Monday, October 15, 2012


Pray Clegg Has Backbone over 'Proposed Cash for Seats' Deal

It's hard to know how much the Lib Dems have moderated the desire of the Tory right to shrink the state and generally slash and burn in accordance with their basic ideas, if not nature. It often seems he has just been Dave's fall-guy, happy to soak up the flak for Cameron's more unpopular policies. You kind of get the feeling sometimes that, like Blair, Nick is much more a Tory than a real Liberal. But at least he had his mission to democratise the ramshackle British constitution- that, at least was on all fours with the likes of Gladstone, Lloyd George and the rest .

So how did that one go? Well, David kind of made a deal to let him have the referendum on reforming the voting system- not PR of course, but an enfeebled, miserable half measure: the Alternative Vote. Dave indicated he would not campaign up front against a measure he naturally opposed. But his right-wing got te wind up at what they feared would be a thin end of the wedge which would allow in PR and lock out Conservatives for the foreseeable future.

Dave then came out with all guns blazing against AV and poor old Nick was left with nothing but a humiliating 2-1 drubbing. Nick then picked himself up and focused his attentions on reforming the Lords- now that would be a legacy to stand alongside those of LG and the crowd. Just think, Nick Clegg brought democracy to Britain's ancient, cobwebbed upper chamber; that's more than a mere footnote in the history books. Well it would have been if things had gone as planned. Dave promised to carry his party with him but his recalcitrant right wingers, so emboldened by their gains in 2010, and angry at Dave for not winning that election as they felt they deserved, effectively destroyed Clegg's shining new vision of a reformed Lords. I wondered if Nick would shrug, smile his 'I'm going to be sick' smile and find reasons why he had to go along with his senior partner. But he showed bottle and told the Tories that in response he would deny them their plans to reduce seats in the Commons and  redraw boundaries likely to deliver them 20 crucial seats in 2015.

The right wing hated this and the wailing was loud and intense. But then some clever clog right-wingers came up with a cunning plan, as explained in the FT: why not offer the hapless Cleggster some state funding for his bankrupt party? And in exchange Nick would sign up to the boundary changes as originally planned. These are times when we need Clegg to stand up for what he is alleged to believe. So far the omens are good, according to the article:

" Mr Clegg’s aides said the deputy prime minister would not change his mind and back the boundary review, not least because his veto proved extremely popular in the party and among his own MPs.
“This is completely for the birds and shows an element of desperation if they think they can buy us off,” one aide said. “The Tories are just realising what a mistake they made in blocking Lords reform.”
Sir Menzies Campbell, a former Lib Dem leader, said: “Nick Clegg has made the Liberal Democrat position quite clear. I can’t conceive of any circumstances in which he would change his mind.”

I do so hope Ming is right in his forecast.

Not seen the FT piece, no link?

The Lib Dem aide saying 'The Tories are just realising what a mistake they made in blocking Lords reform' sounds terribly naive. I can't see why the Tories would regret that for a moment!
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