Coffee House

How the Lib Dems could be truly mature in government

7 August 2012

9:29 AM

7 August 2012

9:29 AM

Nick Clegg’s decision to scupper boundary reviews in retaliation for the failure of his Lords reform programme is the very opposite of ‘mature’ government. It is the politics of the sand pit: you have annoyed me, so I’m going to kick your sandcastle down. It’s his way of putting a horse’s head in Cameron’s bed, and the public will be appalled. The coalition has entered a new, destructive phase where Lib Dems will now pride themselves on what Tory measures they can frustrate or destroy (O Levels, profitmaking schools etc).

I’ve just been on the Today programme with David Hall Matthews of the Social Liberal Forum, who claimed that Clegg’s vengeance marks a phase of ‘mature’ coalition, which got me thinking about an example of a proper, mature coalition: that between Labour and the Lib Dems in the Scottish Parliament between 1999-2007. That worked because of the way that the late Donald Dewar divided his Cabinet: Lib Dems were given responsibility for portfolios (justice, agriculture) and prided themselves on how competently they handled those portfolios. Ross Finnie and Jim Wallace (farms and justice respectively) acquitted themselves very well, and the Lib Dem share of the vote went up in the 2003 Holyrood election as the electoral admired it. Both were swept away by the SNP surge in 2007 but for eight years it was an example of how coalition can work in Britain. And work to the benefit of the smaller party.

The rather pathetic, vindictive way the Lib Dems are now conducting themselves is neither becoming nor proving electorally popular. They can be taken seriously neither as a force of opposition, not as a force of government. I suspect Clegg realises this. He’s looking at his party and saying: ‘I am their leader, I must follow them.’ I suspect Clegg personally wants to be constructive, not sit there putting a spoke in the wheels of anything that seems to be moving in the government. There is a way that Cameron and Clegg can overcome their joint problem: a reshuffle that would give the Lib Dems entire departments, and let them be judged on what they can build, not what they can destroy. That would be better for everyone.


More Spectator for less. Stay informed leading up to the EU referendum and in the aftermath. Subscribe and receive 15 issues delivered for just £15, with full web and app access. Join us.



Show comments
  • ptstroud

    It was once said, by a German I think, that in war the Italiuans are the worst allies. We now know that the LibDems fulfil this role in UK government.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ian.morton Ian Morton

    What do you expect Nick Clegg to do? The Lib Dems agreed a coalition agreement with the Conservatives. The Lib Dems have delivered on numerous occasions many of them whilst holding their nose and yet when it comes to the Conservatives delivering on a part of it they fail to step up to the mark. You can’t have an agreement where only one side delivers. The Conservative Party should take a new look at those rebels and realise that they have possibly cost them the opportunity of forming a majority at the next election.

    • David Ossitt

      The agreement was for a referenda on AV to please the lying bastard LibDems in exchange for their support on boundary changes.

      The LibDems are a party of spineless wishy-washy self-serning jelly-babies.

    • David Ossitt

      The agreement was for a referenda on AV to please the lying bastard LibDems in exchange for their support on boundary changes.

      The LibDems are a party of spineless wishy-washy self-serning jelly-babies.

  • David Ossitt

    How the Lib Dems could be truly mature in
    government.

    Surely this title is an oxymoron.

  • turnedoutnice

    But to achieve that the Lib Dem leader will have to set out to lead, not follow. Thus, the bellwether of competent government is whether it will govern for the people and not its paymasters, who happen to be the carbon traders of the City and the EU.

    The Hughes’ Report shows the windmill plan will cost 10 times as much as CCGTs, will cause more CO2 emissions and cost the average family £300/year more in electricity charges.

    This plus the desecration of our countryside on the altar of politics, a failure to be grown up and admit the windmills are wrong, will be the act of traitors and the people will draw that inference.

