Coffee House

Nick Clegg wants gory government: so should the Tories

17 December 2012

9:15 AM

17 December 2012

9:15 AM

There’s nothing wrong with Nick Clegg putting some distance between his party and the Conservatives. Today the Liberal Democrat leader is going to open up about the gory details of government, explaining where his party has held the Tories back, and heralding a new era where he and colleagues are honest about what they actually think of policies. On Friday, I argued that this sort of honesty about the workings of coalition government was a good thing. But there is one caveat to this.

Conservative MPs are pretty unhappy at present, and it’s not just that they are overtired before the Christmas break. Their unhappiness stems partly from the splits crisscrossing their party, but also from a disconnect with the Tory leadership and a yearning for certain policies which coalition seems to be blocking. Nick Clegg may have his own Tumblr dedicated to him looking sad, but that doesn’t mean he’s the only leader who should worry about the effects of coalition on those who sit on the backbenches, or those grassroots members who, rather than carrying a ministerial red box, are still carrying campaign leaflets and shoving them through letterboxes.


If Clegg thinks setting out separate positions from the Conservatives is helpful to his party, the Tories can’t just watch him set up a new phase of the Coalition himself. Being honest about the differences between the two parties is a mature way of conducting two-party government, but the Conservatives need to be honest about gory government as well as the Lib Dems.

It’s not just that Cameron would gain electorally from being clear that he would like to go further than the Lib Dems on welfare, immigration and European policy. But he would also make gains with his own MPs, some of whom are suspicious that he quite likes Coalition because it means he can ignore the likes of Peter Bone. If the two parties are going to set out their store ahead of policies making their way into legislation, then both should gain, not just the Lib Dems. The Prime Minister made a speech in the summer calling for benefit cuts to under-25s which were then blocked by the Lib Dems: his Europe speech needs to set out a Conservative rather than Coalition position, too.

The problem of doing too much differentiation is that voters might start to think that the government isn’t achieving anything because the two parties are disagreeing. But Clegg’s former adviser Richard Reeves says the need for this separation strategy is so great that if it fails, ‘the curtain will probably fall on the coalition before 2015’. Oddly enough, I heard that a Conservative whip had been saying something similar recently: apparently one MP with a chance of a ministerial post was told to behave themselves and not stick their head above the parapet too much and then when things fell apart in 2014, there would be government jobs for those who deserved them. Now this sounds more like a whip saying anything to keep a naughty brood in check, but if we’re going to hear more about the gory details of government, perhaps we’ll start to learn what the exit strategy might look like for the Coalition, too.

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Show comments
  • ben corde

    This is all just meaningless, irrelevant waffle, missing the whole point of the state of this nations political evolution. Does anyone really give a damn about the nuances in the relationship between coalition partners gory or otherwise when this country is facing the biggest threat to its sovereign independent state, its economy, heritage, and future since 1939. Only one party can help us now. It so happens that this party has a manifesto that is far more balanced than any the LIB/LAB/CON establishment can muster. This party is UKIP and I suggest the British Nation gets behind it and bloody quick

  • HooksLaw

    Whose votes will Clegg attract? If any. Labour ones. So good luck to him with that. If the LDs want to bad mouth the only people who could get them through the election then they are welcome to that idea.
    As it is the LDs seem to be about to rubbish their only unique selling point – that they believe in coalitions. Every step they take along this road is one more reason not to vote LD.

  • William Blakes Ghost

    All this was highly predictable. It was obvious that at some point the parties would try to regain their distinctiveness. Clearly the rise of UKIP and the lack of resilience in the Libdem vote (and the tenuous nature of Clegg’s own position?) has forced this move early.

    However, rather than try and put an absurd positive spin about the benefits of good coalition (as this article seems to do) it only proves what a complete and utter nonsense coalition is. It is the option where no-one wins and everyone loses (‘we are all in it together’), it is the option that no one voted for, it is the option that has crippled both coalition partners, killed the political futures of their leaders and handed government to Labour in 2015, it has split the right, split the Tories, crushed the Libdems, united the left under labour and isolated the centre and it is the option that hinders progress most because of its contradictory nature. Coalition and particular this coalition was dreamed up in purgatory.

