Coffee House

Nick Clegg softens his language on Labour

17 February 2014

8:56 AM

17 February 2014

8:56 AM

Nick Clegg’s comments on Radio 4 about the possibility of a coalition deal with Labour in 2015 are significant, not because the Deputy Prime Minister is airing the possibility of the Lib Dems striking a deal with the left rather than the right, but because of his shift in rhetoric. Clegg was perfectly clear in his ‘No, no, no’ speech at the party’s 2013 autumn conference in Glasgow that the Lib Dems could do a deal with either party and would tone down the excesses of a Tory or Labour-led government. But his language back then annoyed some people. He said:

‘Labour would wreck the recovery. The Conservatives would give us the wrong kind of recovery.’

Labourites read that as Clegg being quite clear that his instinctive leaning was towards a Conservative government because it would be easier to steer someone towards the right kind of recovery than it would be to stop another party out-and-out wrecking it. In tonight’s documentary, the Liberal Democrat leader says:

‘I think they’ve changed. I think there’s nothing like the prospect of reality in an election to get politicians to think again and the Labour Party, which is a party unused to sharing power with others is realising that it might have to.’


He adds that ‘there is just no doubt in my mind that if there were a Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition, we the Liberal Democrats would absolutely insist that government would not break the bank’. That’s hardly flirtatious: Clegg is still suggesting that Labour aren’t much cop at accounting. But in saying that ‘I think they’ve changed’, and then describing the Conservatives as ‘much more ideological’ and returning ‘to a lot of their familiar theme tunes’, the DPM is preparing anyone listening, whether from inside his party or in the other parties, for the possibility that the Lib Dems could tack left after the next election if the arithmetic demands it. Of course, the interesting question is which way Clegg would jump if the 2015 result meant neither the Tories nor Labour were the largest party and it was therefore possible to form a coalition with either.

But there is something quite amusing about Clegg’s criticism of the Conservatives in the documentary. He says:

‘I think it would be best for everybody if the Conservative Party were to rediscover a talent for actually talking to mainstream voters about mainstream concerns.’

Some in Clegg’s own party might wish the physician would heal himself on this matter: as I explained in November, the Lib Dems aren’t aiming for mainstream voters at all: they’re after a small and specific group of voters who don’t always hold mainstream concerns.

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Show comments
  • David Booth.

    Clegg has turned the LibDims into the tart of Westminster, a sanctimonious posh boy leading a gang of opportunistic hypocrites.

  • Tim Reed

    Here’s to hoping that this disgusting, sanctimonious cretin of a man and his odious little party of weirdos are reduced to such a rump in 2015 that they are in no position whatsoever to be the powerbrokers this time.

  • roma1950

    with luck he will be out in 2015,and retire to malaga to run a tapas bar.and the rest of the fib dems will be a ‘dead parrot’.

  • Paddy

    They deserve each other.

  • Raw England

    Yet more proof that democracy is literally dead. The Leftist Nick Clegg/Liberal Democrats shouldn’t even be anywhere NEAR any kind of power; the percentage of the country that supports them is only around 7 or 8% (most likely much lower than even that).

    Politics is dead. It has become so sour, so sickeningly unrepresentative of the native English that its hard to believe it’s happening.

    • HookesLaw

      Raw ignorance. Clegg is an idiot but got where he is by the simple manner of winning an election in his seat and then his party. Yet you say democracy is dead.
      If your brains were dynamite they would not blow your cap off.

      • Raw England

        Democracy is when the majorities wishes are carried out.

        The government and the entire political class do the exact opposite to what the people want. Across the board. Literally.

  • KestrelSprite

    This article and associated comments are all utterly pointless. In 2015 the electorate will give us a Labour government with a clear majority, as they have done so often before. The Lib Dems will be reduced to their “phone box” status of old and deservedly so. The Tories will be even more the party of southern England. The election is as good as lost and Tory long term planning should now be directed to 2020 when the rump of the UK will need rescuing again.

    • fubarroso

      Err shouldn’t that be “the UK will still need rescuing”?

  • Dr. C.

    I believe that Cleggs actions are those of a drowning man, clutching at straws; he knows that in the electoral evisceration awaiting him and his party in 2015 he will be on the receiving end of democratic decapitation via his party and this is a cynical and almost certainly unsuccessful attempt at skin-saving.