    What’s worse, we can meet the EU emission targets and reduce electricity charges by other technologies, specifically decentralised generation by fuel cells for domestic and commercial CHP, bypassing the Mafia-controlled Grid . However the rent seekers, including relatives of those in government, and the carbon traders won’t allow this. So it will have to be the hard way: direct action when millions die in the viciously cold winters to come in the new Little Ice Age.

  • William Blakes Ghost

    These Libdems shouldn’t be allowed to manage the sandpit let alone a ministry. They are a threat to our future prosperity should not be let near government again…….

  • HooksLaw

    All through, the LDs hav wanted to be both opposition and government. Hopeless. Clegg in particular looks increasingly childish, as well as inept. The Hol could have been reformed but Clegg was inept in the way he went about it.

    • Paul

      Who would have voted for these new peers to have 15 years’ time in office? I’m fed up with the way LibDims are trying to say that if you favour HL reform, their proposals are the only possible way to achieve it: LDs aren’t being self-serving, oh no.

  • Alan Eastwood

    I heard you on the radio, Mr Nelson, on my way to hospital and you did not do my blood pressure any good. For goodness sake when is someone going to shout out that Clegg was LYING yesterday. The agreement was Boundary changes for AV referendum. Nobody seems to want to give the Lib Dems a bloody nose. I am sorry you were weak. Your holiday reading obviously did not help!

    • http://twitter.com/MaggieLavan MaggieLavan

      To be fair, I think Jim Naughtie had already made the point about the non-link between boundary changes and AV in his question to the LibDem apologist. There was no need for Fraser to go over the same ground again.

  • Publius

    Mr Nelson, if the LibDems are the chilish wreckers you describe (and I think they are) then what department of government is so unimportant that you want to hand it over to wreckers?

    If any department is that unimportant, abolish it.

  • AnotherDaveB

    I quite like this idea. But…

    One of the departments the LDs would likely get is the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and the government’s energy policy is already a disaster.

    http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2012/07/the-treasury-sides-with-the-consumer-over-climate-policy/

  • Arthur

    What I’d like to know is why the LibDems or the Tories didn’t think of this during the initial coalition talks. Or, more likely, why the LibDems refused it and the Tories gave in. Now THAT would be an interesting blog post.

    • Paul

      I think it was always going to be the case of LibDems holding the Tories to ransom – after all, the NHS Bill moaning exposed us to the opinions of that democratically elected pair (as Clegg is so concerned with democracy) Evan Harris and Shirley Williams. We had to listen to Clegg have a hissy fit in Brazil when Gove’s O-Level proposals were in the newspapers, and Les Ebdon got a job hectoring universities to ignore grades and let students in if they were “poor”.
      If not HL reform, I’ve no doubt it would have been something else: LibDems stand to lose some seats from the boundary review.

  • Rex

    I suppose that these senile old tories who were afraid of losing their drinking club when they retire were being truly “mature” when opposing the Lords reform?

    (I’m not a Lib Dem supporter either!!)

    • Alan Eastwood

      You may not be a LibDamned supporter but by golly you write like one!

    • David Ossitt

      (I’m not a Lib Dem supporter either!!)

      No of course your not.

      • Rex

        So I can assume from your comments that you approve of such intelligentiary as Prescott and the Kinnocks fit for the upper chamber.
        I guess that you can’t wait to see Lord Skinner in his robes!!

        Why not put some thought in before you make assertions.

  • Magnolia

    In amongst Mr Clegg’s woeful performance yesterday, he said that he would instruct the Lib Dems ‘in parliament’ not to vote for boundaries reform. Now, does that include or exclude the Lib Dem ministers who are in government and some what separate from their back benchers in parliament? Was Clegg reading his notes very carefully, was he being deliberately equivocal or was he in a careless muddle?
    My favourite political interviewer, Andrew Neil wears a golden coloured tie more often than Mr Clegg does now-a-days. The leader of the Lib Dems more often wears the purple tie favoured by Ed Miliband and Labour. We’ve seen this coming for months now from the tie colours. They think their subliminal messages stay unconscious and unread. How daft.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Iain-Hill/100000917822376 Iain Hill

    Surely the coalition entered the politics of the sandpit when Conservative backbenchers scuppered House of Lords reform for no other reason than the prospect of losing their retirement perks.

