07 May 2010

Is Clegg a closet Conservative?

What happens now Dr Grumble? That was the question from Grumble's worried-looking juniors on this morning's ward round. Dr Grumble explained that it was quite simple. Our unwritten constitution was quite clear on the matter. The Prime Minister remains prime minister. He will try to form a government. That is how is should be. That is how it has always been.

But now, in his sandwich break, Dr Grumble finds out that his constitutional knowledge is out-of-date. Nick Clegg seems to think that David Cameron should form a government because his party has most seats. What madness is that? It is a first-past-the-post madness that the Liberal Democrats are supposed to eschew. What is wrong with the argument that most people did not vote Conservative? What is wrong with forming a government from the remnants of Labour in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. That surely would be a reasonably democratic thing to do. And it is most definitely more constitutional.

How many of those who voted Liberal Democrat expected Nick Clegg to make David Cameron king? There were clues. Perhaps that's why the LibDems did so poorly. Rightly so.


Onus Probandy said...

I don't think your argument holds water.

We just need to take it to an extreme: imagine there were 1000 parties, and one part received 49% of the vote and the remaining 999 parties received 51% of the vote spread evenly between them.

Which party should be in government?

Betty M said...

Certainly not in this house. Listening to Cameron now - its not making us any happier.

WendyCarole said...

Lib dems campaigned hard in my constituency. Mailshots virtually everyday for a week. It paid off because they won the seat by about 400 votes, didn't get my vote though because I knew they would side with the tories just like they have done previously in our council elections

Anonymous said...


In your analogy if the 999 parties formed a coalition, they would be the majority and would be repesentative of the 51% of the electorate who voted for them. A more democratic solution than the 49% being in power in my opinion.

Dr Aust said...

If Clegg does a deal with the Tories WITHOUT a binding promise of a referendum on PR in some form then it will be abundantly clear that he is a closet Tory.

Cameron will be desperate not to concede anything meaningful on PR - offering a Royal Commission is a standard attempt to kick it into the long grass. This is because the Tories are well aware there is no majority for hard right economic and social policy in the UK - remember, 36% of the vote is barely more than a third.

Cameron's strategy is clear - tell Clegg:

"The country rejected Brown, and we must construct a stable government that is tough on spending so that we can produce economic stability".

But the LibDems are actually closer to Labour on the speed of the cuts than to the Tories.... and the majority of LibDem MPs, and I suspect voters, would rather do a deal with Labour for a firm promise of a referendum on PR.

So... one way or another, we shall see clearly what Nick Clegg is really all about.

vigilant mouse said...

That's more than a little unfair. Nick Clegg said from the start that if there were to be a hung parliament - given the utterly undemocratic electoral system we currently endure - the party with the largest vote would have a right to try to form a government.

As Prime Minister (still), Gordon Brown is entirely able to try to form a government. He will find it extremely difficult because of the electoral arithmetic - even if he had full Lib Dem support it is unlikely that enough of the 'others' would line up with him to produce a working majority. So - with whatever blandishments to the LibDems - he will fail and must accept that he has lost. He may decide not to try because he already realises this. So - over to Dave - who may also fail, unless he makes some major shifts in position.

Dr Aust said...

I don't entirely agree that Labour + the LibDems would "find it hard to generate a working majority", vigilant.

The combined Lab + LD total would be 315, 316 with the NI Alliance member.

Tories + DUP is 314.

I agree 316 is not 330, but I find it very difficult to see any other party in the House that is a natural ally of the Tories rather than Labour. And Sinn Fein won't be turning up. But SDLP? Plaid? The Scots Nats? Are any of those more likely to side with the Tories than with Labour and the Lib Dems? They would no doubt try extorting concessions out of any Lab/LibDem coalition, but they are not natural friends to Cameron. The Tories have no natural friends apart from the DUP.

And many of the minor parties in the Commons might well support PR in some form. So their support might be bought by the promise of a referendum.

I would agree with you that the only way to produce a "solid" and automatic majority is Tory + LibDems, which if you include the DUP gets you over 370. But without a referendum promise on PR, I doubt Clegg can carry the LibDems with him into a deal with the Tories. Many of the LibDem MPs are natural "centre left progressives", and cosying up with the Tories without the reward which would make it worthwhile (the referendum on PR) would stick in their craw.

The Shrink said...

I am hugely uneasy about what a Conservative/Lib Deb government could do, partly through fearful speculation but mostly through reading their manifestos.

Although as commentators have said, if they did form a government then make the harsh cuts necessary, they'll make themselves unelectable for a generation.


Dr Aust said...

An interesting point made by one or two commentators is that in some European countries with PR systems, an outcome like this, especially at a time of financial crisis, would likely produce a "Grand Coalition" of all the main parties with an agreed financial programme. See e.g. the German federal elections of 2005.

The difference being, of course, that German politicians are used to compromise.

Dr Grumble said...

Quite so, Dr Aust. We need a spirit of compromise. In this country we have the idea that it is necessary for the winning party to have a mandate to push through what it wants without, these days anyway, any real discussion. If there is no consensus on proposed ways forward perhaps they are not ways forward. Sometimes I think there is too much government.

Have you seen this?
Wird sie die hei├česte First Lady der Welt?

Dr Aust said...

Crikey. Where did they dig that old picture up from?

Though SamCam is undoubtedly quite glam, I suspect Mr Sarkozy's other half is likely to retain the global top spot.

Of course, the trend for photogenic spouses who do lots of "sofa work" on TV is another symbol of just how celeb-Presidential British politics is becoming. Again, not something I think is a positive change. My favourite British political spouse remains Denis Thatcher, though not so much for the real man as for Private Eye's brilliant "Dear Bill" parody.