Why I think Clegg will choose Cameron…..

James Graham has a piece on his Quaequam Blog saying that he thinks my analysis of the likelihood of a Liberal Democrat/Conservative coalition is ‘simplistic’. Lets look at the exhibits in order;

Exhibit A in this case is Clegg’s repeated statement that, in the case of a hung parliament, he would acknowledge that whichever party had the biggest mandate would have “the first right to seek to govern.

Of course, as James rightly acknowledges this cannot be taken as too concrete either way on one level because it could mean either party and Clegg himself is being deliberately vague in what the ‘biggest mandate’ actually is. However, James points to Clegg’s Demos pamphlet and says that this outlines how ‘Labour are rivals and the Conservatives foes’ and this is seen as an indication he recognises a closeness to Labour. However, it is that perception that makes Clegg more likely to choose the Conservatives.

James’s logic is tortured here as demonstrated by asking yourself this question; if you see the Liberal Democrats as replacing Labour as ‘the’ progressive party’ then where is the sense in supporting them in coalition?How is somebody more likely to form an alliance with ‘rivals’ over ‘foes’? Rivals are contesting the same piece of turf while foes are contesting from their own; therefore, from the Clegg perspective it makes more sense to make common cause with the foe as opposed to the rival.

In Leeds this is exactly what happened; the Liberal Democrats joined forces to remove Labour from power because they thought Labour had been in power too long. It is not hard to see how this rationale would play out nationally. It  doesn’t matter if Clegg’s dislike of Cameron is ‘visceral and personal’ indeed it suggests that hatred is bourne of similarity. Besides, my impression of Clegg is that he would easily lay aside such prejudices in any case were power at stake. Were Clegg to seek a partnership with Cameron I do however concede that it would pull the Liberal Democrats to pieces; thus I am not surprised that the New Statesman is already reporting ‘tensions’.

It does not weaken the liberal wing of Labour to state common ground now; and also while it is true that it would lend weight to the Conservative claims that a Liberal Democrat vote is a vote for Labour is it not true that Clegg’s pontificating lends weight to the counter-claim? Gordon Brown would come under increased pressure to concede more ground to the liberal wing were the Lib Dems to enter the fray because the weight of numbers and strength gained would become irresistable.

 James exemplifies the contradictory logic of the Lib Dems position by on the one hand dismissing the common ground with Labour but on the other dismissing it because ‘Labour won’t budge enough’; a device to dismiss the obvious that when it comes to the good of cause over tribe Clegg’s position is wrong and damaging. While it is true that there is some tactical sense to the position pre-election its maintence in the long-run may well make the post-election situation more difficult than it should have been.


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21 responses to “Why I think Clegg will choose Cameron…..”

  1. James Graham says :

    There is a logic deficit in this post. You claim you want to hear the Lib Dems talk about common ground with Labour, yet when Clegg did so in his Demos pamphlet you dismiss it as some sinister conspiracy to form a pact with the Tories.

    Elections aren’t about “finding common ground” – they’re about offering the electorate choice. The common ground always comes afterwards. When a party has been in power for 13 years that is doubly the case; even more so when said party has spent those 13 years moving away from that common ground.

    And as for the argument that the Lib Dems are plotting to go into government with the Tories because they did so in Leeds, well, that is to suggest that Labour nationally are as bad and as power corrupted as Labour were in Leeds. That’s a remarkably frank admission, but I would give Brown more credit than that.


    • mommsen says :

      @ James Graham

      You wrote that “elections aren’t about “finding common ground” – they’re about offering the electorate choice.”

      But is this always true? Are elections always about offering a choice? Or wouldn’t it make more sense to say that they always OUGHT to offer the electorate a choice?

      Unfortunately, political parties aren’t supermarkets. Of course, when I buy a bar of chocolate in a supermarket, but am finding out at home that there isn’t really chocolate in the packing, then I can bring the chocolate back to the supermarket, and the supermarket will give me my money back.

      If only the same was true with regard to the Lib Dems.

      Let’s remember the last general elections in the UK. Then the Lib Dems were led by Charles Kennedy. They also promised a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

      However, after the elections the Lib Dems replaced Charles Kennedy as their party’s leader by Nick Clegg. Obviously, this new party leader did not believe in keeping promises. Instead of making Lib Dem MPs keep them, he put a lot of pressure on them to break them. Hence his party’s MPs voted against a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty – the very referendum which the Lib Dems had promised the voters before the elections.

