18 Sep 2013

Nick Clegg: coalition forever


Nick Clegg‘s fundamental message was that coalition could and should be here for good. He described it as “now accepted as the norm.”

No other options are viable for the Lib Dems – the old talk about the confidence and supply approach doesn’t get a look in any more.

The Lib Dems know that would allow a propped up minority red or blue government to do an awful lot without having to go through parliament and they would be signed up or complicit but without influence.

There is no plan to sit out a parliament on the backbenches watching a minority government, though that could happen.

Mr Clegg’s convinced that the days when the other two parties could win majorities are over.

And he’s convinced that out there, hidden from current opinion polls, lurks a silent army of potential Lib Dem sympathisers – people who over the years have told canvassers they won’t vote Lib Dem because they never get into power and now have no such excuse … people who share his contempt for the old two party system … people who will allow his party to survive in good enough health to exploit a hung parliament.

He can’t, of course, really know whether these people were just being polite to the nice bearded man on their doorstep.

He won’t find this graphic from the Institute for Government too encouraging;


He criticises himself for not saying more earlier about the things Lib Dems had stopped the Tories doing in government – something many, including Vince Cable, had long criticised.

He makes up for it with a list of 15 policies to which he has said “no.”

But his real bile was reserved not for the Tories, like Mr Cable’s speech on Monday, but for the “tired,” “insular, petty, polarised,” abhorrent, “aggressive, us and them” politics of the “clapped out” two-party system.

Mr Clegg talked this afternoon about relishing the “unstuffy” and “anti-establishment” air of his party. He acknowledged the abuse and vitriol heaped on him and the party.

He talked about how he was brought up in a privileged family but taught not to take things for granted – does he know anyone from a privileged family who appears to take things for granted?

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5 reader comments

  1. Ray Turner says:

    Look back over the last 50 years. If it is not the vested interests of the Tories trying to change things to suit their own purposes and making matters worse for everybody else, its Labour and their vested interests doing the same thing but from the opposite point of the political spectrum. No wonder the UK is in a mess.

    Coalitions are good, I’m all for them, but our electoral system isn’t best suited to delivering a coalition. Until that system is changed in favour of full PR, there’s no hope for the UK: we’ll continue to bounce from one vested interest to the other…

  2. BlackPhi says:

    Given the track record of Nick Clegg and most other Lib Dem MPs, it’s hard to see why anyone would believe a single word he says. If they can’t keep a simple unambiguous pledge, then a conference speech is just so much wasted air.

  3. WilliamH says:

    Within days of becoming Deputy PM, Clegg appeared to cast himself in the role of a modern day Lord Grey, promising the “biggest shake up of our democracy since 1832”. Too early to say perhaps, but after the failure of AV and Lords reform, Clegg’s place in history looks far from certain.

    Nice tidy masthead on this blog now… thanks C4!

  4. Mel Guy says:

    In answer to Ray Turner – that is just what Nick was saying – the extremes alternatively work against each other doing and undoing; stepping backwards and stepping forwards, thus remaining in a similar position.

    For PR – we need LD in power to effect the change!

    In answer to BlackPhi – remember that they are not the only ones in parliament – nature of ‘coalition’ means a vote may not swing in their direction – this is the democracy of it.

  5. Andrew Dundas says:

    Proportional Representation has been tried out in Scotland. The Lib-Dem policy has failed miserably.

    Just under half the registered electors voted in the last Holyrood election; less than a quarter voted for the so-called “Scottish Government”.
    In Local Council elections some electors end up with four councillors and others with just three: PR supporters thought that inequality was more equal. It’s a puzzle.
    Altogether our elected representatives have given us four different types of electoral system and fewer and fewer people vote nowadays. It’s a mess.

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