    Of course now that the Lib Dems are going it on their own effectively what it will do is demonstrate the obstruction and ill-discipline that has plagued this government but not only that it gives the Tories the opportunity to define exactly what a bunch of self absorbed, self-serving power hungry chancers the Libdems are. The Tories have the opportunity in this to finish off the Libdems and and demonstrate what a worthless waste of space their duplicitious two-faced politics is. The Tories must take it if they are to prove they are a match for Labour because be sure of one thing Labour would be ruthless in dispatching the Libdems (just as they were in dispatching the Blairites) after the merry dance the Libdems have forced the country to lead. Not only that but be sure the Libdems will use this for brazen dog whistle politics pointing the finger at the “right” (Tories) implying ‘Nasty Party, Nasty Party, Nasty Party’. I saw a little of Clegg’s speech and he was already at it.

    Furthermore, the Tories need it because after this shamble of a government they have to restore their reputation and their self respect and restore it quickly because after the failures of their ‘liberal adventures’ with Heath and Major this is their third strike…..

    • mikewaller

      Nicely written, but absolute nonsense. The nasty people are the delusional Tory back benchers who for reasons having much to do with their hugely over-inflated egos, have made Clegg’s life a misery from day one. I have it on the authority of an ex-minister that the coalition only came about because the Bank of England and senior civil servants had the opportunity immediately after the election to get into the heads of senior politicians just how desperate the situation was (and still is). The Coalition was therefor formed in the interests of the country. Far from being power hungry, the best historical analogy for Clegg I can find is Michael Collins, the Irish revolutionary/terrorist. He, in striking what he thought was the best deal he could get for Eire with Lloyd George, knew he was signing his own death warrant. So, too, with Clegg’s political career.

      What this country needs is more coalition, not less and that coalition has to be Lib-Tory, not Lib-Lab. I say this in part because, in my view, there is not a cat’s chance in Hell of the Tories securing an overall majority in the next general election. There are four reasons for this. First, the existence of that one trick ass, UKIP. Second, by so comprehensively rubbishing the LDs in the eyes of the electorate, seats which in the past Tories won because the left wing vote was split, will now fall to Labour. Third, by failing to find the LDs something that would enable them to swing behind constituency reform, the Tories have lost about 20 seats; and fourth, as with Munich, the British electorate tens to prefer the softer option even if it is potentially lethal. Encouraged by a sight of a broken coalition, they will therefore vote in droves for Labour and more borrow and spend.

      I therefore think that those on the Tory right who have brought so much of this about are a national disgrace.

      • WIlliam Blakes Ghost

        Well given you value the activites of terrorists (and the irish are still trying to kill each other today) I will take your opinion with the enormous pinch of salt it deserves.

        You are right though the Tories are done at the next election. It was immensely stupid of Cameron to enter into coalition in the first place especially with such a duplicitious two faced power hungry self-serving bunch as the Libdems who saw there support leave on mass the moment they betrayed their left of centre credentials for a whiff of power.

        Just check the polls and you will see that the Libdem vote collapsed between June and September 2010 and it has only lost a few additional points since (probably because of its infantile and hysterical behaviour). The act of coalition united the left behind Labour. At the same time it thrust a wedge in the right which has slowly grown into its own divide mainly because Cameron has pandered to the childish attention seeking of the Libdems.

        When you add to that the simple fact that the Tories need to have something like a 12 point lead in the polls (or 7 points with the boudary changes) to win a majority (differential turnout is a real problem) they never really had a chance in the polls to start with.

        So all they could ever achieve was to enhance their credibility and sadly as a result of the utter dysfunctionality of this disaster of a coalition (mainly thanks to the Libdems) they’ve blown that opportunity as well. The point is if the Tories (and I won’t be voting for them) ever want to put the taint of this Coalition behind them they have to dispatch the Libdems just as Labour and the Brownites have dispatched the Blairites.

