Telegraph claims Clegg has ruled out a coalition with Labour. I claim the Telegraph is talking nonsense on stilts.

Last week’s serialisation sensation was all about Damien McBride. This week’s is Matthew d’Ancona’s inside scoop on the Coalition, In It Together.

The Telegraph, doubtless keen to get its money’s worth, has hyped-up the revelations, splashing with the headline, ‘Cameron opens talks with Clegg on second Coalition’. Here’s the key passage, which reads unconvincingly to me, as I’ll explain below:

D’Ancona writes: “From time to time, he [Mr Cameron] would raise the question of a second coalition with Clegg. ‘If we did it again,’ he mused to the Deputy Prime Minister, ‘I’d have to seek collective permission.’ ” It is also claimed that Mr Clegg has privately confided to the Prime Minister that he could not form a coalition with Ed Miliband. In public, the Liberal Democrats have said they will form a coalition, should it become necessary, with whichever party wins the most public support. …

The book makes clear that any chance of a tie-up between Labour and the Lib Dems looks unlikely as long as Ed Miliband remains Labour leader. It recounts how, during a meeting of the three party leaders to discuss press regulation when Mr Miliband had “moralised a little too much”, Mr Clegg turned to Mr Cameron, saying: “Now you can see why I don’t want to go into coalition with him.”

First, I don’t find it at all surprising if “from time to time” either David Cameron or Nick Clegg reflects on what they’d have to do differently if a second coalition were to happen. I think I’d probably find it odder if they didn’t.

But I find it hard to take at all seriously the claim that Nick Clegg has “privately dismissed” the idea the Lib Dems could form a coalition with Labour. That’s not to say I don’t think Nick would probably prefer to work again with David Cameron: I suspect he would, if only because he reckons the two of them have a working understanding of how to make coalition work now, and it would be tough to start from scratch with Ed Miliband. But I don’t buy for a moment that Nick would say this to Cameron as it would severely undermine the Lib Dems’ negotiating position in 2015 if a deal with either Labour or the Tories is potentially achievable.

In any case, as my (simplified) flow-chart of the 5 key questions that will determine whether there’s another coalition post-2015 highlights, the choice is very unlikely to be Nick Clegg’s to exercise: the electorate and the party will all have a greater say than the Lib Dem leader in what will happen.

I’ve a lot of respect for Matt d’Ancona, who I think is one of the few fair-minded and insightful Conservative commentators. But his claim just does not ring at all true to me.

Here, for the record, is the official party take…

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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47 Comments

  • Once again I’m in complete agreement, Stephen. I’m sure Cameron and Clegg find it easier to work with each other than members of their own parties. This would probably be true with Milipede too.

  • Than SOME members of their own parties

  • I fear it is true. Clegg has become too close to the tory and let’s face it strategy isn’t his strong point. Clegg must go, he is endangering the party’s future but at least the National Liberals appear to be back.

  • Eddie Sammon 28th Sep '13 - 8:11pm

    My prediction is that we won’t work with Ed Miliband, and he won’t even get in power, because the United States wouldn’t have it. OK I’m exaggerating somewhat, but I think equidistance is a plane in mayday just after takeoff. Joe Otten correctly pointed this out.

  • I don’t doubt (considering that the source is The Telegraph) that this is all high-octane rubbish, but “Everyone move along,” strikes me as a rather condescending response, particularly to Lib Dems who might be wondering how well this reflects Nick’s thinking. A rather more comprehensive rebuttal is required.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 28th Sep '13 - 8:50pm

    I suspect that the Tories know that inferring Clegg & Cameron have done a deal would do nothing but damage the Liberal Democrats as we are recovering. Call me a cynic, but I think it’s nonsense.

  • What Caron said

  • Clegg has left himself open to this type of story and the ensuing “vote Lib Dem get Tory” message both Labour and I suspect the SNP will churn out at the next general election, less of a love in the next period may help.

  • I realise that the quoted response is a tweet, and constrained by a character limit: but it epitomises how not to respond to an allegation. If something is false, say openly “this is false” — don’t try to be cute. And given the character limit, why waste words?

