+++ Nick Clegg speaks – up to Tories to seek to form government

Courtesy The Guardian, here’s the transcript of Nick’s remarks:

Last night was a disappointment for the Liberal Democrats. Even though more people voted for us than ever before, even though we had a higher proportion of the vote than ever before, it is of course a source of great regret to me that we have lost some really valued friends and colleagues and we have returned to parliament with fewer MPs than before.

Many, many people during the election campaign were excited about the prospect of doing something different. It seems that, when they came to vote, many of them in the end decided to stick with what they knew best.

At a time of great economic uncertainty I totally understand those feelings. But that’s not going to stop me from redoubling my efforts and our efforts to show that real change is the best reassurance that things can get better for people and their families, that it shouldn’t be something that unsettles people.

Now we’re in a very fluid political situation with no party enjoying an absolute majority. As I’ve said before it seems to me in a situation like this, it’s vital that all political parties, all political leaders, act in the national interest and not at narrow party political advantage.

I’ve also said that whichever party gets the most votes and the most seats, if not an absolute majority, has the first right to seek to govern, either on its own or by reaching out to other parties.

And I stick to that view. It seems this morning that it’s the Conservative party that had more votes and more seats but not an absolute majority.

And that is why I think it is now for the Conservative party to prove that it is capable of seeking to govern in the national interest.

At the same time, this election campaign has made it abundantly clear that our electoral system is broken.

It simply doesn’t reflect the hopes and aspirations of the British people. So I repeat again my assurance that whatever happens in the coming hours and days and weeks, I will continue to argue not only for the greater fairness in British society, not only the greater responsibility in economic policy making, but also for the extensive real reforms that we need to fix our political system.

Here’s my original paraphrase of Nick’s remarks at Cowley Street:

Last night was a disappointment for the Lib Dems – though more people voted for us than ever before, though our share of the vote was better than last time. Lost many valued colleagues. During the campaign many people seemed excited by the possibility of change, but it seems they decided to stick with what they knew best when it came to vote, and I understand that. I’m going to re-double my efforts to show them real change is the best way of making things better for themselves and their families. Vital we all act in national interest not out of narrow party political advantage. Party which has most votes and most seats has right to seek to form a government. I stick by that. So now up to the Conservative Party to prove they are capable of meeting that task. Very clear our electoral system is broken, and not up to the job. In coming days and weeks I will continue to argue for fairness in society, and a fairer political system.

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  • “Welcome to savage cuts”

    Er, no. Just because Clegg has said the Conservatives can now try to form a minority government, doesn’t mean they can suddenly force through any bill they want.

    “he didn’t have to say that he would support the biggest party first”

    Who should he have said then? The smallest party?

    “but he did so knowing full well that it would be the Tories”

    Only if you believe that the public were obviously going to swing to the Tories. And why should Clegg be blamed for them doing that? If you want Clegg to have supported Labour, then Labour only have themselves to blame.

  • This may well be the wise long-term game to play. Firstly, Clegg looks like a man of principle sticking to the words he said. Secondly, as long as we don’t go into coalition with Tories, we’re just giving them enough rope to hang themselves.

  • Jeremy Hargreaves 7th May '10 - 11:16am

    He said he’d back the party with most seats and votes, and has done so. You can certainly disagree with the strategy, but it’s definitely consistent.

  • “We would still have had more seats than the Tories”

    Wake up. Lib Dems lost seats. Labour lost tons of seats. Tories massively gained seats. A Lib-Lab minority coalition has no moral authority, and would be a disastrously short run.

    Never mind that that’s actually a wide difference between the two parties. Civil liberties? Foreign policy? Immigration? Taxation? Banking regulation? The one thing they actually agree on is when to cut the deficit.

    “a real chance of getting a referendum on PR with a grand coalition of Labour and some of the other smaller parties.”

    You only need control the legislature to get such a referendum. You don’t need the executive.

  • May I just emphasise that this is a negotiation process, not a coin-flip. When negotiating with other parties, one hopes the Liberal Democrats will do so from a principled position. If the Conservatives don’t offer anything that conforms to LibDem principles, the path is cleared to listen to what Labour may wish to offer. Just give it time ….

  • Clegg is cleverly setting up the Tories to try and fail to form a Government.

  • If Labour really wants to continue in government Brown should accept that he personally has no mandate to continue and bow out this morning. Up to Labour to decide who the alternative would be but it is obvious that Brown is not a viable option. He needs to act decisively and quickly for there to be any possibility of avoiding a tory government.

  • Terry Gilbert 7th May '10 - 11:43am

    Sensible statement. Personally, as a left wing Lib Dem, I think we have to recognise that the Tories are biggest party. I don’t feel sold down the river – yet.