  • IRISHBOY

    So, the idiot child Clegg wants Lord’s reform in order to hold an over-mighty executive to account, and cites the same reason now for not reducing the number of MPs, however when individual MPs vote against him, exercising their right and that of their constituents to actually hold an overweening, overpreening Government to account, he finds he simply can’t deal with the reality of democracy. He should either grow up, or remove the second half of his party’s name.

    • Paul

      hardly liberal conduct either…

  • otters

    The Lib Dems have lost voter confidence in the countryside over the support for wind farms. A 25% cut would have protected important landscape and biodiversity – all over the country groups are opposing wind farm development and they have turned their back on them. A very bad mistake.
    Join us
    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/22704

  • otters

    The Lib Dems have lost voter confidence in the countryside over the support for wind farms. A 25% cut would have protected important landscape and biodiversity – all over the country groups are opposing wind farm development and they have turned their back on them. A very bad mistake.
    Join us
    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/22704

  • JohnD

    Boundary changes should be decided by an independent commission, to avoid accusations of self interest. It is largely a matter of mathematics couple with local input. Nothing to do with national parties.

  • JohnD

    Boundary changes should be decided by an independent commission, to avoid accusations of self interest. It is largely a matter of mathematics couple with local input. Nothing to do with national parties.

    • UlyssesReturns

      What do you think the Boundary Commision is doing?

      • Paul

        I assume JohnD means the Commission’s proposed boundaries not being subject to a Commons vote – after all, Labour are never going to vote for boundary changes when they just get out of bed and win a load of seats (just reading the lefties gloating on Twitter yesterday was grating), and it is thoroughly nauseating that LibDims should be able to blackmail the Conservatives over making the system fairer.

      • Paul

        I assume JohnD means the Commission’s proposed boundaries not being subject to a Commons vote – after all, Labour are never going to vote for boundary changes when they just get out of bed and win a load of seats (just reading the lefties gloating on Twitter yesterday was grating), and it is thoroughly nauseating that LibDims should be able to blackmail the Conservatives over making the system fairer.

  • Nicholas

    The underlying problem is leadership. Both Cameron and Clegg fail to lead their parties but instead lead factions. The reason is that the government has no real cohesive policy strategy but each leader has a basket of (changing) tactical priorities. They are down in the weeds, wrangling over minutiae instead of creating and progressing a big picture strategy that faces up to and tackles some very hard truths.

    I don’t know who is advising these two overgrown schoolboys on strategy but they must be very poor at the craft or communication. All the time this goes on they are feeding Labour’s resurgence. If Cameron and Clegg can’t see this and continue to operate a Byzantine maze of in-fighting and briefing they are even more stupid than they have both so far appeared. Good leadership is key and good leaders don’t alienate factions within their teams but bring them together – seldom by coercion.

    • HooksLaw

      Thats rubbish. And typically you get loads of likes. Cameron is a typical centre to centre leftish tory leader. We have seen umpteen like him. The tory party regularly elect leaders like him. And when they do they usually win elections.

      As education minister Mrs thatcher closed grammar schools; as PM she took us into the single market and into the ERM.

      • Paul

        she was more than ably helped by Crosland and Williams – who also had their kids go private

      • Nicholas

        Well for someone who thinks they can spot rubbish you seem to be writing a good deal of your own.

        Firstly your comment has absolutely no relevance to what I wrote – except perhaps in your own misperception of it. Secondly your statement that centre to centre leftish tory leaders “usually win elections” is fantastic. Name some of them. I can think of Heath and he only won one election. It is moot whether Cameron “won” an election. I doubt he’ll win another.

        Thirdly your comment about Thatcher is disingenuous beyond belief. The closure of grammar schools was a Labour strategic policy inherited by Thatcher and implemented by local authorities who had already gone too far along that path to stop it. Even a reading of Wiki will set you right on that one.

