Labour’s Options Narrow As Nick Clegg Sides With The Tories

by George_East on April 24, 2015

lib dem logocameron-and-cleggTwo developments today have strengthened Tory hands. The first and least surprising was Nigel Farage confirming that UKIP were ‘no longer neutral’ over who is to be Prime Minister and calling for a Tory-UKIP pact to ensure that David Cameron is.   Although hardly a shock there had been, at one point at least, a sense that UKIP were trying to position themselves economically to the left of the Tories (against the bedroom tax and staunchly pro-NHS) and that Farage’s personal animosity towards David Cameron would mean that they might not fall into line behind them.   Farage explained today’s decision on the grounds that he had thought that Ed Miliband would offer an EU referendum and that this was a red line issue.

A little less surprising (not least because it hugely diminishes their negotiating hands) is Nick Clegg’s interview in tomorrow’s Financial Times. In that interview he rules out being part of a government, which is reliant upon SNP support. Given that the parliamentary arithmetic is such that Labour cannot realistically form a government without SNP support, this is in effect an indication that the Lib Dems are now firmly in the Tory camp.   It is notable that the extent of Clegg’s language is not limited to situations in which there is a formal coalition or confidence and supply arrangement with the SNP, but rather extends simply to a position in which Labour are reliant on SNP votes.

In some ways this is a welcome development as it confirms where the battle lines are. The Lib Dems now identify as part of the centre right.   The indications that this was likely to be the position have been pretty overwhelming for some time. David Laws’ confirmation that the EU referendum (which remember David Cameron only ever agreed to as a sop to UKIP and his own headbangers) was a red line was a piece of political footsie. As was the Tory omission from their manifesto of the previously floated idea of pulling out of the ECHR, thus ensuring that the Strasbourg Court will still have jurisdiction over acts by public bodies in the UK (although the Tories still intend that the Human Rights Act be repealed – something no doubt that Nick Clegg will also be able to chalk up as proud achievement for his party if David Cameron remains Prime Minister).

It has also been clear from the language being used by the Lib Dems about Labour, as compared to that being used about the Tories.   The Tories are described as heartless and needing the Lib Dems compassion. Labour are portrayed as actively dangerous.

Things of course may change should Nick Clegg lose his Hallam seat, as Danny Alexander will assuredly lose his Inverness seat.   A party which is looking to Tim Farron as the probable next leader may revise its view. But this time no one will be able to pretend to be surprised if they vote Lib Dem when they get into bed with the Tories as they have now indicated that they will not be part of or support a Labour-led government.

After today only the DUP are left as a party who genuinely haven’t committed to either a Labour-led or Conservative led group. Their 9 MPs are the only ones up for grabs by both sides. Jackie South and I disagree about the DUP’s inclinations I consider them to be likely to go with the Tories if they have the choice, whereas Jackie South sees it as more nuanced. We shall see.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

John Stone April 26, 2015 at 7:21 am

I listened to Clegg on the news yesterday morning with incredulity. Why on earth was he reinforcing Conservative talking points when he didn’t need to say anything at all. I didn’t want to see him lose his seat but I am beginning to think otherwise.

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