        So as far as your delerious demands for more coalitions is concerned all I have to say is

        ‘Nurse! this one needs to go back to his room because he seems to have lost his tin-foil hat……..

        • mikewaller

          Had you the power so to command, it really would be a case of the lunatics having taken over the asylum. The only hope for this county was for the two sides of the Coalition to recognise that reputation is all and to carefully nurture those of each other. Sadly, with so many of the Tory backbenchers majoring in narcissism, there never was any real hope of that. Their true nature was fully revealed in the referendum about voting systems. I am an instinctive supporter of “first past the post” but the lies told on the relevant leaflet (details on request) filled me with contempt. As it was rounded off with an infantile personal attack on Clegg, I reckon that the UK’s one best chance – an effective coalition – died then.

  • andagain

    Civil war between the two coalition parties. Didn’t we see this movie last year?

  • ScaryBiscuits

    The Conservatives need to be honest about gory government as well as the Lib Dems Cameron? Being honest? You have got to be kidding.

  • John Moss

    The Conservatives are historically a “party of Government” so when they came in to power, the leadership assumed that the “government” position had also to be the “party” position. This was probably crucial on the key issue of the economy – and it has largely held that together. Where it is probably crucial to NOT do this is on those issues which divide the coalition parties respective grass roots.

    Especially now as we move in to the last two years before the next General Election, “party” policies need to be discussed and developed which will form the manifesto. Given the disconnect of the leadership from the grass roots inherent in their running the country, it is imperative that Conservative members make their views known to their MPs, and to the Party hierarchy where they do not have MPs, so that a genuinely Conservative manifesto is prepared, not one overtly influenced by our coalition partners.

    • TomTom

      “that the “government” position had also to be the “party” position.”That was NOT even true in the USSR where the CPSU was the dominant side of the equation especially after they unpicked the fusion Stalin had created by selective mass-murder. The truth is that Hague made the Tories a highly-centralised party with a top-down orientation it never had before and a control over funds and candidates. There is no point in having a “manifesto” since they are ramming through stuff that was not in the manifesto last time around……TREBLING tuition fees; GAY marriage; VAT increase; passing Equalities Act…….sponsoring foreign terrorism in Syria and Libya. They should simply print a blank manifesto and ask for “Carte-Blanche for Cameron”

      • ipleb

        “sponsoring foreign terrorism in Syria and Libya.”

        Which shows the genius of Putin and the unintelligent western political rubbish we get in the ‘free’ world….Still we got to be drained by the peoples of eastern Europe. ‘USSR’ alive and kicking me thinks?

        • TomTom

          Yes just how much did Libya cost the British taxpayer ? How much is training terrorists in Turkey costing Britain ? How many SAS men are there inside Syria ?

          • ipleb

            Perhaps you should put that question to the enlightened spiritual leader porca like a virgin Madonna?

          • HooksLaw

            Virtually nothing. Ditto. Hopefully enough.

            It’s called ‘foreign policy’, dipstick.

            • TomTom

              Yes but Keitel was hanged for “foreign policy” dipstick. It was foreign policy when the USSR invaded Afghanistan….it is still sowing the wind to reap the whirlwind and dimshit little England is cutting defence spending as it stirs the pot

              • the viceroy’s gin

                It was Von Ribbentrop, but I take your point.

                • TomTom

                  It was KEITEL………..

                  Four days after the surrender, Keitel was arrested along with the
                  rest of the Flensburg government. He soon faced the International Military Tribunal (IMT), which charged him
                  with a number of offences:

                  Conspiracy to commit crimes against peace;

                  Planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression;

                  War crimes; and,

                  Crimes against humanity……..

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Well yes, Keitel the military man was executed, but Von Ribbentrop was the foreign minister, also executed, which I took to be your point there.

            • TomTom

              “Virtually nothing” = $1,500,000,000 to Dimwit Hook’s Law – about what he spends on medication

      • mikewaller

        Any party stupid enough to take as its guiding star the hot air and waffle that emanates from Conservative clubs might just as well cut its metaphorical throat on day one!

