Willie Rennie accuses Conservatives of trying to pull the UK apart

For the third time in ten days, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has hit out at the Conservatives, accusing them of putting party before country and risking the future of the United Kingdom they say they want to keep together.

Their actions are very different, though. Last week, Michael Fallon talked up the entirely ridiculous suggestion of a deal between Labour and the SNP on Trident with the aim of persuading swing voters in middle England to vote Conservative. They also sent their Scottish leader campaigning in North East Fife, a seat they know that they can’t win. Willie Rennie said at the time:

Just the other day the Scottish Conservative Leader was visiting North East Fife claiming they can win.  It’s a seat the bookies say is a close race between the Liberal Democrats and the SNP.  The Tories are also rans.  The only result of their reckless actions would be to divide the non-SNP vote and let the SNP win.

Yesterday, Willie described the Conservative plans for English votes for English Laws as “unstable and reckless.”

We agree that there does need to be a stronger voice for England in parliament.

But we will not entertain a Conservative attempt to gerrymander those votes in order to give the Conservatives a majority say on these important matters when they don’t command a majority of peoples’ votes in England.

Like all other forms of devolution in the United Kingdom any change must be based on fairer proportional voting, not Tory plans to create a majority by the back door. The Conservatives unstable and reckless reforms threaten to undermine the future of the UK.

And, finally, today, he condemned a Conservative poster being shown in England, saying that the Tories have joined the SNP in trying to pull the country apart.

I am no supporter of Alex Salmond or the SNP and am deeply concerned about their reckless borrowing and full fiscal autonomy plans which could derail the economy and dump debt on future generations.

Yet this Conservative poster hits a new low.  It does not take a brain surgeon to understand that they are generating and stirring English nationalism to resent the Scots to boost Tory votes.

Stirring up English nationalism within months of defeating Scottish nationalism is not something I thought I would see from a so called Unionist party.

I doubt we will see this poster in Scotland where the SNP are standing for election.  It’s because this poster is for an English audience, not a Scottish one.  They know full well that you will not defeat Scottish nationalism on the streets of London.

They are stirring up English nationalism for party gain.  The Conservatives are putting party before country.

The Conservatives have effectively joined the SNP in trying to pull our country apart – all for a few votes in the general election.  Many conservative voters who backed the Union last September will feel let down by the Conservative Party.  A vote for the Liberal Democrats in this election is a vote for unity not division. It’s a vote for the UK.

Who needs the SNP to break up the UK when you have the Tories? Perhaps Nick Clegg might want to give some thought to what Willie is saying before he talks about future coalitions again.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Rennie is absolutely correct.

    But why does Nick Clegg disagree with him and appears to be joining the Tories in claiming any government that the SNP might support would be illegitimate?


    Who is speaking for the Lib Dems, Nick Clegg, or Willie Rennie?

    What is the party’s official position?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 25th Apr '15 - 1:10pm

    I don’t see any contradiction between what Nick and Willie are saying. All Nick is saying is that you need to talk to the biggest party first. And he is right to say that there would be a fuss if the second placed party formed a government. You think the Daily Mail wouldn’t mention it at all? All he’s ruling out is any formal arrangement, however loose, with the SNP. Do I like that? Not particularly, but I can understand the logic. I would, however, be happier if he were talking about what we offered rather than who we would do a deal with.

    The other thing that everyone needs to remember is that a coalition is not in Nick’s gift. There is a pretty complex party process to go through before the party signs up to any deal.

  • I became convinced during the referendum campaign, and certainly in its aftermath that the Tories would be happier with a split. After all they would be in prime place to then rule over England….

    As for ruling out working with the SNP, I think it is short sighted. If they are democratically elected they get to play a part in the next Parliament. If there are issues where agreement can be reached then they should be worked with. Whatever other parties are likely to be in the mix they are all going to be too authoritarian for most who post on here whether left or right wing. What if it is the only way to stop a catastrophic exit from the EU and the ensuing break up of the UK???

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 25th Apr '15 - 1:42pm

    Caractacus, all this talk about deals with the SNP is completely irrelevant because they don’t want to do a deal with anyone anyway.

    As for Bristol West, I’m writing that up now – it’s worrying but there are flaws in Ashcroft’s methodology anyway, but there are some specific things about this poll that need highlighting. For a start, I think our polling day operation will be better than the Greens, and our voters are more likely to vote by some margin.

  • “And he is right to say that there would be a fuss if the second placed party formed a government. You think the Daily Mail wouldn’t mention it at all?”

    I think that rather depends on who that second placed party was.

    But the point is, Nick is not the Daily Mail – Nick is the leader of a party which supposedly believes in things like PR and plurality, so Nick should not be saying such ridiculous things. He should be challenging such ideas. If all that matters is who comes first, perhaps someone should simply invent a more powerful form of FPTP that gives the largest party all the seats?

    @Steve Way
    “I became convinced during the referendum campaign, and certainly in its aftermath that the Tories would be happier with a split.”

    I think you’re right. The Tories’ main instinct has always been for self-preservation, and now that they are virtually extinct outside England I’m sure they’d prefer majority rule in England to minority rule in the UK.

