Nick Clegg’s Political Prostitution

by Charlie_East_West on February 17, 2014

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Nick Clegg has hinted at a possbile Labour-Lib Dem coalition after the next election. He told a BBC documentary that Labour had “changed” and was realising it might have to share power with other parties. He also said the Conservatives needed to re-engage with “mainstream” voters.

Clegg also went on to add, “There is just no doubt in my mind that if there were a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition, we the Liberal Democrats would absolutely insist that government would not break the bank.”

So there we have it. We have a man who is in charge of a political party that is currently running at 10% in polls and continually losing their deposits in recent by-elections trying to call the shots.

Before he mouths off with patronising rhetoric that Labour has “changed” – perhaps he should look at what he has done with his own party. He has changed the Lib Dems. He has changed them from being a party with a consistent ideology to one that has torn up their 2010 manifesto pledges in pursuit of tit-bits of power, whilst propping up the Tories to run amok with the most brutal packages of austerity that this country has seen in 100 years.

He is probably correct that the Tories need to re-engage with mainstream voters. But, this statement is laced with tragic irony. How exactly are the Lib Dems themselves actually engaging with mainstream voters? Most Lib Dem voters feel a deep rooted sense of betrayal at what Nick Clegg and his parliamentary Lib Dems have done over the past 4 years. His party are culpable by association with some of the most deeply divisive and unfair policy implementations ever seen – such as the bedroom tax, fracking, nuclear power endorsement, cutting the top rate of tax on the super rich, cuts to housing benefits, tuition fees, cuts to disability allowances and public sector cuts. On yes, I almost forgot…this is a man who was ready to send the bombs into Syria rather than first explore the routes of diplomacy.

Also, through his badly managed negotiations in the coalition agreement, he has effectively seen voting reform disappear for a generation. His slavish support of the Tories has also seen that long held Lib Dem ideology of closer integration within the EU come under severe threat through David Cameron’s proposed in/out EU referendum in 2017.

Nick Clegg comes across as a political prostitute. Does he want to drop his knickers and play with anyone who flashes a ministerial car at him? It is all about power without the mandate to do so. It is all so shallow and desperate.

It appears that Labour are taking all of this nonsense from Clegg with a pinch of salt. Ed Miliband recently told the New Statesman: “Given what he [Clegg] is supporting, I think it is pretty hard to go into coalition with him.”

Ed Balls has also suggested that there was little or no prospect of Labour working with Nick Clegg: “Nick Clegg made his decisions and I think the way he’s gone about his politics makes things very difficult to form a coalition with him.

If any deal is done between Labour and the Lib Dems – I suspect the first red line of the heads of agreement will read:- “Discussions about a coalition agreement between Labour and the Lib Dems will only take place if the Liberal Democrats elect another leader.”

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Eddie Kaye February 17, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Electoral niceties aside Charlie, it is more of an indictment of Conservative and Labour that the Lib Dems could still hold the balance of power after next April. Scary I know, but I fear the Labour bigwigs might do odd things when it is their chance of bagging a ministerial car on the line. A little part of me is not too bothered, if it sees the end of this shower it can’t be all bad. On the other hand, the thought of Clegg’s tenure as deputy PM possibly lasting a decade through his knack for selling his allegience to the highest bidder makes a mockery of the whole thing.

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Charlie_East_West February 17, 2014 at 5:11 pm

And that is the massive fault line in coalition politics – a party that commands less than a quarter of the electoral support base gets to call the shots in terms of balance of power. It is democracy in malpractice.

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Eddie Kaye February 17, 2014 at 7:01 pm

First rule of coalition Charlie. Every bugger gets what no bugger wants.

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Charlie_East_West February 17, 2014 at 7:24 pm

That was true, Eddie. The Tories have pretty much got everything that they want in this coalition.

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Chris February 17, 2014 at 8:19 pm

Had the Parliamentary mathematics been slightly different in 2010 and the Labour Party won enough seats to make a coalition with the Liberals practicable (but still a number short of the Tories), it is still improbable that there could have been a Lib-Lab coalition government. That would have been portrayed as the Liberals keeping a “defeated” government in power. A change of Labour leader would not have helped . Both the Liberals and Labour would have been punished at the polls. Think how much the Tory coalition has damaged the Liberal Democrats and think how much the Tories have behaved as if they actually won a majority in 2010. The Tory leadership would have hammered the betrayal of their entitlement to government on a daily basis.

A similar calculation led in part to the refusal by Jeremy Thorpe to enter a coalition with the “defeated” Heath-led Conservative Party, after it lost the “Who Rules?” general election in February 1974.

Clegg’s “offer” to Labour assumes makes a number of assumptions:

First, it assumes (obviously) that Labour is the biggest party but does not have a majority.

Second, it assumes that the Conservative Party does not also improve its position. It could be that the only reason that the Coalition cannot continue is because the Liberal Democrats have been badly defeated. This might occur, if the Liberal vote goes Labour in the North and in Scotland and Wales, but moves to the Tories in the South

Third, it assumes that the only way that Labour can get to a majority is with the Liberal Democrats. If Labour is close and the Tories do fall back, the benefit of a coalition with a badly “defeated” Liberal Democrat Party might look less appetising to Ed Miliband than a minority Labour Government that the minority parties dare not throw out.

I am not as familiar with the terms of “fixed-term” parliaments as I should be, but my guess is that, if there is no majority in 2015, much of the calculation will be around positioning for a follow-up election in 6-9 months. Historians might in the future feel that a minority Cameron Government might have won a majority in October 2010. Would Cameron have formed a coalition with the Liberal Democrats had they been in coalition with Brown prior to the 2010 election. Of course not. he’d have taken the minority route.

Similarly a Miliband minority is more likely to get a majority in an October 2015 election if it avoids a “defeated” Liberal Party. That dynamic is greater if Labour can manufacture a majority from minor parties, even if that is not a stable relationship,as the Liberals could not necessarily afford to vote Labour down.

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