    The issue with Clegg – leaving aside his personal failings in the eyes of the Lib Dems and his poor decision making on coalition – is as much an issue with Cameron as with Clegg; how Cameron and his colleagues failed to win an overall majority in 2010 against one of the least popular governments of recent years is remarkable.

    • HookesLaw

      The Tories won more seats in one election than virtually at any other time in their history – nearly 100. More than Thatcher ever did. Labour were shafted by a massive margin again bigger than virtually any time in their history . Look at the seats where UKIP’s vote cost tories a victory. If labour win it will be UKIP again who gift it to them.
      The ‘debates’ gave the LDs a boost in 2010 and the general dissolusion with politics foisted by the expenses scandal – helped both the LDs and UKIP take an anti politics stance.

      Clegg and the LDs continually behave as if in opposition not government – they have been treating Tories as enemies not partners – this is a big gift to Labour. The LDs should have realised that they had to stick with the tories and if they had done so (they now seem to want to revert to being all things to all men — something UKIP have latched on to) they could fight an easily winnable campaign agaist labour.
      As it is the LDs have alienated both Labour and Tories and look like losing the chance to have any influence on govt.

  • Rossspeak

    Milliband might have Clegg – but the core Labour party members won’t. They see him as the duplicitous turncoat he is.
    Labour obviously hope the polls are right – that UKIP are eroding the Tory vote in the South and the Libdem vote is being decimated. If so – Labour will be gifted an outright win.
    If not – I suggest that the price of any LAB/LIB pact , or coalition, would be a new Leader for the Libdems – consigning Clegg to the dustbin of political history, where he belongs.

    • Makroon

      The Brown gang have never been much bothered by the wishes of the ‘core Labour party members’.

  • Tony_E

    And the re-alignment of the left continues, as it has for the last three years. For anyone who has been watching this simply isn’t news.

    These are the final stages of the ‘Anti Conservative’ offer for 2015 that was always coming. The orange bookers might have had some control of the party at a parliamentary level, but on the ground the local activists and majority of Lib Dem voters are far to the left of them, and hence their vote at 2010 was already diminished by Clegg’s attempt to differentiate from the current Labour government, and the real fear of the left wing electorate of a Tory government.

    It’s sheer electoral calculus – the coalition has been a disaster for the Lib Dems. Untrusted now by both sides of the political divide, they have to use rely on the tactical votes of Labour supporters for survival.

  • Terence Hale

    Nick Clegg softens his language on Labour. The political prostitutes at work again.

  • Peter Stroud

    Good luck to Miliband, if he ever gets into bed with the LibDems. He will have to endure treachery, ( remember Clegg’s reneging on the boundaries act), petulance and continuously being briefed against. God, it could be worse for him than working for Gordon Brown.

    • Makroon

      Nope, if the electorate chooses to endorse the Brown gang, they will get exactly what they voted for – and the LibDems will learn a harsh lesson in reality as Balls brings them to heel with a level of thuggery that will be beyond the experience of the LibDem ‘delicate flowers’.

  • HD2

    There’s a niche the LDs can occupy?
    I thought they were being exterminated like Danish giraffes with similar genetic defects.

  • Colonel Mustard

    So many questions – so little time.

    Will the British people really buy into the concept of a permanent, unelected Lib Dem “government”?

    Will the Lib Dems be as much an “opposition in government” to Labour as they have been to the Tories?

    Will the illiberal and undemocratic nature of the “Liberal Democrats” find common cause, if not common purpose, in a resurgence of the authoritarian, nanny-snooper Labour we all experienced from 1997 to 2010?

    Can the British people continue to sustain the barrage of new laws and regulations from Parliament and the EU as the political elite (especially the women) continue their obsession with “something must be done” knee-jerk bad law making at an unprecedented rate? What next one wonders?

    Under an illiberal undemocratic and authoritarian nanny-snooper government will British culture and intercourse be reduced to political correctness conformity around the leftist tropes of minority race, religion, gender and sexuality? Will we be further constrained and “chilled” in our speech, writing and even thoughts?

    The wannabe Fuhrer has already announced that climate change affects our ‘national security’. Can we therefore expect more draconian coercion and bad law to enforce this assertion on the basis that stinking governments since about 1992 have used the catch-all ‘national security’ to incrementally take away our inherited freedom and our freedom from a state police?

    • Kitty MLB

      Excellent post as ever dear Colonel.
      They are most certainly the opposition in government,
      and the enemy within- as you will know Cicero said.
      There is absolutely nothing democratic about the Lib Dems.
      The Lib Dums, will be eaten alive within a coalition with Labour,
      the smaller party within this coalition have had far more freedom and a voice
      then they ever deserved- a case of preach freedom abroad and practice
      tyranny at home.

