Coffee House

The Liberal Democrats, the natural party of government?

19 May 2013

1:54 PM

19 May 2013

1:54 PM

If four years ago, a Liberal Democrat politician had attempted to portray the Lib Dems as the natural party of government we all would have laughed. But that is just what Danny Alexander tried to do on The Sunday Politics. Being interviewed by Andrew Neil, he implicitly contrasted Lib Dem steadiness with Tory in-fighting. He said:

“You know some people at the time in 2010 said that it would be difficult to keep a coalition going because one party might not be able to remain united and disciplined. Let me reassure you and your viewers that Liberal Democrats will make sure that this government continues to be strong and stable enough to be able to take the difficult decisions in the years to come, no matter what’s happening in other parties.”

Now, obviously, this is a little bit opportunistic. But it does illustrate a danger for the Tories. They are, to the bafflement and amusement of the Clegg circle, spending their time talking about internal arguments rather than on what the government is actually doing.


The irony is that they’ve chosen to do this at just the time when there is actually some good economic news to talk about. It’s striking that George Osborne now feels confident enough to write an upbeat piece on the economy for The Mail on Sunday.

The question for the Tories is whether they can recover their sense of discipline. If they can, there is still everything to play for politically given that Labour’s lead is not that large and the economy is improving. But, as I argue in the Mail on Sunday today, both Cameron and the rest of the party will need to change the way they operate if the Tories are to win again.

UPDATE: The video of the interview is here:-

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • Herbert Thornton

    Surely, virtually everything the Lib Dems stand for (including in particular Gay “marriage”) is more accurately descibed as “Unnatural’?

  • paulus

    All that had to be done was stick to the plan the conservatives were unassailable couldn’t be beaten. We were marching on to that, just couldnt be beaten. Cameron and his cronys of perverts, parasites and drug addicts have lost this election. Your going to cut your leg off and eat it. and if you dont ill rip it off and beat with it

  • Smithersjones2013

    The Libdems anaturalparty of government? This is my response:

    Not least because they have defecated over Cabinet government and collective responsibility, their policies are excrement and the go into hysterical apoplexy every time things don’t go well for them. Not to mention the likes of the verminous Oakeshott and his perpetual briefings or Cable and his use of his position to further his vendettas. The Libdems (or Lib Despots as we fondly think of them) are a disgrace.

    Natural Party of government? 7th behind the BNP in South Shields. Says it all.

  • paulus

    I have just read it again, get a bow wire around his neck get him gone. Your pissing around , you spineless bastards. We cannot win an election, which is winnable , he is a liabiliby.

  • paulus

    Oh, they will be unless this is cauterised.We need to get rid of anyone, with an association to Cameron. Lance them lance them quickly. The next election is all that is important. There is a fight going on and its a fatal wound. I warned them not to pick that fight, they are vicious when they start. They are so intelligent black becomes white, night becomes day, there is no reality.

    The Tory graph and the Times, you have to be out of your mind to think they are on your side.They are bought and paid for delivered up.
    You will be hammered, bound , gagged and delivered.

    It needs to be sorted out: negotiate.

  • Austin Barry

    “The Liberal Democrats, the natural party of government?”

    Er, no.

    • Noa


      Well, yes, but then so is epsom salt or bath salt, which, like the Lib Dems, is used to keep the Coalition afloat.

      But even more serendipitously, I have been delighted to learn that it is the coagulant used in the making of the Lib Dem supporters’ favourite food, tofu.

  • ButcombeMan

    One wonders if James Forsyth really believes this garbage.

    The LibDems are in denial and are funking having anything thing to do with the greatest, all encompassing problem of our times, the future of the EU and the UK relatiionship with whatever remains of it.

    Labour are doing the same thing. Red Ed in a funk.

    The Tories despite their difficulties with it, (and I think Cameron is handling things badly because he is or at least was, also tempted to funk it) are at least having a debate. They alone have recognised that things have changed on the EU-forever.

    I would just say this to you James;

    Avoidance is not a problem solving solution.

    Parties that try to go into the next election without a clearly thought through strategy on the UK/EU relationship, including a real commitment to allowing the public a say, will suffer grieviously.

    UKIP is not going away, as 2014 will prove.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      “I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said.” — William F.Buckley Jr.

    • Queen Amidala

      i think if you think that europe explains the rise of ukip, that you’re sorely mistaken and no amount of tory anguish on the subject will make them go away.

  • Daniel Maris

    Fraser and James seem to have appointed themselves the Lords of Diversion posting any old nonsense to distract people from the rather obvious big story that gay marriage has now resurfaced a hugely damaging issue, now tied up with swivelgate, one which is seriously p’ing off activists and threatened MPs.

    Here if ever there was one, is a self-inflicted wound: not in the manifesto, not in the coalition agreement and not wanted by the Conservative Party as a body of people.

    • Daniel Maris

      This is actually the main news all over the press and Telegraph are recording activists going to UKIP.