  • “all this talk about deals with the SNP is completely irrelevant because they don’t want to do a deal with anyone anyway.”

    That’s not right. They’ve been talking openly about a confidence and supply arrangement for months now. At the moment, such a deal looks impossible only because Sturgeon and Miliband have incompatible views on Trident.

  • @caron

    The SNP have for all intents and purposes ruled out a coalition but not I believe a C&S or looser arrangement. Clegg seems to have ruled out working in a grouping with the SNP under any circumstances. That is insulting to anybody who votes for the SNP and signals that as we have all thought that the LDs want to keep the Tories in power. Vote LD in Scotland, get Tory.

  • @Stuart

    That’s right ‘re the SNP. The message from Blair for Scotland appears to be that votes for SNP are invalid and vote LD, get Tory. Hard not to conclude that, like the Tories, NC and his team have given up on Scotland.

  • Some Tories undoubtedly wanted a split in the union. Cameron on the other hand looks weak, opportunistic and dishonest. , One minute virtually in tears because the union might break up and dictate his place in the history books as the PM who ended Great Britain. Then dependant labour to save it. The next monstering the Scots and Labour as dangerous to the economy whilst standing on a podium to wave the flag of St George at the electorate, whilst promising uncosted electoral bribes and a referendum aimed more at shutting his back benches up than anything else. To scared to debate with someone he dismissed as a joke, irrelevant on the world stage, weak at home and now peddling UKIP lite.

  • John Minard 25th Apr '15 - 3:59pm

    The Tories are divisive as far as the unity of the Kingdom is concerned (their unionism is based upon subjugation) – that’s why we should exclude them along with UKIP and the SNP for any future coalition which might include the Lib Dem’s. Go on Nick, say that!

  • I do not think that Nick Clegg speaks for the Liberal Democrats.

    It’s true, that is precisely what he is supposed to do; but at this moment I suspect that any thought of the wider implications of his remarks has escaped him, as he is entirely preoccupied with not losing Sheffield Hallam. His remarks are presumably entirely focussed on squeezing Tory voters.

  • Simon Horner 25th Apr '15 - 5:47pm

    Willie is quite right. The Tories are working very hard here in North East Fife to deliver an SNP victory. They were out in force in the centre of Cupar today handing out their version of a “squeeze” leaflet. They say the Lib Dems are out of the race and are trying to back this up with an inaccurate graphic showing a year-on-year decline in the overall Scottish Lib Dem vote. No mention of the fact that we easily beat them at the last Scottish election in North East Fife (even if we lost out to the SNP). No mention of the fact that we topped the poll in the last local elections. And of course, no mention of the recent Ashcroft poll that has us on 30% and them on 16%.

  • David Allen 25th Apr '15 - 5:56pm

    Nick Clegg and Willie Rennie are singing from the same hymnsheet in much the same way that thirty years ago, David Steel and David Owen sang from the same hymnsheet. Eventually the nation decided to look for something more harmonious!

  • David Allen 25th Apr '15 - 6:04pm

    Clegg says Labour mustn’t be allowed to govern unless they actually top the poll.

    Clegg says the SNP must be ignored even if they decide to provide support for Labour.

    Clegg, knowing which side of the Tory / Labour debate the SNP favour, has promised to be on the opposite side from the SNP.

    Clegg has demonstrated for five years that he is happy to work with Tories, but has never seriously tried to indicate how he could work with Labour.

    Clegg has never made the sort of full-throated attack on even the craziest of Tory policies that we have heard today from Wille Rennie.

    Clegg claims that he is not joined at the hip to the Tories. That’s about as credible a claim as “Vote Loony – You Know it Makes Sense!”

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Apr '15 - 2:32am

    A light bulb has gone off in my head. Scottish Lib Dems need to become “Scotland United” or “Scottish Alliance” and basically promise to put Scotland first, whatever the outcome. I don’t think aiming for federalism is enough. Leaving the UK always has to be an option.

    Even if worse came to worse, we could definitely work with a United Scotland party. The SNP have been too antagonistic towards the rest of the UK and sometimes within Scotland too.

  • Unequal, discriminatory devolutuion already destabalised the UK, Labour did that. There are four Countries that make up the UK, there needs to be four Parliaments in a Federal UK to balance the union, all this anti English talk from Labour the libdems and SNP are fuelling the divide. Polls show a the majority want an English only parliament a higher percentage than there were Scots or Welsh who wanted theirs, this is the rightful democratic way to do things, equality!
    The genie is out the bottle it can’t go back.

  • I am no sort of expert,just watching over the last few years, but I cannot remember even one occasion, where Mr Clegg said anything positive about Labour.No doubt this is reciprocated,but it is a shame that Clegg could not be a bit more evenhanded as the strong impression is that he prefers dealing with the Tories.This will put off many potential voters.I was initially in favour of first past the post,thinking it was stronger Government and that we could kick the rascals out.However, far better and fairer some sort of pr, to avoid one party states and we might as well preplan it, if we are into several parties sharing in Government,not some backroom deals.

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