    • Makroon

      Clegg is easy to knock, but he is the only reason that the LibDems have maintained even a semblance of discipline and coherence in government. Once he is removed, the dam will break and the rest will join in enthusiastically with whatever horrors Balls and Red have lined up for us.

      • 2trueblue

        The weasel Cable came form the Liebore camp anyway so he will be quite at home.

        • HookesLaw

          Vince in his senile delusion probably sees the chance of being Lib/Labour chancellor!

          • 2trueblue

            Not a chance, Balls has got to have his chance to really destroy what he started.
            What happens if the Scots get their independence in 2014, and at the election in 2015 we have Liebore winning seats in Scotland and interfering in the UK? HAs anyone thought anything through going forward?

            • Colonel Mustard

              Some have.


              If the Scots vote ‘Yes’ and Labour win they could get a year of “running wild” (like Yamamoto) and do so much damage to our constitution and rule of law that the ejection of the 59 Scots MPs would come too late anyway.

              • the viceroy’s gin

                Yes, if only one could whistle up a squadron of P-38’s and have done with the vandals.

              • 2trueblue

                Not quite a year, but enough time to do damage, I agree. The possibilities are interesting, who knows what will happen? As yet I am not putting my money on any of the options! Tantalising really. I can see why some Tories think that if we got rid of the Scots we would be rid of Liebore for a long time. Then the Tories could push through the boundary changes and have some real fun……… Nearly worth it?

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        How terrifyingly perceptive.

      • HookesLaw

        Thus vote Conservative.

    • HookesLaw

      If you want to stop the wannabe (as opposed I hope to the Wannsee) Fuhrer then vote Conservative – its not ( even V2) rocket science.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Er, I voted Conservative in 2010 in the belief that New Labour’s nanny-snooper state would be “swept away”. I got a Lib Dem government I didn’t vote for and it wasn’t.

    • 2trueblue

      Yes to all of the above if they do not get out and vote. So far they have proved too dumb to see the writing on the wall. Inertia is the biggest threat we have.

    • Drabble

      You, sir, are a flat earther.

      Your ostrich like posture in all things political and geopolitical encourage others of the do nothing mentality to let our country slide into mediocrity.

      The great world leaders are now at one over the enormity of the burdens of climate change and the day on day news of floods and other natural calamities emphasizes this.

      “JAKARTA, Indonesia — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday called climate change perhaps the world’s “most fearsome” destructive weapon and mocked those who deny its existence or question its causes, comparing them to people who insist the Earth is flat.”

      • Colonel Mustard

        You mean I haven’t jumped on the Shadow-Comintern Agenda 21 bandwagon with its lucrative taxpayer funded sinecures and coercive dogma? You’re right. I haven’t.

        I remain distrustful of agendas that worry more about silencing dissent by pejorative smears rather than persuading the rightness of their cause. The clue is the first line of your comment.

      • Makroon

        Kerry said that as a volcano blew in Java, creating 100-200K displaced persons, making our local difficulties seem like small beer. Or does the brilliant Secretary Kerry think volcanoes are also the result of AGW ? (Notice how they have stopped using AGW and use the nebulous “climate change” ?)

    • rtj1211

      I’d like you to prove that the Coalition Agreement is more than 40% Lib Dem manifesto and less than 60% Conservative Party manifesto.

      If you can’t, then your writings represent lies and distortions.

      The Liberal Democrats would not go into Coalition to enact the Conservative Party manifesto. That would be highly illiberal, anti-democratic and unethical, as only 35% of those who bothered to vote voted Conservative.

      Now as a bad-tempered, intolerant scribe who does not respect the outcomes of democratic elections, you need to ask yourself who you are to define democracy and the will of the British People.

      So you’re a vapid hater of Liberal Democrats. Well there are millions and millions out there who hate people like you too. Millions. Whether you like them or not doesn’t matter. They have the right to vote like you do.

      There is not a jot of possibility that a LIberal Democrat party of 20 seats could have more than 10% of their manifesto pledges honoured in a Coalition Agreement MK II. Their influence is directly proportional to how much electoral clout they have. That is what coalition means, democracy means and British values means.

      What you need to do most of all is ask yourself whether your kind of British values, namely vituperative thuggery, hatred and claims that anything other than your vision of the world is unBritish, is actually what the majority think.