    “Typical over-hyped book serialisation story. ”
    “Typical” isn’t a meaningful word. All it means is “conforming to type” — I’m not really clear how the story could be _atypical_. The writer might think it is a word that’s effective in dismissing the allegation, but it’s not — all it does is make people wonder why the LDPO couldn’t have led off with a stronger word.

    “Over-hyped.” No doubt it is. But a story can “be over-hyped” and yet be true. Once again, the choice of an irrelevant adjective, rather than a robust adjective of denial, makes the reader wonder “could it be they don’t deny it because it’s true?” That is the last thing the press office wants running through its readers’ heads.

    “Book serialisation story.” And so it is. The implication, I suppose, is that d’Ancona made up the story in order to sell books. Perhaps he did. But plenty of people manage to sell books based on quite true stories, and the fact that d’Ancona is in it for the money says nothing about the reliability of his account.

    “There have been no post-2015 coalition talks.” Undoubtedly so. Unfortunately, that’s a denial that fails to deny, since nothing in the article or, I presume, in d’Ancona’s book makes that assertion. Rather, it is stated that Cameron and Clegg, possibly on different occasions, have made statements to each other about what might happen after the 2015 elections. One would be rather surprised if they hadn’t! Of course, such informal chatter is not the same as “coalition talks,” i.e., formal negotiations on how to establish a coalition. One is left feeling quite un-reassured, and still in doubt as to the main question: is it true that Clegg has privately ruled out a Lib Dem-Labour coalition in advance of the election? This is a rather important question, as it goes to the heart of concerns over Clegg’s reliability as party leader.

    “Everyone move along.” That’s three entirely wasted words, unless one considers gratuitously insulting one’s readers by treating them as silly children to be an effective use of a communications tool. Of course, when one is told to look the other way and keep moving, it almost always means that something of importance *has* happened that might be well worth a look. If the LBPO didn’t want to create that impression, these were exactly the wrong words to use.

  • Sorry, that should have read LDPO — Liberal Democrat Press Office. I have no idea who the “Liberal Bemocrats” might be, although presumably they are not Bocialists.

  • Many things in life are uncertain but one thing is clear, Clegg will get a plum European job after 2015.

  • “Many things in life are uncertain but one thing is clear, Clegg will get a plum European job after 2015.”

    Actually, I find it difficult to imagine the circumstances in which any British prime minister after 2015 would see it as a priority to get Clegg a plum job in Europe – particularly as it would reflect on that prime minister if Clegg performed badly in the job.

  • No ‘post-2015’ coalition talks. But talks of coalition 2.0 were happening over a year ago (so seems unlikely there have not been any since) – the tweet is disingenuous.

    Also slightly confused as to how Clegg can be feted as achieving equidistance when, as Stephen points out, it is obvious that he would prefer a coalition with Cameron and will probably try to force the membership of the party to yield to his viewpoint as he has over so much in the past three years.

    All this will of course simply push yet more Lib Dem members and voters away from a party that is fast becoming a libertarian rump. But who cares if it has any legitimacy as long as Clegg and his ilk can cling on to power eh?

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Sep '13 - 11:44pm

    The problem is that so much of what Nick Clegg says suggests this is true. Nick Clegg has continually pushed the line that there isn’t much wrong with the Tories, but there’s big things wrong with Labour. We are being urged from the top of our party to put out the message that the mess our country is in is all down to Labour being such an incompetent party, and that the Tories are much more competent, all they need is a little bit of steer from us, and it’s all fine. Sorry, if that’s what the leadership is urging us to say – and it is – then it’s making us follow a line where it would be very difficult not to agree to continue with a Conservative-LibDem coaltion after the election should (which actually I think is unlikely) there be a no-majority Parliament where a Labour-LibDem coalition would also be viable.

    It wasn’t long into the coalition before the right-wing press started talking of possible electoral deals between the Conservatives and LibDems at the next election. Nick Clegg’s failure to slap down those suggestions says a lot. Sorry, silence will be interpreted as consent – if it isn’t as the Telegraph says it is, then he has a duty to say so.