        • TomTom

          Agreed. Conservati8ve Clubs are as daft as their Membership

  • Archimedes

    Presumably Europe is a good exit strategy that might give the LibDems a chance of rebuilding some of their base, given that Labour wouldn’t really be able to come out as pro-EU.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Sad clown face?

  • TomTom

    Cameron should simply shut up. He is a busted flush. Noone takes him seriously nor his sidekick Osborne. They are incompetent blusterers proving the old image of the Southern English as Amateurs and serial Bunglers. It is such a North-South split that it will become entrenched and the Conservatives will simply be a Home Counties regional party.

    • Archimedes

      Party of the rich, then?

      • TomTom

        Of course….in the minds of many voters it always was and it is hard to see it as anything else with Cameron & Co.

    • William Blakes Ghost

      They are incompetent blusterers proving the old image of the Southern English as Amateurs and serial Bunglers

      Isn’t George a northern MP? So whose fault is it that he’s in Parliament?

      Its amazing how easy one can keep the great unwashed quiet for so long using a piece of absurd propaganda (ever wondered why the capital, financial centre and the government are ‘darn sarf’?).

      So much for southerners being ‘amateurs and serial bunglers’

      • TomTom

        Tatton – yes George is a Northerner born in Paddington probably on a train when his father was a porter and his mother worked in WH Smiths where the name Felicity Alexandra Loxton-Peacock was a hit with the chocolate-orange buyers. George worked hard at St Paul’s an ILEA Comprehensive before being recruited by Neil Hamilton’s fan club to take over in Tatton – a poor downtrodden area of Cheshire covering Knutsford, Mobberley, Alderley Edge, and Wilmslow which as every Oil Sheikh knows are areas for the suburban poor. Never managed a turnout nor a majority like Martin Bell though

        • William Blakes Ghost

          Waffle away as much as you like and by all means keep wearing your class and regional bigotry firmly on your sleeve. It doesn’t matter where he was born or who his family are (after all I don’t see you attacking Tony Benn or Harriet Harman over their lineage) who elected him?

          So tell me whose fault is it he is in Parliament? Northerners…..

          The only ‘amateur and bungler’ I see around here is the one who tried to use Osborne to disparage the south and highlight the supposed North – South divide (which is actually more an urban / non – urban divide).’

          • mikewaller

            I would be more interested in TomTom’s master-plan for saving the economy. My take on Cameron and Osborne is that they happen to be in the guys in the driving seat a just the time when over half a century’s worth of appalling overspending has hit the fan. Central to their.problems is the fact that if they don’t stick at austerity with the utmost diligence, those that lend us the money that keeps our still haemorrhaging economy afloat, will rack up the interest rates and bring us to our knees in a matter of days. Yet if they cut as hard as they ought, millions of ostriches, amongst whom I feel obliged to count TomTom, will shove their heads yet further into the sand and continue bitterly complaining through the only orifice then available.

            This is, I admit, a very bleak analysis. Let us hope, therefore, TomTom can show me where I go wrong.

            • TomTom

              There is no prospect of any solution to the UK economic problem. It has been the same problem since 1918 and it has simply been Government Spending on War and Debt Management that enabled it to survive. The Banks have made the problem intractable…not because of piffling places like RBS or HBOS but the OFFSHORE baning liabilities loaded onto UK taxpayers. The best option is to create new banks and let the old zombies default

              • mikewaller

                My understanding of our debt situation is that although the national debt is “only” about 1 trillion, the true liability taking account of all future liabilities with regard pensions, bank bailouts, aircraft carriers, PFIs etc etc is somewhat over 4 trillion. Of this, the bank bailout may amount to a large part of 1 trillion, although it is to be hoped that a considerable part will be recovered. However, the great preponderance arises from successive governments buying votes by promising more and more. Tory governments have very much been part of this, but the real “stars” have been Labour which, it has to be said, is to a very large degree, the party of the North. Quite how we could escape from all this by dumping our global banking structure and starting again – what would the French, Germans and Chinese be doing in the meantime – is, frankly beyond me.