        Finally, your comment about the number of likes reveals the true nature of your attack. But if you are going to attack my friend I suggest you do so in a way that avoids you looking quite so stupid. It helps to get your facts right and to address what is actually written rather than what you think is written.

    • tele_machus

      Leadership yes.
      But leadership of the Tories only.
      Fraser may analogise severed horses heads(now removed) but rather this than Weak Freddie who ended at the bottom of a Nevada lake.
      Cleggie has demonstrated consumate leadership suffering the slings and arrows of student loans but picking his time and subject to put down a marker that is nothing to do with the economic priorities of the Coalition
      *We now enter the undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveller returns.It will start on 15 November and without a miracle I think we can see the prize.

  • Julian

    How can it be right that politicians with a vested interest in boundary changes happening / not happening are the ones who get to decide whether or not they go ahead ?

    • Frank P

      So who is really independent? Everybody has a partisan horse in the race. As has been pointed out here so often, Cameron should have started with a minority government and challenged the Leftist bastards at the very beginning. Another election would have occurred soon afterwards and he could well have won a decent majority then. It’s too late now, the coalition will peter out. The fact that he didn’t grasp the nettle at the outset indicates that he hasn’t a leadership bone in his body and his ‘right hand man’ (if you can describe anything in this administration as ‘right’) is a wanker, too.

      Prepare for Milibolloxism. And the emoting, proletariat, wallowing in the ‘success’ of the Olympics (about £9b over budget and according to Cameron ON budget) deserve the totalitarian multi-culti melange that is already entrenched, and can only get worse when a son of the Frankfort School gets his hands on the levers of power. He’s already leading by default. Considering the crap this bug-eyed bullshitter constantly spouts; the rearranged ugly mush – and a lisp that reminds me of Violet Elizabeth – his popularity in the polls indicates just how fucked up is the electorate – he’s ahead, FFS! Just watch the triumphalism and celebration of ‘multiculturalism’ in the ‘closing ceremony’ – and be afraid! They may just as well have a giant sized inflatable middle finger of derision paraded around the track: “Up Yours England – you no longer exist!”

      • Paul

        wholly agree, and what’s more irritating is MiliE doesn’t have to say anything until 2015 – he’ll probably get through, and all down to LibDims being a bunch of treacherous, backstabbing nobodies

  • http://twitter.com/MaggieLavan MaggieLavan

    The LibDems in Westminster can do flouncing out, snide comments, double-crossing, childish tantrums, criminal election literature and sulking. From what we’ve seen so far I don’t think their repertoire includes “maturity”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Arthur-Dent/100003072704387 Arthur Dent

    Yes, great give the unelectable LibDems even more power than Cameron gave them.

  • Robert_Eve

    Just don’t allow them anywhere near Environment.

    • Bob

      I wouldn’t let the Tories near it, no.

  • http://twitter.com/tommy5d Tommy Long

    There’s no point having whole departments if the Tories will vote down anything the Lib Dems produce simply because it’s Liberal. Electoral reform is currently our department (Nick Clegg is DPM with responsibility for it) and that hasn’t worked out well has it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mikejwood Mike Wood

      Although Mark Harper is Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform. I don’t think Fraser is talking about allowing Lib Dems to set all policy within a department without reference to the rest of the Government, just as Donald Dewar wouldn’t have allowed Jim Wallace to close all the prisons. There has clearly been a breakdown in the policy process, with the leadership of both coalition parties seeming to not appreciate the depth and strength of opposition to the HoL Bill – distinct from underlying suspicion of an elected HoL – until it was far too late.

    • alexsandr

      Cleggs bill was a bad one and was rightly voted down. The fact he hadn’t done is homework is no excuse for chucking his teddies out the pram.
      Come back with something more democratic and he may have a chance. 15 year terms from lists. Useless idea.

      • MG

        In negotiations since the vote Clegg has proposed lots of half measures that Cameron turned down as he could not get it past his backbenchers.

Close
Can't find your Web ID? Click here