    There is a long game being played here – we have seen it since the 1980s and the days of the Alliance. The right-wing press writes what it thinks should be our agenda, it finds shadowy “sources close to the leadership” who seem to support that agenda, and speak of it as if it is the party’s official agenda or at least the direction it is heading, and the leadership stays silent. Then, those of us in the party who don’t want it to go that way get branded as “rebels”, and the leadership is urged to stand up to us. By and large the party HAS gone down the route the right-wing press has been urging on us for decades – get rid of all the old beards-and-sandals lefties, make the party centralised in the way it does things, move the concept of “liberalism” ever closer to meaning “get rid of all aspects of democratic control in society replace it by cash market mechanisms”.

    We have not been helped by a succession of weak leaders, who seem flattered by the smooth-talking of the right-wing press urging them that way, and soon get led into thinking that all that grassroots activism stuff is a bit beneath them, and their new chums in Westminster and Fleet Street (ok, I know it isn’t Fleet Street geographically any more) are much more their sort now.

    If what’s being said here is nonsense, Nick Clegg has a duty to say so.

  • @Caron Lindsey
    >”I suspect that the Tories know that inferring Clegg & Cameron have done a deal would do nothing but damage the Liberal Democrats as we are recovering. Call me a cynic, but I think it’s nonsense.”

    That doesn’t make sense because the Conservatives need the Lib Dems to regain some of the votes that have been lost to Labour to have any chance of staying in government. Look at Lord Ashcroft’s polling.

  • The Telegraph article states:

    “In public, the Liberal Democrats have said they will form a coalition, should it become necessary, with whichever party wins the most public support. …”

    Correct me if you can, but, I don’t think the Telegraph have got this right.

    Before 2010, when it looked as if the Tories would probably win “the most public support” (i.e. win on votes), Clegg did indeed say just that. He said it was the only reasonable approach to take. Despite the fact that no previous Lib Dem leader had constrained his options in such a way before an election.

    But now before 2015, when it looks as if Labour will probably win the most public support, Clegg seems to me to be maintaining a deafening silence on this question.

    I wonder why!

  • Paul in Twickenham 29th Sep '13 - 7:41am

    Today’s YouGov poll (headline figures Lab 42%, Con 30%, UKIP 13%, LD 9%) poses the question “How long would you like the coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to continue?”. The most popular response is “end this year” (35%), then “up until the next election” (30%).

    The response “beyond the next election” gets 5% from a total of 27 respondents – 11 conservatives (2.4%), 12 Lib Dems (10.5%) and 4 UKIP (2%).

    So only 10% of the 9% of the public who intend to vote Lib Dem want a continuing coalition with the Tories. That’s down at the level of the public who believe they have personally been abducted by space aliens.

  • The price of coalition with Labour would be Nick Clegg’s head. I cannot see how, given his constant bad mouthing of Labour, and his demands of Gordon Brown, that any Labour politician would be willing to permit the trouble in the ranks caused by his presence in government.

    It would be completely rational of Clegg to pursue all other options over post 2015 resignation..

  • Paul In Twickenham 29th Sep '13 - 8:48am

    Apologies – I misread those numbers in the poll. They are percentages, not absolute numbers: so 11% of those who intend to vote Conservative support the continuation of the coalition, 4% of UKIP voters and 12% of Liberal Democrats.

    So the percentage of respondents who are Liberal Democrats who want a continuing coalition with the Conservatives is 12% of 9% which is about 1% of all respondents. Still well within the “alien abduction” range.

  • Peter Watson 29th Sep '13 - 9:16am

    From the comment about Milliband attributed to Clegg and the press office’s strange denial of something different, I believe that Clegg did indeed make a snide comment about Milliband (ironically if he thought Milliband was moralising too much, and disappointingly if it was in the context of siding with the tories over Leveson), but I’m sure he meant it as a sarcastic joke rather than as a prelude to post-2015 coalition talks.

  • Paul Griffiths 29th Sep '13 - 9:36am

    The story is indeed false.

  • Paul Griffiths

    A definite statement, based up by definite fact?

  • Paul Griffiths 29th Sep '13 - 10:07am

    Facts? In a comment thread? I’m stating my opinion.