    But Cameron must do a Peel (Corn laws) or a Disraeli (franchise) and recognise that reform of the voting system is in the National Interest, even if it is not in his party’s interest.

    Is he a big enough man?

    If not, let him run a minority Govt, I say.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 7th May '10 - 11:48am

    Interesting indication from the BBC of discontent with Cameron on the part of elements within his party, who are insisting that he mustn’t give ground to the Lib Dems on electoral reform.

  • paul barker 7th May '10 - 11:49am

    Cleggs statement was both principled & intelligent, now we wait for the Tory response. If, as rumours suggest they offer PR for the Lords only, we are faced with a number of unpalatable options.
    My choice of least-worse would be to allow the Conservatives to form a minority administration but to make them no guarantees & take each vote on its own merits. Return to your Focus teams & more work.
    The Labour offer strikes me as a mirage, even if they could be trusted I dont beleive they can deliver reform, they dont have either the numbers or the internal discipline.

  • Terry Gilbert 7th May '10 - 11:57am

    That’s a good point Paul – Labour rebels may well defeat voting Reform. Is there a majority for it? Maybe not.

  • Clegg should support any party that will guarantee full Proportional Representation.

    Anything else would be a huge betrayal of all of us who joined the party and the campaign on the basis of his clear message of this issue.

  • Both parties are going to hate this…

  • Terry Gilbert 7th May '10 - 12:30pm

    Absolutely Felix.

    Trafalgar Square tomorrow?

  • Terry Gilbert 7th May '10 - 12:43pm

    We might get crucified in terms of vote share for supporting Labour, and still come out stronger in the next Parliament, IF we got voting Reform.

    But it is a huge risk. If Reform failed, and a FPTP election took place, we might well be back to the parliamentary party meeting in a taxi.

  • No no no no no!
    Absolutely ridiculous!
    Everyone is aware that many of the people who voted Lib or Lab were doing so precisely to keep Tories out –
    Getting in bed with David Cameron would be the ugliest infidelity you could commit!

  • I’m disappointed in the idea of a Lib/Con hung parliament – people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will not fair well in it at all.

    Reform is a double edged sword – we’d get more seats but the BNP and other such wastes of space would too.

  • I would just like to say that I voted for Lib Dems to keep the Conservatives out!!! Any coalition with them would be incredibly disappointing to all Lib Dem Supporters!!! Don’t make us regret our decision!!!

  • Charles Anglin 7th May '10 - 1:03pm

    During the election Nick Clegg said that in a hung parliament the Lib Dems would allow the party with the largest number of seats and votes to try and form the Government. After the election he has said exactly the same thing. The idea promoted on here & elsewhere by Labour Party supporters that he should go back on his word and prop up a man who has now been unelected twice is extraordinary.

    This is an election which nobody won, none of the parties have anything like a mandate but we do know that there is no viable majority in the Commons without the Tories and as such Nick is right it is up to them to show they can now govern ‘in the national interest’.

  • Why is no one on the BBC pointing out that although the Tories have 39% of the vote, the Labour & Lib Dem together has 52% of the popular vote, together they have the mandate to govern. C’mon Nick do the right thing, the public have voted and want a Lab/Lib coalition

  • There are factors – jobs, child credits, basic security – which concern far more people than a voting method.


    Wrong. A corrupt voting system affects every voter.

  • I voted Lib Dem because my main concern is civil liberties. This country has been turned into some kind of pseudo police state under labour, and I for one, as a Lib Dem voter, would utterly oppose any kind of Lab/Lib coalition. In fact, if this were to occur, I would most certainly never vote Lib Dems again. I would consider it a violation of everything the party claims to stand for. Labour are authoritarian scum, and it truly saddens me that seemingly so few people in the country seem to care. Have they all forgotten the horrors inflicted upon us already?

    I’m sure that with the conservatives, things will be business as usual. The march towards further social control will probably continue, but at least the issue of civil liberties is on their agenda. Labour don’t even mention it.

    The voice of “democracy”, horribly distorted as it is, has spoken. Let the party with the most votes rule. Just please God don’t let those fascists in Labour back into power.

  • Sometimes you gotta do things that are above party politics: a minority con/lab government would get nothing done and damage the country. Same with a lab/lib/SNP/other as it only *just* get you a majority.

    Also I agree with some of you with that we have as many differences with the Labour party as we do with the Conservatives.

  • Is that what they’re teaching in undergraduate philosophy classes these days?

    Besides, there is corrupt and there is imperfect… get the difference?


    Snide, smug, know-it-all personal attacks? Nope, not coming down to your level.

    Political Corruption: “Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents”

    Get it yet?

    Anyone who voted for the Liberal Democrats with their primary concern the redistribution of wealth, must have trouble reading manifestos all the way through.