  • Rossspeak

    If telemachus honestly believes that Labour is not only the “natural party of Government” but was responsible for the economic growth from 1997 there is, indeed, little hope that the General Public will have any comprehension of the damage successive Socialist Governments in the UK ( let alone France) have done.

    • Colonel Mustard

      The General Public have been largely infantilised, cowed and/or brainwashed by New Labour and the socialist hegemony (the web of Common Purpose) actually governing this country. Any dissent to their orthodoxy is marginalised and gradually being criminalised.

      We are heading for an unholy mess, literally, but they will keep the lid on it with their politicised stormtroopers and it will become just another seething totalitarian state with a wealthy, ring fenced elite running things.

  • David Lindsay

    Labour would never touch the Lib Dems. But it isn’t going to need to, anyway.

    Since time immemorial, half of Labour MPs (two thirds under Blair, but now back down to half) and anywhere up to three quarters, certainly two thirds, of Conservative MPs have been non-conservative non-Socialists. Why join the Lib Dems?

    • Wessex Man

      Yes David I see th zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    • Noa

      What deals have been done between Labour and the Lib Dems to prevent boundary reform?

      • David Lindsay

        None. It was just a bad Bill. Not this Government’s first or last never to make it to the Statute Book.

        • Noa

          If so then more fool the Lib Dems for acting out of pique and not realpolitik.
          And it would show them to be even less fit for a role in government than now.

  • Alan Douglas

    I used to think quite highly of Danny. But if he is offering the LDs as stable, while Cable-stitch is busy manoevering for Clegg’s job, he’s a swivel-eye himself.

    Alan Douglas

  • the viceroy’s gin

    But of course, and take a look at the compelling photograph of that ginger rodent. Who wouldn’t clamor for him? He’s almost as inspiring as the mush-faced twins, Cameron and Osborne.

  • Colonel Mustard

    More like the natural party of misgovernment. They should change their name too or face prosecution under the Trade Descriptions Act. Not very liberal and not very democratic.

    The prospect of those clowns, fruitcakes and loonies being in permanent coalition with Labour’s latest re-invention of itself hardly bears contemplation. After 16 years this country has been FUBAR by the lot of them.

  • Russell

    If four years ago, a Liberal Democrat politician had attempted to
    portray the Lib Dems as the natural party of government we all would
    have laughed.”

    We Still Do!!!

    • telemachus

      There is only one natural party of Government
      The party that gave us the most prolific run of prosperity for a century for the decade from 1997
      Sad that Lehman blew us off course for a couple of years but the public saw us engineered back to growth before Osborne blew all that away

      • Russell

        You seem to have some amnesia regarding Labour racking up a £160billion deficit in their final year. That is certainly a growth in annual deficit.

        • Hookeslaw

          It was the deficits in the other years that crated the false sense of well being that tele parades as economic genius.

        • Colonel Mustard

          Don’t feed the troll!

      • Noa

        You plough a lonely furrow here, Tele.

        And on relentlessly stony ground too.

        • telemachus

          Reading this blog 3 years ago I remember the laudatory excitement at the prospect of a Cameron Government
          What now
          Virtually every poster despises the Cameron ruling clique
          But for ideological reasons no-one can give us a credible alternative
          Everyone on this blog ignores the only possible route back from the decline being inflicted on us
          I detect despair in almost all the media
          Even the Observer in lauding Howe this morning paints a gloomy future
          I on the other hand am buoyant about the future
          I see us having the ability to pull ourselves out of the mire and achieve the prosperity and well being we all experienced ten years ago
          And onward and upward with our European partners

          • Hexhamgeezer

            ‘Reading this blog 3 years ago I remember the laudatory excitement at the prospect of a Cameron Government’

            You acknowledge that your political stance allows the re-writing of history and the dispatch to the Gulag of those who point this out.

            You are very lucky that the Spec allows enterobius a platform

            • Noa

              A platform which is denied to genuine conservative posters with original thoughts to offer.

              Enfranchise Frank P!

      • David H Cockburn

        Amazingly I suspect the Telemachus actually believes this. He honestly thinks that it was only Lehman which blew the Labour managed economy off course. No mention of Northern Rock, debt, deficit, big government, declining productivity and the rest of the unholy mess that Labour left in its wake. There is no hope for him.

        • telemachus

          I guess you forget that not only did the banking crisis originate in the US but it took our PM Gordon to show them how to sort it out

          • Hexhamgeezer

            And the people rejected the genius? What hope does Balls have?

            Oh the tragedy. Time to emigrate tele? Wishaw’s quite nice.

            Or replace the people – oh! I’m forgetting..that projects still ongoing.

          • ButcombeMan

            Remind me Tele.

            Northern Crock was before Lehman surely?

            A British Bank, taking British deposits, lending to British people, supervised by a Brown/Balls invented system?

            Have I got anything wrong?

            No answer will also be an answer.

            • ButcombeMan

              And answer, came there non.

              Bluff called.

              The telmachus fox, shot as it put its head out its den.

              It was too easy.

              Pathetic. As utterly abject a failure as Brown & Balls.