  • peter tyzack 29th Sep '13 - 10:36am

    so we spend 24 hrs talking about a story entirely dreamt up by a Tory newspaper.. get real please! The press just want to keep the story-board rolling and where there is an absence of real story to distort they make one up that they think, a) the gullible public will lap-up, or b) that will do most harm to the party that is the biggest threat to their favoured party.
    Miliband is no PM, he is just not up to it even if the job was given to him on a plate. Cameron has got through the worst and is looking better placed than a few weeks ago, and Clegg at the UN looks like a PM in waiting. The UK is hobbled by an electoral system that is run like a horse race, and the dissemination of information to the public is controlled by a partisan press free to fix opinion to the preferences of their non-dom owners interests. Until Lib-Dems get to a position where they can effect change then this will continue, and clearly those who obstruct that progress must prefer the status quo.

  • Paul Griffiths

    ‘The statement is indeed false’

    How is that an opinion? It seems pretty definite to me

  • meant ‘ the story is indeed false’

  • Max Wilkinson 29th Sep '13 - 11:30am

    It’s just a Telegraph wheeze to undermine the Lib Dems.

    Not sure it’ll make much difference. Our national polling figures seem to be stuck at 8-12%, regardless of what we do.

  • OMG Telegraph talks bollox. Ever read what they say about Global Warming/Wind Turbines ?
    Anti-Cleggites jump on any story that shows him in a bad light, whatever the source.

    The last poll to ask about 2015 & what Voters want to see was 3 days ago. 30% wanted a Labour Government, 27% a Tory one & 26% a Coalition invoving The Libdems.

  • Max Wilkinson 29th Sep '13 - 12:52pm

    @paul barker

    There are plenty of people who might like to see a coalition involving us, but is that really translating into people saying they want to vote for us? The polls that matter suggest probably not.

    On the point about Clegg, he remains the biggest reason that our post-2010 deserters don’t want to vote for us. People associate him with the tuition fees ‘betrayal’ and with the Conservatives. Unless the party puts in a significantly greater effort to rehabilitate his reputation, he will continue to be a drag on our electoral prospects. Anybody who thinks otherwise is out of touch with reality.

  • @Simon Shaw: “The problem with denying every (possibly slightly delayed) silly season story is that you only give them credibility.”

    Perhaps, but you give them *more* credibility by responding to them *without* denying them, or using cute turns of phrase that give the flavour of denial without the content. As it is, the Lib Dems now are in a worst-of-both-worlds situation, where they have drawn attention to the story in such a way as to make it seem more believable, not less. The only way out now is a straightforward, explicit, and categorical denial — assuming that such a denial can be made truthfully.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Sep '13 - 12:09am

    Simon Shaw

    I’m sorry, Matthew, but you are seriously wrong here.

    The problem with denying every (possibly slightly delayed) silly season story is that you only give them credibility.

    As I said, the problem is that this is not just an outlandish “silly season” article – what it says is entirely in line with what has been coming out from the party leadership, with the lines it has been urging us to use on the street, about what a good government this (five-sixths Tory) government is, and about how bad Labour is. It is not just an isolated comment either – stories suggesting a long-term rapprochement between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have been commonplace since the the coalition was formed. So far as I am aware, Clegg has not denied any of them.

    Even as I am critical of the leadership, I am still defending it against the attacks that are coming here and elsewhere which accuse Nick Clegg of just giving in to the Conservatives and betraying our party’s principles. One of the things keeping me in the party is the fantasist nature of these attacks, which really seem to assume Clegg and 57 MPs could somehow have managed to arrange for a government almost entirely Liberal Democrat in policy to come into existence, and just chose not to. I would not wish to be associated with that sort of attack. I don’t like this government at all, yet I have to accept it is what the people voted for in 2010 and in 2011 when they endorsed the electoral system that made it the only viable one, and I also can see that Clegg was placed in a position with very little room for manoeuvre. All I wish is that he would be a bit more honest and admit this.

    However, the way I see it does not seem to be the way many of our former supporters see it – that is why they have voted with their feet and say they will no longer support the party. Iim sorry, Simon, but we have gone well beyond the point where stories like this have no credibility. Your line “keep silent, and people won’t think like that”, does not work because that IS how people are thinking already.