      To be honest, this is not what politicians usually do. It was a very unusual step by the Lib Dems. Usually, political parties only break elections promises once they’ve become the governing party. Not so the British Lib Dems. Since Nick Clegg has become their leader, they’ve proved that there is at least one political party in the UK which is even willing to break its election promises while still sitting on the opposition benches in the House of Commons. A most remarkable party indeed.

      But why should anybody believe that this party tries to offer the electorate a choice?


      • Richard Gadsden says :

        Let’s remember the last general elections in the UK. Then the Lib Dems were led by Charles Kennedy. They also promised a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

        No they didn’t. The Lisbon treaty wasn’t signed until 2007, so making that promise in 2005 would have been rather remarkable. The promise was that the Constitutional Treaty would not be passed without a referendum. The Constitutional Treaty was withdrawn before reaching that stage (because of referendum results in other countries, notably France), so it never got to the stage of a referendum.

        The Lisbon Treaty was not the same thing as the Constitutional Treaty. Some people think it was similar, others that it was very different, but it wasn’t the same thing, so a promise in respect of one thing did not apply in respect of the other.

        I think we should have demanded a referendum on Lisbon too – indeed, I think that any constitutional change should require a referendum, as a matter of principle – but the promise was not broken.


      • James Graham says :

        You’re technically correct Richard, but without wanting to revisit the debate from a couple of years ago, it is not a distinction that I think it especially meaningful.


      • Richard Gadsden says :

        I didn’t think that the reasons why they were different were particularly compelling, and I would certainly say that I would have favoured a referendum on Lisbon too – but I don’t regard it as a breach of trust.


  2. darrellgoodliffe says :


    That point is easy to answer as I have done in my above post. Clegg did not talk about finding common ground in a future or present tense; he talked about it in a past tense in terms of a shared ancestary.

    mommsen has answered your point about elections and I dont want to add anything. As for your last remark…nothing of the sort is implied; I was rather pointing to the mentality of thinking the primary goal is removing Labour from power as another motivator for Clegg to make the choice that I think he will.


  3. James Graham says :

    It appears to have escaped both of your attentions that the Labour government reneged on its promise of a referendum on the constitutional treaty. I certainly agree that Clegg’s line on Lisbon has been fatuous and wrong, and have said so, but the idea that his shilly-shallying looks bad in comparison with Labour is ludicrious.

    Or perhaps this is the sort of common ground you want the parties to be exploring?


    • mommsen says :

      I can only speak for myself. I know for sure that I won’t vote for any political party at Britain’s general elections. Therefore none of the Lib Dems shall worry that I might vote for another party. Even Nick Clegg doesn’t have to be worried about me. I would only reject him if he tried to sell me a used car. However, so far he has never tried to sell me a real thing.


  4. darrellgoodliffe says :


    But then again Clegg has also renaiged on the Lib Dem committment to free childcare as well. We could trade broken promises like this all day. Incidentally, when it comes to Europe there is an issue where again the Lib Dems and Labour have more common ground (even, as you rightly say, in a negative sense with regard to Lisbon).


  5. James Graham says :

    Clegg has also renaiged on the Lib Dem committment to free childcare as well

    No he hasn’t, and you know this. What has happened is that this policy – which remains policy – hasn’t been included in the manifesto as an immediate priority.

    The economy’s screwed, or hadn’t you noticed?


  6. Joe Otten says :

    Darrell, I bet you £50 Clegg won’t go into coalition with Cameron. (If the parliamentary arithmetic doesn’t allow it, the bet is off.) What do you say?


  7. mommsen says :

    @ Richard Gadsden

    As I already wrote, I would not buy a used car from Nick Clegg.

    Used cars aside, please let me add that just in case you wanted to sell me something, I wouldn’t even buy a bar of chocolate from you.

    Even Valéry Giscard d’Estaing says that the Lisbon Treaty and the Constitutional Treaty are basically the same treaty.

    The differences between the two treaties are only cosmetic.

    Nevertheless, you try to tell us that the Lisbon Treaty was something else.