  • Many, many people voted Lib Dem because they wanted Lib Dem NOT Labour or a LibLab mess.

    I support a minority Tory Government as voted in by people in both seats and %. With the Lib Dems voting on specific policies, allowing necessary and GOOD legislation to pass while blocking things that conflict with Lib Dem policies or aren’t in the best interest of the country. Brilliant way to show how a balanced parliament isn’t a huge mistake because parties CAN work together when they stop bickering.

    And if it doesn’t work, the Tories will need to call another election.

  • If Cameron forms a minority government he will go to the polls in Autumn and likely get a majority. Brown’s offer is the best opportunity for electoral reform and possibly the only one in the near future. Nick Clegg must think about the long-term and grasp this opportunity

  • Duncan Clark 7th May '10 - 2:04pm

    I trust that there is a strategic and principled game plan up the sleeves of our Party grandees (?).

    The bottom line is that I don’t care if we end up ‘working’ (in whatever form that may be) with the Tories or Labour, provided we can work to tackle two main areas : 1) Sort out the financial mess in a sensitive but effective way;
    2) Reform our political system to deliver fair votes. No wriggle room!!!

  • I agree anna. I quite like the idea of a minority government in fact, because it presumably would mean that any proposed legislation would have to undergo more rigorous debate than if the majority party could just push through anything it wanted.

    When it comes to issues of real importance, such as the economy, surely they can all agree on what needs to be done. If a minority or coalition government leads to disaster, it will only be because the juvenile squabbling idiots in parliament can’t agree.

  • Malcolm Todd 7th May '10 - 2:17pm

    When it comes to issues of real importance, such as the economy, surely they can all agree on what needs to be done.

    I’m always amused and bemused by the idea that people only really disagree about unimportant things. Makes you wonder why we bother with voting in the first place.

    A minority Tory government seems the only plausible option at this point, but what do we do when Chancellor Babyface presents his “emergency budget”? If it takes the form promised during the campaign, I can’t see how any of the other parties could vote for it. (Well, the nats and the Ulstermen will vote for anything if you throw them a bone; that would be enough to swing it, I guess.)

  • They MUST join labour, or allow Tory to sink in a minority.

    Over the next few months Cameron intends to make crazy cuts which will see him unpopular, when as the results show he isn’t THAT popular anyway. Because we’re guarenteed another election within a year should this happen he will crash and burn, eventhe Tories know this.
    If Clegg gets into bed with Cameron you can say goodbye to Scottish/Welsh tactical votes, many English anti Brown protest votes and more importantly bye bye to PR.

  • Terry Gilbert - ECR 7th May '10 - 2:47pm

    Cameron’s offer – sounds very nice, but nothing substantial on Reform – merely equal size constituencies (ha! as if that made a difference) and the promise of a convention. No, ta! Our system is more broken than that, and we have 23% of the vote to your 36%. We have a moral right to a more substantial Reform package, to be promised beforehand.

  • Dr Strangelove 7th May '10 - 3:02pm

    I wonder if Trident will play any part in the negotiations?

  • David Allen 7th May '10 - 3:02pm

    Cameron claims he wants stable government not bickering. In that case he should not make us a derisory offer which can only promote bickering. If he wants stability he is responsible for offering it.

    If he doesn’t offer it, well we stuck with our principle to let him make the first offer, now we should test the alternative.

    This is a bidding war situation. We didn’t choose to have a powerful hand, but we got one. We should use it.

  • @Hardeep:

    I don’t agree with that at all. Look at the opinion polls leading up to the election: The rise in our popularity at the time matched a drop in the Conservative’s, with only a small change in Labour percentages. This indicates that our increased poll popularity was gained by (transient) defecting Tory voters. I’m an ex-Tory who came to the Lib Dems. So the very last thing I want is the continued presence of a government who have pushed us into two wars, plus for the second time in my life have decimated the government books and left us with an outrageous national debt. They’ve had a balance sheet blind spot for 13 years and you still trust them to manage the economy?

    Nick has indicated that his first priority is to focus on doing the right thing for the nation. That means negotiating hard, making brave choices, being open to compromise, and working with whoever is best placed to fix the problems we face today. Right now that is not the Labour party.

  • David Allen 7th May '10 - 4:29pm

    “negotiating hard, … and working with whoever is best placed …. Right now that is not the Labour party”

    No, no, no. If you declare that you will only be avilable to do a deal with one possible partner, you are not negotiating hard. You are being a patsy.

    I hate the Tories the way others hate Labour, but I think Nick is quite right to ask them to make the first bid. Unless we genuinely negotiate hard – which means pushing both sides until we get an offer we can live with – we are wasting a big opportunity.

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