  • Nick Clegg is close to the tories and is hoping the next election produces a similar result to 2010. If labour are the biggest party in 2015 he won’t really have a choice and would almost certainly have to resign anyway. He’s not popular enough for the story to amount to anything other than a hill of beans and that’s even if he’s still leader in 2015, which I seriously doubt he will be. I reckon he’ll announce his resignation next year.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Oct '13 - 1:48pm

    David Allen

    The Telegraph article states:

    “In public, the Liberal Democrats have said they will form a coalition, should it become necessary, with whichever party wins the most public support. …”

    Correct me if you can, but, I don’t think the Telegraph have got this right.

    Before 2010, when it looked as if the Tories would probably win “the most public support” (i.e. win on votes), Clegg did indeed say just that. He said it was the only reasonable approach to take. Despite the fact that no previous Lib Dem leader had constrained his options in such a way before an election.

    I think it IS a reasonable approach, so long as it is not taken as an absolute constraint. That is, the first coalition to be
    considered should be with the largest party, but if that party proves difficult to work with, the possibility of a coalition with the other should not be ruled out.

    Played properly, the line that we form a coalition with the largest party (providing it is willing and able to make at least some compromises, and the other isn’t willing to make obviously hugely more to our way) OUGHT to get us off the hook of “Nah nah nah nah nah, you broke your promises, you put in the Tories/Labour”. There OUGHT to be a simple response to this: “No, the people of this country put in the Tories/Labour by voting for them in more numbers than any other party”. As I keep saying, the logical consequence of all those who say to us “Nah nah nah nah nah, coalitions are
    wrong because no-one voted for them” is that they should be advocating a purely Tory government right now,
    because if, according to their argument, the only legitimate government is one which is purely of one party which
    was on the ballot papers, then what party should it be – surely it can after the 2010 general election only be the Tories as their candidates got more votes than any other party’s. But many people throwing this line at us are criticising our party for giving up so much of our policies and accepting Conservative policies in the coalition. I have argued so many times with such people and NOT ONCE has any one of them admitted that the logical consequence of what they are saying is that we should have a 100% Tory government in place right now. EVERY TIME I push this argument to the limit, where I patiently get the person (they are usually a bit pejorative term deleted so it takes time) to see that, and challenge them to respond to the point, they melt away in silence with no answer.

    I suppose the idea is that in the event of a no majority Parliament, both the other parties will just be jumping to throw away all their policies and adopt ours in order to be “in government”. Much of the discussion before 2010 took that line. Politics doesn’t work that way, junior coalition partners across the world never have that sort of power.

    Of course, Clegg has messed up that defence from day 1 of the coalition by making it look as if it was done from some sort of ideological closeness. He and the PR people at the top of the party push us down day-in day-out by continually spouting out messages that get interpreted by the public as us having chosen to form a coalition with the Tories because we like them and what they do and we hate Labour. We are losing votes by the million because of this.

  • Peter Watson 1st Oct '13 - 2:18pm

    @Matthew Huntbach
    I agree that in this coalition, the Lib Dems would never be able to impose their own policies or block all those they dislike. In theory, a smaller coalition partner could wield more power, but the electoral arithmetic in 2010 did not put Lib Dems in such a position. Ironically, the slump in Lib Dem support because of its actions also means that the party’s position is weakened; it would not dare to use the threat of walking away from government.
    I also agree, very sadly, that the Lib Dem leadership has given the impression that they agree with every policy and action of the coalition government, and this is what has damaged the reputation of the party. Furthermore, by adopting the traditional two-party approach of blaming the previous government, claims of equidistance or ‘anchoring in the centre’ also sound hollow.

  • David Allen 1st Oct '13 - 2:55pm

    Matthew Huntbach: “NOT ONCE has any one of them admitted that the logical consequence of what they are saying is that we should have a 100% Tory government in place right now. EVERY TIME I push this argument to the limit, where I patiently get the person (they are usually a bit pejorative term deleted so it takes time) to see that, and challenge them to respond to the point, they melt away in silence with no answer.”

    Right! Melts on back loudly…..

