The Liberal Democrats’ strategic imperative in this parliament is to show that coalitions can work. Their response to the Leveson Inquiry is, I suspect, going to be part of this plan.
Their position on the issue is hardening. Yesterday’s Guardian report that they would make clear if David Cameron was only speaking for the Conservative party not the government, has been followed by Nick Robinson’s news that Clegg will make his own statement in the Commons if no coalition position can be agreed. I understand that, ideally, Clegg would make his statement from the despatch box.
In some ways this is not a bad issue for the Deputy Prime Minister to demonstrate that he remains the leader of an independent political party that often takes a different view from its larger, coalition partner. Not even the most excitable MP thinks that the government is going to fall over differences on the Leveson Report.
To be sure, the sight of a Prime Minister and a Deputy Prime Minister disagreeing from the Treasury bench will be unusual—if not, unique. But those close to Clegg hope that they can use this moment to show how they think coalition should work. Parties can govern together but retain their distinctive views and not be afraid to say when they disagree on areas that are not crucial to the jointly agreed governing programme. Whether everyone else sees it like that, though, remains to be seen.
More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us.