      I think you’ll find that it doesn’t……….

      PS I didn’t vote Libdem at the last election……..and I certainly didn’t vote for Labour either.

      • Colonel Mustard

        I suggest you read the COALITION AGREEMENT and refrain from inventing assertions in my comment that are not even there. The only vituperative hatred around here is the ad hominem sort you are peddling in your comment.

        You have no more warrant to speak for the majority than I do and I have never sought to do.

        I don’t have to ask myself anything. I know how I voted, I know what I got, I read the Coalition Agreement and I know what has been done and what has not been done. I have a view on that and am entitled to express it, whether you care for that or not. My comment was about the prospects of a Lib Dem/Labour coalition based on experience. It appears that I am not alone in my concerns.

  • Seldom Seen

    Like Salmond and his independence referendum, Clegg assumes that his party will hold the balance of power at the next election; to him, it’s a foregone conclusion. And also like Salmond, he has no Plan B. What if the Lib Dems get a kicking at the next election (which various private polls suggest they very well might) and haven’t enough seats to produce another coalition? What does he do then? What if the British electorate don’t want Milliband and Balls at any price? Clegg is mistaken if he thinks that a) he’s been a huge success in government and b) been forgiven for the student loan cock-up in 2010.

  • Kitty MLB

    ‘Though those that are betray’d do feel the treason sharply,
    yet the traitor stands in the worst case of woe’.
    This is the man who said everything was in the national interest,
    not only did his miserable bunch of treehuggers and yoghurt knitters ( as someone calls them) hold both main parties to ransom, they purposely,
    in my opinion stopped the Conservatives from reaching their full potential
    in the duty towards this country- The enemy within !
    Clegg was told by Merkell that if a coalition was successful the main party
    will get the credit, but if a coalition fails then the smaller party will get the blame.
    Yet I will say a consequence of failure is constant coalitions, and Cleggie
    who should be known as Lago holding all the cards- he hopes.
    Assuming they do not lose their deposit.
    Milipede and Cleggie, and bonkers Balls what a wretched combination.
    I am not a supporter of Cameron, and never will be, but he was foolish to trust those

  • MC73

    Clegg would form a government with Mephistopheles and the BNP if he thought he could keep his little bit of power and influence. And he’d cheerfully betray them too.

  • Michael Mckeown

    Hmm, the poodle is looking fora new master.

    • Kitty MLB

      Wallace would remove the muzzle from gromit who
      would eat the poodle alive.

  • Nicholas chuzzlewit

    An alliance between Miliband and Clegg seems perfectly feasible. Both are utterly unprincipled, ideologically deluded, financially incompetent and petulant with absolutely no interest in the welfare of Britain or its people. They both wish to gain/retain power and so enjoy the life of authority to which they believe they are entitled. They can thus spend 5 years banning things, criminalising ordinary people , promoting leftist attitudes and destroying the economy whilst pursuing electorally favourable white elephants. It is a match made in Heaven.

    • helicoil

      Providing, of course, that the lib dems don’t just simply lose their deposit like they have done a lot recently

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        We can but hope that the unprincipled rabble are rejected comprehensively by the electorate.

    • HookesLaw

      It seems that Miliband thinks he can win on his own (he sees the gift of UKIP which keeps giving) and it appears he has given Clegg the brush off.
      I have the feeling that the British public can recognise a charlatan (and his party) when they see one and Clegg’s gyrations will do him no good.

      • Alexsandr

        british public see millipede, clegg and Cameron as equally useless, equally charlatan and equally unfit to govern. And stamped out of the same mould.

        • Kitty MLB

          Agree with you to a certain point.
          All three leaders are pigmies who walk in the shadow of political giants of the past.
          They are an effervescent hodgepodge, cloned Pr Creations,
          without gravitas, egotistical, guilty of pomposity,
          and incompetence.
          The Labour Party should be thrown into a dustbin,
          and The pointless lib Dems sent off to Brussels as soon as possible.
          Yet, The Conservative Party ( who have not been in government! we have had a Lib Dem led Condem Nation
          of a government in charge, with the Camservative bunch)
          Hopefully the Conservative Party,will chose a Conservative Leader next time- In Cameron’s defence, I believe he always
          had good intensions unlike Blair ( and indeed Milipede and Cleggie)

          • HookesLaw

            What a load of self indulgent guff. One day you will come up with something coherent – but I’m not holding my breath.

