Tag Archives: coalition negotiations

LibLink: David Steel – Six ways Nick Clegg steered the Liberal Democrats to disaster

On the Guardian Comment is Free, David Steel has a must-read article with remarkably perspicacious observations:

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There is no need for Clegg to make an EU Referendum a red line. This does not signify agreement to it

I have seen some consternation amongst Lib Dems today, both in real life and online, about Nick Clegg’s remarks about an EU referendum not being  a red line for us. Many party members feel very strongly that we should not agree to something which could be very unsettling and destabilising. Having come through three years of the Scottish referendum, I am more in that camp than in the other group of activists who think we should agree to it or we’ll be seen as anti-democratic.

Before we rush to judgment, let’s have a look at what Nick actually said. From the Guardian:

I am happy to insist on my red lines – they are the ones the Liberal Democratshave put on the front page of our manifesto which are much more important than some of the other red lines other parties have chosen.”

He said he disagreed with the Tory position on the EU and said he was still committed to the act of parliament passed by the coalition which would trigger a referendum if further UK sovereignty was ceded to Brussels. But he declined to rule out rejecting Cameron’s demand for a referendum.

“It’s not my responsibility to try and stare into a crystal ball. The way this works is I set out my priorities, David Cameron sets out his, Ed Miliband sets out his. People then choose. How those red lines are or are not compatible with each other is in part dependent on the mandate that the British people give each of those parties.”

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Lord Tony Greaves writes…Why a new coalition would be a bad idea

In my first piece about what happens after May 7th I worked on the basis that the result would be around Con 275, Lab 275, LD 35, SNP 40, UKIP 5, Green 2, Speaker 1, all the Northern Irish 17 (of which the present numbers are DUP 8, SF 5, SDLP 3, All 1). Since then the numbers predicted by the polls have wobbled a bit around these numbers but the only consistent change has been to push up the SNP to perhaps 50 seats. And given the lack of a “late swing” of any size the LD number may be a bit high.

Given the provisions of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act it all still adds up to the likelihood – or the opportunity? – of a minority government (or democratic parliament?) that lasts several years, perhaps for the full five. Yet our official line is still that we want to join another Coalition. Officially we will negotiate with Tories or Labour, starting with the party with most seats (though in practice we will be talking to both simultaneously if that is what the numbers decree). Unofficially our leadership are reported to prefer another coalition with the Tories.

It’s no secret that this idea causes a severe onset of jitters in many parts of the party. With a week to go, the Times’ lead story reports “Lib Dems to revolt over fresh pact with Tories” (£). The story is pretty anecdotal, full of unattributed comments by “senior figures in the party” and the like (only Andrew George breaking cover), in general a typically flimsy piece of tabloid style journalism of the kind we see nowadays in the Times.

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We have another red line – raising the personal tax allowance to £12,500

In a move which will surprise nobody, another of those items from the front page of the manifesto has been announced as a red line in coalition negotiations with strings attached.

  • Significant progress must be made to getting to £12,500 in the first year of the next parliament, by increasing the allowance to £11,000 by April 2016.
  • This increase must be paid for fairly and cannot be funded through cuts to public services.
  • This has to be the number one tax priority of the new government. Any other tax priorities must be secondary to delivering the increase in the Personal Allowance.

So the Tories can forget any notion of cutting taxes for the rich until this has been fulfilled. What does this mean for Labour’s Mansion Tax, though? Surely you would want to bring that in at the same time? Actually, Danny Alexander clarified that. There’s not much love for Labour’s 10p tax band. You do wonder why they even thought about revisiting that one. Danny said:

Just two days ago the IFS described Labour’s proposed 10p tax rate as having a ‘miniscule effect’. Compare that to the millions of workers who will be getting their pay cheques today and will be £70 better off a month, thanks to the Liberal Democrats in government.

Nick Clegg said:

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Watch: Nick Clegg on Lib Dem red lines on education and economy

Here’s Nick Clegg speaking to BBC Breakfast about the party’s red lines announced over the last day on education and the economy. He called for a “stability budget” to ensure that the recovery, which, as George Crozier pointed out the other day, is a Liberal Democrat economic recovery, continues. The growth figures announced this morning show that we are not fully out of the woods yet, although we are certainly seeing some sunshine. The message from the party is clear: we wouldn’t want to jeopardise what the Liberal Democrats have achieved in the last five years.

And explaining the idea of the “stability budget”

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Nick Clegg announces red line on education

Nick Clegg has announced tonight that protecting the education budget is going to be a deal breaker in any coalition negotiations and that we would not enter any coalition without ensuring that funding would be raised by £6.3 billion over the next Parliament. He told the BBC he would:

not accept under any circumstances the cuts to nurseries, to schools and to colleges that both Conservatives and now Labour have announced”.

And if we don’t get that we wouldn’t enter into a coalition in the first place,” he continued.

We are the only party to protect from cradle to college, from nursery to 19-year-olds.

In pounds and pence – per year – we will be spending £2.5bn more than Labour, £5bn more than the Tories. That is a significant difference.

Party President Sal Brinton emailed party members tonight to elaborate on Nick’s announcement:

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So what exactly will the Liberal Democrats do if involved in coalition negotiations?

As Nick Clegg had the good grace to say in his email to members yesterday, that the decision about whether the Liberal Democrats go into coalition or not if in a position to do so is not in his gift.

We’re a democratic party. In the end, the decision to form a coalition rests not with the leader but with the party.

That is kind of true. I thought it would be worth taking you through what will happen should Liberal Democrats be involved in coalition negotiations after the election. The process is different from last time. Then all the leader had to do was to get the approval of the parliamentary parties in the Commons and Lords and the Federal Executive. The Special Conference which took place was not actually a requirement, but it was thought to be good practice. It overwhelmingly endorsed the Coalition Agreement.

This time, things are different, due to a motion passed at Spring Conference in 2012. Now, this will deliver a clear answer on whether to go into coalition or not, so the markets need not worry themselves, but it would be wrong to overlook the potential for longer term chaos it could ignite in the party. What conference was thinking of when it passed this, I have no idea. Here’s the motion:

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So, we might have Ed Balls in a Lab/Lib Dem coalition cabinet after all…

Interesting article in today’s Independent on Sunday quoting sources close to Nick Clegg that there will be no push for changes of personnel in Coalition negotiations after the 2015 election. This seems to me to be perfectly sensible. I always thought it was daft to demand that Gordon Brown go during the negotiations in 2010. You have to make these things about actual issues. Of course, this appears to be a pre-emptive strike to ensure that Nick Clegg’s head on a plate is not demanded by Labour.

There’s some interesting speculation on the policies up for grabs, too. Electoral reform …

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Simon Hughes says that Lords reform is still on the Liberal Democrat agenda

The Financial Times website carries an article suggesting that senior Liberal Democrats are preparing to make the issue of Lords reform a deal breaker in any future coalition negotiations. It quotes Deputy Leader Simon Hughes as saying:

If the time did come for more coalition negotiations, the experience of coalition the first time will be clearly taken on board when we think through what we would do a second time. The constitutional reform agenda and particularly reform of the Lords would have to be a part of the package.

The article goes on to say that sources close to Nick Clegg …

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