                • TomTom

                  How can you recover funds from Banks that are insolvent ? there are $800 TRILLION of Derivatives in the world which is 50 Times the GDP of the USA. There is more Bank Debt on earth than physical collateral. You clearly do not comprehend the global financial system or London’r role in it. The GDP of Great Britain is £1.4 Trillion the Balance Sheet of RBS is £1.4 Trillion alone. So ONE Bank has a Balance Sheet as big as the UK……that’s ignoring HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds, Santander etc…….

                • mikewaller

                  Although a Southerner, I spent much of my working life in the North, married a Northerner and even owned a whippet. That said, I am profoundly depressed by the figures you present immediately above which very much exceed my worst expectations. It only goes to show what can be achieved if you couple human folly and cupidity with huge but little understood advances in technology.

                  The only puzzles to me are (a) what is currently holding the whole thing up? and, (b) why do you think what has happened is so especially Southern? As I sat taking breakfast in Waitrose this morning, I scanned The Times which seem to be just page after page of human folly. Celebrity chefs selling books full of recipes far more harmful to health than a routine supermarket ready-meal; cosmetic surgeons agonising over the way in which celebrity culture and subverted and corrupted their profession; a coroner who had appoint his unqualified wife as his deputy; schools in Birmingham, which has a massive childhood obesity problem, being ringed by fast food outlets… I also have to hand a fascinating old book called “The Fifty Most Amazing Crimes of the Last One Hundred Years” which manages to include several major bank frauds in the list. In addition, there is an account of a French multiple killer whose behaviour is set against the appalling venality of Second Empire France, the description of which could have been taken from a post 2008 UK newspaper. Indeed, in the City they used to talk about the Brazilian Cycle, this being a financial disaster repeated every 80 years in which a new generation of bankers with no exposure to those that had got badly burned last time, set about lending shed loads of money to countries in South and Central America.

                  I could go on and one, but dare I hazard that had the UK’s financial centre been in Leeds and Bradford, we would be in exactly the same mess as we are now? It is humans who are so seriously flawed, not just the much reviled Southerners.

          • TomTom

            Why is the South rural then ? Some of the biggest cities are in the North. What class ? You have no idea William Blake’s Ghost in your little world. Why should I attack Tony Benn – he is almost dead – but was a pain in the neck when active and Harriet – she is another dimwit from St Paul’s with Daddy a Harley Street money man but then again her Equalities Act was such a Conservative measure it got pased by Dave & Co. You think people in Surrey of The North are “Northerners”….of course, people like you probably think Cheshire’s county set are “Northerns” with coal in the bath and whippets. Keep watching Last of the Summer Wine… was Holmfirth but you think it is Bramhall or Hale Barns

    • mikewaller

      Would these “Southern Bungler’s” be the same folk who actually keep the North afloat economically as was so clearly explained to us in the article “The Great Divide” by Neil O’Brien, a couple of weeks ago? The real problem the South creates for the North is that it merely by existing as part of the UK it prevents the North from facing up to the horrible fact that it will have to find its own salvation. With all the cash flows running Eastwards out of the country, there is no longer the money to hold up the North.

      • TomTom

        It is simply amazing that 8.6 Million in the Southeast can fund the other 56 million of whom 5 million alone are in Yorkshire. It shows just how fantastic it is that London can generate a GDP slightly above Los Angeles but less than half that of Tokyo and have nothing to do with the rest of the country. Having Treasury in London clawing taxes from the whole nation is unrelated – even shops in Scunthorpe pay Business Rates to London, motoring fines to London…..and of course over $1.6 TRILLION in Bank Support to London and taxpayer largesse on The Dome, Olympics, massive railway subsidies, and supporting all those government workers and their PR/Media buddies………….you think a population the size of Mexico City is paying those bills ? You are innumerate

        • mikewaller

          A direct quotation from the O’Brien article:

          “”Under New Labour, the economic divide was made wider than ever; my home county of Yorkshire went from being 10% behind the UK average in 1997 to being 17% behind. The economic output of financial services in London has now overtaken the entire north-east’s economy. Not London’s economy as a whole, but just one industry – concentrated in one square mile – has come to generate more wealth than a whole region of 2.6 million.”

