off and would rather go on a road trip with Theresa May as opposed to Michael Gove.


  • After the notorious Munich cacti incendiary incident in his youth, Nick drove “hundreds of miles” with his mother visiting specialist garden centres across the UK, trying to find replacement cacti to make good the damage.

You can see the full interview here.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • I am sure that Ed and Alex/Nicola would not mind putting up with the disturbance to their sleep pattern caused by their new partner’s instability if it put bums on seats 🙂

  • John Broggio 21st Mar '15 - 12:16pm
    Lord Steel told the BBC’s parliamentary programme The Week in Parliament: “I’m pretty certain that the mood in the party will be to say the very most we would accept would be confidence and supply.

    “I just detect that there’s a general feeling that we need to recharge our batteries and recharge our values and that association with another party is not the way to do it.”


  • Philip Thomas 21st Mar '15 - 1:19pm

    I guess there would be a lot of insomnia and instability at that. I hope our new leader can cope with it.

  • Philip Thomas 21st Mar '15 - 2:45pm

    @theakes- Lord Steel and Nick Clegg are singing from the same hymn sheet with regards to coalition with the SNP…

  • Bar factual errors on questions and it being far from the fairly light interview with Nicola Sturgeon of a few weeks, I’d say this was a fair interview – pushed on the weaker aspects of the record and the reality of the problems facing the party, but done without unnecessary confrontation or cynicism.

    Accepting we go things wrong but standing by the good results from the government is the best way forward.

  • Bill le Breton 21st Mar '15 - 7:31pm

    Insomnia and instability may not be the stuff of rose garden trysts, but nor do they necessarily preclude good decisions and they do preserve an independent identity

  • Stephen Hesketh 21st Mar '15 - 10:19pm

    theakes 21st Mar ’15 – 12:29pm

    [[Lord Steel told the BBC’s parliamentary programme The Week in Parliament: “I’m pretty certain that the mood in the party will be to say the very most we would accept would be confidence and supply.

    “I just detect that there’s a general feeling that we need to recharge our batteries and recharge our values and that association with another party is not the way to do it.”

    Well said David Steel and well done Theakes in getting your post to stick !

  • SIMON BANKS 23rd Mar '15 - 9:32am

    The people least able to withstand corporate power are “independent” candidates because they have no organisation and no movement behind them.

  • Dr David Hill makes some good points.

    Meanwhile the media in England gives us celebrations in Leicester of the bones of a king they dug up in a car-park.

    It will divert the masses until the next Royal Baby fills our newspapers.

  • Alex Sabine 23rd Mar '15 - 3:46pm

    Dr David Hill – The extent of corporate influence and lobbying over policy-makers (at the EU level at least as much as national level) is indeed a cause for concern – as is the reliance on a narrow base of donors for party funding, which both reflects and reinforces the long-term demise of political parties as mass membership organisations with roots in communities.

    But I think it is wildly overstating the case to say that UK governments have not sought to advance the interests of the majority of voters as they see it. Apart from anything else, this would be a curious strategy for winning general elections, which relies on winning the support of 35% to 40% of voters (indeed more than that at the height of the two-party system) on a turnout averaging 70% or so. Unsatisfactory as these figures may be, it cannot be said that it amounts to representing the interests of just 1% of the population. Doing that would be a curious recipe for success.

    The pseudo-Marxist line that democracy is a sham because the power of money means that national governments no longer have any power to do anything very much – which was expressed with typical languid cynicism by Will Self on last week’s Question Time – is always good for a round of applause.

    It usually goes unsubstantiated, which may be because the evidence for it is rather weak. If you look at things like the overall tax take and the proportion paid by the richest individuals, the yield from corporation tax over time, the nature of competition policy today compared to 30-odd years ago, the increasing rather than decreasing role of regulation in areas like the environment and health and safety, it quickly becomes apparent that the claim that corporations run contemporary democratic states (as opposed to peddle influence along with other vested interests) is rather silly. Technological change does present new challenges for states in seeking to protect their revenue bases, for example; but there is little evidence so far to suggest this leakage has undermined states’ abilities to continue to raise enormous amounts of tax, between 30% and 50% of their GDP.

    Funnily enough, these obituarists of the nation state echo very strikingly – though unwittingly – the line we hear from UKIP that Parliament has been reduced to an irrelevant regional talking-shop by the EU. Again, there is at least a germ of truth in this – it is true that Parliament has (voluntarily) ceded a substantial chunk of its law-making power to the EU – but the case is spoiled by exaggeration. National government still holds sway in many of the most important areas to voters (albeit not immigration), it exercises influence at the EU level through the Council of Ministers, and in the final analysis Parliament can end the UK’s membership of the EU should it choose to do so.

    I suspect the reality is that nobody will eliminate special interests from contemporary democratic politics. Ironically, the more anti-globalisation and anti-capitalist activists are successful in multiplying regulations (which tend favour incumbents over new entrants, and favour some industries and sectors over others), and the more politicians sprinkle around tax reliefs and tax breaks and subsidies aimed at popular targets, the more economic special interests – including corporations – are incentivised to, and do, engage in lobbying. Tax avoidance is a symptom of a hideously complex tax code that bestows favours on all sorts of groups and activities (not specific corporations but pet projects of Chancellors, industrial strategies to promote particular sectors, incentives to do this and against doing that) and in doing so breeds loopholes. The remedy is in politicians’ own hands; their rhetorical fulmination about it is merely displacement activity.

    But whatever the problems with our democracy – and there are plenty – the idea that it is controlled and subverted by a malign corporate plot is more caricature than reality. I think the main parties need to ask deeper questions about their own loss of status and public appeal.

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