  • Alexsandr

    Any party that goes into a coalition with the slippery limp dums will ensure they have a watertight coalition agreement, because the lib dems have shown themselves to be unprincipled and opportunistic. If millipede considers them to be the key for him to get into no 10 I hope his party examine their record in coalition 2010 – 2015

    • Hookeslaw

      And the thick tories who voted out lords reform?
      Wake up.
      losing boundary changes of the nonsense that is the house of lords?? How thick is that?

      • Tony_E

        Not really. HoL reform would have eventually diminished the authority of the HoC, and if the Peers were elected they would soon have flexed their muscles (and their Socialist/Liberal majority) to work against any right of centre government. I don’t think that the constitutional settlement of the Parliament Acts would have survived long – and the Lib Dems would have had real government by full Proportional Representation.

        It was self immolation, but in a good cause.

  • Hookeslaw

    Its people like you who are happy to ferment the infighting.

    In fact if there is one thing the libdems are not united on its the very fundamentals of govt. Spending education and welfare reforms.
    They do not care about inconsequences like gay marriage and Europe.

    • Abhay

      Europe is not inconsequential as an issue. I would say its the most serious! Get your thinking faculties checked.

      • Hookeslaw

        Ask the public.
        And if its so important why are the right in this country determined to hand the country over to Europhile labour.
        We are not in the Euro. Being Out of Europe and in the single market is a marginal difference to being In and not worth the threat of handing over power to Labour. We are going to have a referendum if we can get a tory govt for heavens sake!

        Whatever happens between now and 2015 does not matter tuppence if we get a Labour govt then.

        • ButcombeMan

          “The public” are not always the best judge of the importance of issues like the EU, that is until, after having expressed frustration with some element of public affairs, it is explained to them how helpless Westminster is to correct matters -because of the EU.

          You Hookey -are reasonably intelligent, you KNOW how significant the interference in the internal affairs of the Uk, the EU is. You KNOW it goes far beyond what the UK people were sold and thought they were getting.

          You KNOW the “ever closer union” terms of the political project that is the EU. You know that full engagement with that, is against British culture and could never be countenanced, here, at any price. The British just will not go down that route. Enough is enough.

          So your denial of the significance of the EU/Uk arrangements or the importance of the current debate on it, is duplicitous. It is a deceit. it is a lie.

          It is that very duplicity, amplified by LibLabCon politicians that has changed the debate. The public has seen through it.

          Every time you try it on, or use the “blackmail” trap, by saying we will get a Labour government, you reinforce the opposition to your position.

          Blackmail no longer works. Anyone, who thinks this issue can be ducked, massaged around, avoided, or the public conned again, is away with the fairies.

          That is why Cameron has struggled. He missed that, undoubtedly he planned to finesse it again as so many politicians have done before him,.

          That is why Cameron is being led and is not leading.

          There is no going back.

          • Hexhamgeezer

            Well said,

            And if labour get in – so what? – this is not short term protest it is a long term de-coupling. Unfortunately hooks loves the status quo and is fundamentally happy with the liblabcon Management.

            • ButcombeMan

              If Labour get in, the campaign continues.

              I do not know what Hookey really thinks. Maybe he is just frightened of the economically illiterate Balls, running things again-I am too.

              I just think some things are too important to gloss over. At some point we have to take a stand.

              The corrupt and intellectually bankrupt EU project, is one of them.

              The campaign now, will never stop until it is won.

  • Abhay

    Democracy is a bit ‘disorderly’ and a bit imperfect. That is how it should be, More important than discipline in a democracy is for a party to win votes from the people and get a majority. I don’t see Lib-Dems do that in 2015. Unless they are thinking already that no party would get a majority and coalition would be needed in which case they will step in. They will face a stiff challenge from UKIP.

    • Portendorfer

      Wrong Abhay- UKIP are spoilers.
      The only seats they will get are defections.
      The Libdems will be wiped out.
      It will be a straight Labour Tory fight and events this weekend show that the Tories have lost the plot.
      Voters dislike disunity.

      • Abhay

        Well Port, I don’t think it matters how you characterise UKIP. They have brought Europe and immigration issues centre-stage and compelled Con-Lib-Lab to take those issues on board. They are a welcome change from the PC-ridden culture we normally get to see. UKIP will be disruptive for all the right reasons.

        • Noa

          Well said, and of course UKIP may well hold the balance of power, and will certainly affect it, in the 2015 plus Parliament.

          • Abhay


            They should focus on the European elections next year and try and marginalise the Lib-Lab-Con candidates.

            Its not just the Tory votes they should be after but Lab-Lib as well. Especially Lib, since they have been exposed as a party with no programme. The only thing that can upset that calculus is if Lib decide to sack Clegg and install Cable.

          • Daniel Maris

            We may well see a series of defections from Tory MPs convering to UKIP in 2014 if UKIP do particularly well at the Euro and local authority elections. I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up with 10 MPs in 2015, but of course a lot will depends on events, dear boy.