Saturday, 25 April 2015
Clegg drops two clangers?
If Nick Clegg has been correctly reported I suspect he made two serious mistakes yesterday.
The first: he has apparently stated that the Liberal Democrats would take no part in a "rainbow coalition" which included the Scottish Nationalists.
There are, to my mind, two problems with this. First, I think it is foolish to make statements as to what we shall or shan't do after the election. I know he, and other leading politicians, will be pestered by the commentators to rule things out and declare red lines, but these should be resisted.
Such a response would not be evasive: it all depends, as Simon Hughes put it in 2010, on "the cards the electorate deals." We should stick to campaigning on our policies and priorities: the things we shall press for if we are in a position to form part of or influence the next government. These are the messages we need to get across: there is no time for the distractions of idle speculation on what we might or might not do in situations that are, as yet, hypothetical.
Then, I think ruling out co-operation with the SNP reveals incredible dishonesty in all three major parties. Clegg, David Cameron and Ed Miliband, all rushed to Scotland towards the end of the independence referendum campaign last year to tell them how much we love them and how desperate we are to keep them in the Union. So it is now illogical in the extreme for any to say that Scottish representatives at Westminster of whatever party are persona non grata and not to be accorded the status of other MPs.
Added to that, there is, or ought to be, a good deal of overlap between Liberal Democrat and SNP policy: doubts about the renewal of Trident, commitment to effective devolution and, at least by we Liberals who respect our Keynesian tradition, the need for an end to austerity and an expansionary fiscal policy.
"Home Rule" for Scotland, or "Devo Max" as it is now called, has been Liberal/Liberal Democrat policy for decades, could be what will satisfy the short run aspirations of the SNP , and could even in the long run defuse the demand for complete independence..
So what is there to loose? Clegg should not play into the hands of the Tories on this issue.
The second: Clegg has let it be know that he accepts that a coalition formed with the second largest party in the Commons would lack legitimacy.
I think he is quite right to say that the largest party should have first crack at forming a coalition, but if that fails, or the second largest party makes more attractive offers to the minor part(ies), there is no reason either in law or in precedent why such a government should not be formed.
Whoever can command the confidence of the Commons forms the legitimate government, regardless of how that majority is constituted. Putting this in doubt is yet another red herring put out by the very effective and well resourced Tory PR machine. It has been taken up with enthusiasm by the Red Tops in their sway, who, I suspect, would find nothing at all to criticise if the Tories are second largest party and are able to cobble together a coalition with minor parties of their own ilk, such as, for example UKIP.
Not for the first time, I wonder who is advising Nick Clegg.