    As if the truth didn’t matter at all.
    As if each lie was justified when it helps to win votes.

    That’s not a way to do politics.
    So I really hope that the Lib Dems will lose many votes this year.

    This party doesn’t deserve to be trusted as long as Nick Clegg is its leader.


    • Richard Gadsden says :

      The differences between the two treaties are only cosmetic.

      Nevertheless, you try to tell us that the Lisbon Treaty was something else.

      The Constitutional Treaty was a new constitution for the EU – a “delete all and replace with” amendment. 90% of the Constitutional Treaty replaced the Treaties of Rome, Luxembourg, Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice, etc. with new language that did that same thing. While they were consolidating the treaties, they did a little bit of tidying up at the edges and fixed a few problems with the operation of those treaties in practise. The vote on the Constitutional Treaty was a vote on a principle – “should the EU be operated by a constitution or by a series of international treaties?”, not on the specific wording of the changes.

      Lisbon was a new treaty that took that “tidying up at the edges” and packaged it on its own. Of course the effect was substantively the same – which I’m sure was what Giscard d’Estaing was talking about in context – but there was no longer a question of principle at stake, just the practical changes in the treaty.

      As I’ve already said, I think that all such treaties should be voted on in referendums, but to pretend that just because the practical effects of the two treaties was the same means that the issues of principle are irrelevant is just disingenuous.


      • mommsen says :


        Let me quote the BBC. According to the BBC, this is what Giscard said:

        “Mr Giscard d’Estaing says the “proposed institutional reforms” of the rejected constitution can still be found in the new treaty. The authors of the new treaty, he says, have taken the original draft constitution and “blown it apart into separate elements”. They have then “re-attached them, one by one, to existing treaties”. Changes to the original constitution – such as jettisoning references to a European flag and anthem – were made to “head off any threat of referenda”, Mr Giscard d’Estaing says.”

        You can read the complete article here:


        Unfortunately, I also can’t agree with you when you are saying that they were only consolidating the existing treaties and that “they did a little bit of tidying up at the edges and fixed a few problems with the operation of those treaties in practise” .

        But they did more than this. This is how the Lisbon Treaty has changed Europe:

        – The national veto is gone.

        – Troops can be send to war in foreign countries without parliamentary approval. This has nothing to do with democracy as we knew it.

        – Smaller countries like Ireland and the Netherlands have far less voting power now whereas the big countries like Germany, France and Britain have more power within the EU than ever before. Therefore the big countries will be able to dominate the rest of Europe. This has nothing to do with democracy as we knew it.


  8. darrellgoodliffe says :


    ‘It isnt an immediate priority’ means it will never happen. Its like the mythic ‘five tests’ criteria for the Euro entry. If Clegg can find money to increase the wages of troops why can he not find money for free childcare?


    Your on. 🙂


    • James Graham says :

      Most Lib Dem manifestos ‘never happen’ – you seem to think that making an unaffordable pledge will somehow make them more likely. Clegg went to Westminster School, not Hogwarts.

      Will you be paying Joe in one go or in installments incidently?


  9. darrellgoodliffe says :


    You seem to assume a pay rise for soldiers is? Of course it is affordable; the notion it isnt is entirely bogus based on the ridicolous ‘debt panic’ created by the Tories and the media. Incidentally, notice how this is the same Tory Party that is rolling out new spending committments like they have gone out of fashion. The fact that Clegg ditched this committment speaks volumns about his priorities and committment to ‘fairness’.

    I wont have to pay but in one go if necessary 🙂


  10. James Graham says :

    The fact that Clegg ditched this committment speaks volumns about his priorities and committment to ‘fairness’.

    Less so than our fair tax proposals. Nothing like as much as Labour’s deathly silence on either issue. And only a pipsqueak in comparison to Labour’s failure to reduce inequality in the UK (and by some measures increase it) after 13 years…


  11. darrellgoodliffe says :


    Tax proposals are still something I like about the Lib Dems though Cable even recently admitted they could go further. Have addresse that in my posting today.


  12. David Morton says :

    Interesting to see you jump ship though not surprised. Hope you are well


  13. darrellgoodliffe says :


    Thanks for the comment. I am thank you and yourself?


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