    We should have driven a much harder bargain – or else, been prepared to walk away and let the Tories try running a minority government. We would have to have demonstrated that we were offering a reasonable deal, and that it was the Tories who (in the teeth of the largely mythical financial crisis which they were pretending existed) had opted for instability in the form of minority government.

    Faced with that minority government, we would still have had to tread carefully in the first year or so to guard against a Tory cut-and-run snap election. We would have had to tell the voters that sadly we had to abstain on tuition fees and let the Tories have their way, in the interests of not destabilising the government. There is still a risk that the Tories could have gamed the situation to their advantage and hurt us at a second snap election. Even that would have left us stronger than we actually are. And remember, whilst Harold Wilson used a 6-month minority government effectively to bribe the voters and win the second election, Osborne with his doomist austerity line could hardly have used the same tactics!

    One we got past year 1, things would change. Osborne’s financial panic had proved to be a sham (it was the eurozone that was imploding, not the UK, which had almost become a safe financial haven!) We could easily have pointed out that there was no longer any pressing need to avoid another election. The Tories would have had to justify their policies to Parliament on a case-by-case basis. We would only have voted to keep them in government if they had dropped the Lansley and Gove plans.

    So yes, we’d have had a minority Tory government, to start with at any rate – but we’d have retained much more real power over policy than we have now.

    Now, you may find reason to disagree, in fact I’ll bet you search hard for one, but, don’t please pretend you haven’t had an answer!

  • David Allen 1st Oct '13 - 3:21pm

    PS, all this is hypothetical with Clegg in charge. We could have driven a harder bargain, but Clegg was quite happy just helping uncle Dave do what he wanted. We could have opposed Lansley and Gove, but Clegg didn’t actually want to.

    Clegg has given us all a long list of things he said no to, many of which the Tories didn’t actually ask him to say yes to. With Tories, Clegg is a yes-man pretending to be a no-man.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Oct '13 - 5:13pm

    David Allen

    Well, the sort of person I’m talking about also supports our current distortional representation system, using the argument it’s good because it leads to single party government. This was the position of large numbers of Labour people in the 2011 referendum who vocally supported it by putting their name to the “No” side who made that their main argument, but it’s actually also the position even of most of those who came out as “Yes” (so quietly though that no-one noticed them) since few of them want to go further and have proper proportional representation. Anyone who supports distortional representation – and that’s most of Labour – supports propping up the Tories big time, since they are saying it’s fine for the Tories to get a much bigger share of the seats than of the votes, which in most cases would give them a full majority even with well under half the votes.

    So there we are, why is it that people who moan about the LibDems “propping up” the Tories because they agreed to the only stable government that was viable after the distortion of our electoral system seem content with a system which distorts the results and so gives us this situation in the first place? We have a no majority situation only because Liberal Democrat targetting resulted in their vote being a bit lumpy. Had the Liberal Democrats done less targetting so their vote was more evenly spread, they could have won the same share of the vote or more, but fewer seats, and the Tories would have a full majority – as happened in 1983. So why is it absolutely fine and good, according to these people, for the Tories to be propped up by the distortion and have complete control of government with just 36% of the vote except for when the Liberal Democrats have shifted round a few activists so the distortion isn’t quite as much as it otherwise would be?

    It seems to me that if you follow the argument “distortion is good because it means we don’t have coalitions and coalitions are bad”, which is what most of Labour says, then you ought not to leave that distortion up to the random effect of where LibDem activists chose to place themselves at election time, but instead make sure it always happens. I.e. award extra seats to whichever party gets the most votes so it has enough to have a majority. That’s not a position I support, but then I support proportional representation, and Labour doesn’t.

    OK, so I hope that clears up that’s the argument I was really making rather than arguing about what should have been done in the real situation of the 2010 Parliament where the distortional representation system did the job its Labour and Conservative supporters say make it so wonderful i.e. propping up the biggest party (the Tories) by giving it many ore seats than its share of the vote, and weakening third parties (the Liberal Democrats) by giving them a far smaller share of the seats than their share of the votes, In 2010 it didn’t do it quite to the extent of giving the largest party a full majority, but it did it enough to rule out any coalition not led by the largest party. It seems to me that anyone who uses the “distortion is good because coalitions are bad” line i.e. most of Labour as well as most Tories, should by logic think the best way of dealing with that is for the resulting government to be as close as possible to their ideal i.e. a pure government of the largest party i.e. a pure Tory government, and so should think the more the LibDems let Tory policy through, the better. Again, that’s not a position I support, but then I support proportional representation, and Labour doesn’t.