          Regarding your examples, did you intentional close your mind to the facts? Regarding shops in Scunthorpe, the centralised system was introduced because councils, particularly northern councils, were treating businesses as milch cows to fund ever-increasing levels of public spending. Regarding the banks, these were allowed to run wild because a party, Labour, whose main strength lies in the North wanted as much cash as it could get to spend pleasing its voters; and the flagship of failure, Northern Rock, was based where the name suggests.

          Initially, the London based Governor of the Bank of England was very reluctant to save any of them because of the moral hazard, but as it became clear that the whole country would go down – the North included – if they were not saved, he reluctantly acquiesced. Indeed the fact that BOS and RBS were the biggest UK failures, makes it very hard to pin the whole thing on London.

          The Dome – in the longer term a major success that would have been unlikely to achieved so much elsewhere in the UK – was built by a party with a Northern power base, Ditto the Olympics with which there is the sub-text that foreigners were not prepared to go anywhere else in the UK. With railway subsidies, the Government is trying as hard as it can to spend money we haven’t got on pushing high speed rail North and that which goes on the London network is essential to keeping the golden goose on the move.

          As to the civil service etc, I am not claiming that the South pays for it all. I do however believe that on average individual Southerners pay far more than their per capita share. Indeed, a decade or so ago, it was widely reported that if the South-East could detach itself from the UK, it would be amongst the top 10 wealthiest countries in the world. It would not do so well now, but, nonetheless, very much better than any other region. And just in case you think this all regional chauvinism, I live in the Midlands.

          • TomTom

            “the centralised system was introduced because councils, particularly
            northern councils, were treating businesses as milch cows to fund
            ever-increasing levels of public spending.”No it was introduced by Margaret Thatcher because of Ken Livingstone at the GLC. Councils did not control public spending in Northern England….it was kept in place because Supermarkets loved it and it gave them an advantage over small shops. In some Northern cities there is a shortage of retail warehousing for markets because Business Rates are so high. ,,,,,, .RBS and BOS are not in Northern England and they are owned by The City…….but i forgot they are so dim in The City that the dimwit analysts snort cocaine rather than exercise Shareholder Control over major banks. Then again the FSA – located where exactly ? Has a fantastic record of Bank Supervision………..oh and lest we forget Lehman Bros. – based where ? Bankrupt in LONDON like Enron in LONDON….like Merrill Lynch in LONDON wiith taxpatyers picking up the tab.

            • mikewaller

              As I understand it, persecution mania is treatable. That said, there is some hope for you insofar as you haven’t yet held the City solely responsible for the myriad other banking failures that have occurred through the Western world since 2008. If ,sadly, you do get to that stage, see a professional.

              In the meantime I hope I can help. The over-arching fact is that a Government whom the South East of England would never have put in place, chose to muzzle the regulators because it was having too much fun spending the proceeds of banking irresponsibly on the kinds of “welfarism on stilts” that buys votes in Northern climes.

              As for the notion that the City owns the banks, forget it, In our wonderful world of globalised capitalism God knows who owns “our” banks. And like the dear old Brown Government, they sure weren’t going to ask any questions as long as the dosh kept rolling in.

              In view of all this, the best advice I can offer is that you channel all this animus into the establishment of new Northern banks that really will serve the local community and apply the kind of moral vigour we once thought pervaded all British banks. Should you succeed I, for one, would cheer you to the echo. They might even reform the City by example.

              • TomTom

                Corporation of the City of London – you clearly have no knowledge of financial structures or Offshore Banking or Shadow Banking…….you have no idea of cross-collateralisation or re-hypothecation. You are simply Ignorant

    • Dimoto

      The Oxfordshire Scot and the Anglo-Irishman, you mean ?
      Daft regionalist.