The Clegg coalition line emerges

Very sneakily, Clegg’s team have found a neat way to turn questions about hung parliaments into a positive message about Lib Dem policy. We saw it on the news today, and I’m sure we’ll see it wheeled out again – and again, and again, probably until journalists get bored of asking the question.

When asked what the Lib Dems would do in the event of a hung parliament, Nick’s strategy is to say what the Lib Dems would want to get from any sort of deal, which mysteriously matches closely with the four key themes. Nick says we would want to have the first £10,000 of income tax free, improve education, fix the economy and banking system and fix our broken parliamentary system.

Asked whether Nick can guarantee those as red lines of any deal, the response is that the more people vote Lib Dem, the more chance we have of getting what the Lib Dems are proposing.

He’s right. Were there to be some post-election deal, the Lib Dem’s bargaining power would be completely dependent on the party’s strength in parliament. Until the Nick knows the hand he has to play, it’s fair to hold back from laying out a detailed negotiating position.

It’s also a good political line; a sensible way to answer the question that’s dogged Lib Dem and Liberal/SDP Alliance leaders for every election for the last quarter of a century.

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This entry was posted in Conference and General Election.


  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th Mar '10 - 12:28pm

    Actually, it sounds like exactly the kind of thing Liberal and Lib Dem leaders have been saying for as long as I can remember.

    The problem for Clegg is that this time a hung parliament is viewed as more likely than at any time in the last 35 years (with the possible exception of 1992), and if that continues to be the case he can expect to be pressed on this issue repeatedly.

    He can also expect Tory challengers in Lib Dem seats to portray him at every opportunity as the man who will keep Brown in power if there is a hung parliament, and to ram home the message that the only way to be _sure_ of getting Brown out is to send a Tory MP to Westminster – rather than a Lib Dem who could end up supporting a Labour government.

    The party needs to work out a really strong rebuttal of that accusation. I don’t see one in the article above.

  • Andrew Suffield 13th Mar '10 - 3:40pm


    I’m holding a form letter from Cameron which reads as follows:

    The General Election in 2010 will be different. This time we will have a real chance to vote for change and elect a new government for our country.

    But this won’t happen automatically. Despite what the polls say, the result is not a foregone conclusion. For the Conservatives to form a government, we need to gain more seats in parliament than we have managed for an election for 80 years.

    One of the seats we have to win is the one you live in: Eastleigh. Unless the Conservatives win here, we will not be able to change the government at Westminster – and that means five more years of Gordon Brown and Labour.

    At the last election, many people voted for Liberal Democrat MPs because they thought they were doing a good job locally. But the truth is that a vote for the Liberal Democrats at the next election will be a vote to keep Gordon Brown and the Labour government in power.

    (For those who don’t know offhand, Eastleigh is Chris Huhne’s seat. The Tories are putting up Maria Hutchings against him, an ex-marketdroid)

  • Anthony Aloysius St 14th Mar '10 - 8:58am

    “The party with the strongest mandate from voters will have the moral authority to be the first to seek to govern, and voters are entitled to know what Liberal Democrats will do – in whatever situation we find ourselves in.”

    That makes it sound as though he’s going to tell us. Doesn’t it?

    But further on the article adds “Mike Sergeant said Lib Dem members would be encouraged to fight hard against their political opponents on two fronts. And Mr Clegg’s challenge was to keep all the options open for as long as possible, added our correspondent.”

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