Monday, May 19, 2008

UPDATED: Telegraph story regarding "hung parliament" support for the Tories

UPDATE #2, 20/5/08: Nick Clegg comprehensively denied that there was any truth at all in the Telegraph story at the Policy Exchange tax launch this lunchtime. Commenting on a thread on LibDem Voice, Andy Mayer wrote: "I’ve just come from Nick’s tax launch speech at Policy Exchange where he addressed a question about this with the entirely unambiguous response that there was no truth at all in the Telegraph story."

UPDATE #1, 19/5/08: As I mention in this later post, A very reliable and informed source tells me that the parliament/Clegg/Tories Telegraph story referred to below was a planted piece of mischief making by the Tories rather than anything originating from Clegg & co. I note that the article contains no direct quotes and is mostly written on the basis of "The Daily Telegraph understands that...".

This is a very interesting story in the Telegraph. My response to all this, on reading the article, is, this far out from a general election: "Fair enough". However, I cannot see this arrangement lasting very long simply because we currently know very little of Cameron's actual policies. His first Queen's speech under a hung parliament situation would probably be "motherhood and apple pie". But, sooner or later, the leopard of the Tory party will revert to its spots. And I see little point in shoring up a government which is "treading water" and not addressing the radical changes needed in this country. In essence, the only satisfactory outcome for a "hung parliament" would be another general election after a reasonable time period.

Having said all that, Nick's statement is ground-breaking, brave and, I suspect, necessary. I am not sure at this stage whether it will cause more or less questions and controversy than our previous position. I hope it will neutralise the question which always comes up for LibDem leaders as we approach a general election. But knowing the media, I doubt it. I can see Humpty Humphrys and Paxo coming up with all sorts of niggly detailed questions about hypothetical situations which are potentially thrown up by Nick's stance.

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, will support David Cameron if the Conservatives are the largest party in a hung Parliament.

In consultations with senior members of the party, he said he was prepared to take the necessary steps that would enable the Tories to form a minority administration.

Mr Clegg ruled out taking a Cabinet seat in a Conservative government in return for his support and instead would provide Mr Cameron with "supply and confidence" – meaning he would promise to back a Conservative Budget and would side with the Tories in any votes of confidence.

As a result, Mr Cameron would be free to accept the post of Prime Minister from the Queen on the day after the next geneIn return, the Liberal Democrats would reserve the right to vet Mr Cameron's first Queen's Speech – the publication of his legislative programme for his first year in office.

Mr Clegg would have an effective veto over the Tories' domestic policy proposals as he could withdraw the support of his MPs and order them to vote with the Labour opposition on measures with which he disagreed.

Before now, it had been thought likely that Mr Clegg would wait until after an election to embark on negotiations with both of the main parties in the event of a hung Parliament.

But The Daily Telegraph understands that he has decided that the public would not forgive him if he propped up a Labour administration that they had voted to throw out.

He is uninterested in taking up a Cabinet seat led by either of the other parties, as he believes it would fetter his ability to criticise an administration.

Instead, he wants the power to veto legislation, which, he hopes, would raise the Liberal Democrats' profile enough to allow them to become the second largest party at a future general election. ral election, even if he failed to win an outright majority.

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