            Cameron is a Conservative leader – he is no different from any number of Conservative leaders of the past. ‘Conservative’ to you equates to right wing loony toon and no such party would gain power. Labour pray for just such a leader in the same way that Foot was a gift for Maggie in 83.

            • Kitty MLB

              If Cameron is a Conservative then I will eat my foot!
              He is a Lib Dem in everything but name.
              ‘ right wing loony tunes’.
              Yes the grass root Conservatives are quite aware of what
              the little Cameroon Pavlov dogs think of them,
              perhaps if you spent less time leaving little puddles
              around the Tory Oak , you might be aware of what they think.
              Might I remind you, that Cameron did not get a majority
              when against that loony tune Brown.
              People want a return to traditional Conservative values
              instead of Cameron’ s failed modernising agenda.
              Might I also remind you, that you will not get very far
              whilst you insult Conservatives, who you do
              actually need now.
              Especially with UKIP snapping at your heels.
              We really could do with a Lady Thatcher right now,
              but such as life.

              • HookesLaw

                I’ll get you your walking stick.
                I am a Conservative – you are the one going round insulting Conservatives in case you had not noticed – you insult anyone who is not a right wing nut job like you.
                If Cameron is not a conservative why are hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs being lost?
                How come tens of billions of efficiency savings are being made in the public sector.
                How come welfare is being reformed – in the teeth of lefty opposition. How come lefty NI increases were stopped how come corporation tax has been cut?
                How come education is being taken from local authority control.
                May I remind you that the tories won more seats than ever before in modern times – more than Thatcher ever did.

                You talk utter complete mindless ignorant twaddle. I am a Conservative and have been for 50 years I stand for real conservative values not the tommy rot that you imagine them to be.

                BTW Thatcher took us into the single market which UKIP nutjobs would have us leave and consign all our inward industrial investment to the dustbin.

                • ButcombeMan

                  Some of that is true but it does not get Cameron support and not all the people who have withdrawn support are what you might call, “right wing loony tunes”.

                  Name calling of people you would like to bring into the fold, indeed need in the fold, is plain bloody stupid. Both you and Cameron do it.

                  The ridiculous Theresa May damaged the Tory party forever by her “nasty party” nonsense.

                  Both you and Cameron, would do better to examine exactly why Cameron is not supported, by many long time Conservative voters or the great mass of floating voters,

                • Kitty MLB

                  Might I just add that if one were to eat ones perfumed little foot, they
                  would need a wheelchair and not a stick- because you would
                  still need the use of two feet with a stick.
                  To whom have I been popping my sword into?
                  I slay Cameron quite often ( but have reduced that)
                  I might point out- sensitive little souls here clearly-
                  you are the one being insulting- I do it in a whimsical way.
                  Real Conservative values- borrowing more money then Brown, making the party of Thatcher look like incompetent
                  laughing stock s and the camservatives are the junior members of the coalition.
                  Increasing overseas aid, not being tough enough on welfare
                  reforms, sacking Andrew Lansley who was doing a brilliant job dealing with the NHS.
                  The pupil premium, The Green Energy fallacy,
                  People also do not agree with Gay marriage ( that is a personal choice)
                  Now perhaps you should just calm down and sit in a dark room.

                • Ooh!MePurse!

                  Won more seats than Thatcher? Eh?

      • Kitty MLB

        So morally, socially and economically bankrupt Labour think they can win do they ?
        Political vultures not so unlike the Lib Dem pantomime horses,
        who control the government, with Janus as their leader.
        Political woman of the night, I also hope the country see that
        as well as the deceitful and treacherous shroud Labour hide beneath.

    • Shazza

      Totally agree. Remind me, what do you call someone who is prepared to sell themselves to the highest bidder?

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        Tony Blair.

    • Makroon

      Correct. Except, something tells me that Clegg would be jettisoned before a Vince/Farron led clique would chuck in their twenty seats to the greater Labour cause.

      • 2trueblue

        They may not have 20 seats to offer, it may be a lot less.

    • Raw England

      To make it even more sickening, both of them aren’t even ethnically English or British. Clegg is a Liberal Fascist mongrel/immigrant, and Milliband is also an immigrant.

      • rtj1211

        Well, your darling Boris Johnson isn’t really British by your definition. He’s the spawn of polyglot immigrants with Russian, Turkish and a few other bits thrown in besides.

        By your definitions, Cameron’s the only true Brit there.

        • Raw England

          Correct. Which only proves my point: That immigrants are dictating our nation on every level.