    As for the what-iffery about letting the Conservatives form a minority government, and then blocking any of their policies we didn’t like, and of course all the other parties would do the same. Well, they could all then claim they have kept to their manifestoes by blocking anything that was not in accord to them, but it would be deadlock. See the USA right now for a good illustration of where that could lead. Except the USA has fixed term elections. Here the deadlock could be ended by getting rid of the third party and getting back to good ol’ two party politics – as I am sure Labour, the Tories and most of the press would be arguing very loudly in the general election that would be called within months.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Oct '13 - 5:18pm

    David Allen

    And remember, whilst Harold Wilson used a 6-month minority government effectively to bribe the voters and win the second election, Osborne with his doomist austerity line could hardly have used the same tactics!

    No, I am absolutely certain that if we did have a minority Tory government he would have done EXACTLY that. He would be in a win-win situation. If the economy didn’t get worse, despite no austerity, he would take the credit. If in the absence of austerity the financial markets played up, Cameron would say “See, that’s because we can’t govern properly due to the existence of the LibDems giving us an unstable government. Get rid of the LibDems to restore stability – new election in a month’s time, you know what to do”. And from the Labour benches would come a chorus “Amen to that”.

  • David Allen 1st Oct '13 - 5:49pm

    Matthew Huntbach,

    “David Allen

    Well, the sort of person I’m talking about also supports our current distortional representation system, using the argument it’s good because it leads to single party government. This was the position of large numbers of Labour people….”

    Sorry Matthew, but, what you said was, that nobody ever answers your point about putting a minority Tory government in place, they “melt away in silence”. So, I have answered it, and given you my personal view on the topic. Instead of dealing with my comments, you just want to go on talking about this other “sort of person” who supports something quite different, and knocking down their (semi-mythical) position.

    I’m not interested. If you’re going to talk at me but not respond to what I wrote, what was the point?

    “As for the what-iffery about letting the Conservatives form a minority government…”

    Well, you introduced that subject, and you put forward some what-iffery. So I responded with some different what-iffery. At which point you come up with the pejorative word “what-iffery”. You then answer my careful analysis of the tactical situation that might have resulted, with a few sentences to the effect that deadlock and the slaughter of the Lib Dems would have been inevitable. Rubbish.

    The reason you are avoiding thinking about this rationally is because you don’t want to admit you got it wrong. Look, you and I both said the same thing straight after the election, that we should try to do a deal. It was a mistake. I have admitted that I made a mistake, because I don’t have faith in my own infallibility. I think that it is good to learn from mistakes, and try to stop making them.

    In many ways, you are about the most effective poster on this site, frequently able to articulate what is going wrong more effectively than anyone else. You spoil it when you continually hark back to the past, either in 2010 or in the Alliance days, and seek to prove that in everything you ever did you were on the right side. It’s self-defeating.

  • Paul Griffiths 1st Oct '13 - 7:37pm

    Since we don’t have access to the various alternative universes in which the Coalition didn’t happen, and therefore cannot come to definitive conclusions, these sorts of debates are somewhat sterile.

  • Simon Hebditch 2nd Oct '13 - 3:12pm

    I agree that the debate is somewhat sterile. The future has been set for some time. Clegg and the party leadership have always wanted to nurture the relationship with the Tories. Clegg has called for Lib Dems to be a central part of any future government. What arrogance! I have no doubt that the preferred result for the leadership would be a Tory/Lib Dem coalition for another 5 years – a disaster for the people of this country.

  • David White 4th Oct '13 - 1:53pm

    Well, I’m delighted to know that Mr Clegg has already confided to Mr D’Ancona/’Call Me Dave’ the LibDem plans post-2015 election. I’m just a trifle disappointed that Young Nick hasn’t told me, yet!

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