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Clegg over-reach and cuddle up to Cameron both mistakes

Posted on 26 April 2010 | 11:04am

I wonder if Nick Clegg is not beginning to over-reach himself in stepping up the kind of demands he would make in support of either a Tory or Labour Prime Minister.

It is of course in his interests to keep the focus as much on process as on policy, because it is the former that gave him his remarkable post TV Debate 1 boost; but the latter that is responsible for the apparent peaking (usually in my experience followed by a fall unless it comes right on voting day) of support.

It is difficult for him to avoid the process questions when, with the polls as they are, they point to his pivotal position within a possible hung Parliament. But what he has done in the past 24 hours is signal that far from being the more attractive alternative to David Cameron, he is now openly ruminating on the possibility of being the other side of the Cameron coin, whilst being far more agressive about the possibilities of working with Labour under Gordon Brown.

The Lib Dem activists I know are unlikely to be that keen on a Cameron-Clegg government. The Tories I know are unlikely to welcome the commitment to electoral reform Cameron would have to give, which would effectively mean John Major was the last Tory leader to get an overall majority. And members of the public I know who are flirting with Clegg are doing so in part because he did well in the first debate, but also because they see it as a cost-free way of getting change without getting Cameron.

But that is the problem. What you end up with is Cameron. And the reason the Tories are not home and dry already, despite such favourable weather for them, is that the country does not seem to want Cameron.

Meanwhile, in a piece of spinology worthy of the best, the Tories have managed to persuade the more gullible among the media that they are now able to extend their list of Labour target seats.

What their briefing actually indicates is that despite all the focus on Clegg, the real battle remains in Labour-Tory marginals, and the ‘vote Clegg, get Cameron’ approach is the one likeliest to work best for Labour in those seats.

It is partly, I admit, wishful thinking, but also my experience of observing David Cameron over the past four years, and Mr Clegg over the past few weeks, that leads me to believe Cameron is still struggling to break through with the voters he needs for an overall majority, and that the Clegg bubble may well burst in the next few days.

What matters then is where the air from that bubble goes, whether it falls left, right, up, down or to none of the above. One thing is for sure – the Tories’ belief that it will all go their way, if Labour’s weekend canvas returns are anything to go by, is mistaken.

This election has had many twists and turns already, of which Mr Clegg’s rise has been the most dramatic. But there are plenty more to come.

** GB at the Royal College of Nursing at the moment. Storming it. Showing that when it comes to substance and policy, he beats the other two every time. Clegg/Cameron for PR, GB for PM. Powering through on substance. All to play for as economy moves even more centre stage.

*** Buy The Blair Years online and raise cash for Labour

  • Simon Patterson

    Nick Clegg in bed with Cameron… it’s a frightening thought!

    Personally, I think Clegg’s beginning to believe his own hype. He’s desperate to be Thatcher.

  • Chris lancashire

    You complaining of spinology!
    Keep banging on that Brown is substance, Clegg and Cameron are PR – someone might believe you. In point of fact, both Liberal and Conservative manifestoes have considerable more substance than New Labours and both the other leaders have provided more policy than Brown’s tractor statistics reeling.

    Labour 3rd in the polls, Burnley relegated. Still, Things Can Only Get Better – can’t they?

  • colin morley

    Alistair – There is NO way that Clegg will get into bed with Cameron. They are worlds apart and anyone as politically in touch as you knows that for a fact. Of course Clegg has to position himself as a future leader, because if he doesn’t then he looks like just a third party again. The reality is that if Labour do not get another overall majority then they can form a government with Clegg. In my view this would be healthy for democracy and ensure that the “wilder” policies of Labour and some of the disliked policies of the LDs would not be implemented. A refreshing change without the spectre of another Tory government. I honestly believe it is now the best you can hope for.

  • Andrew Holden

    I would say the key to this election is in the North and the Midlands. Here Lab has lost a lot of youths and C2DE class voters to the Libs. I would focus most of my time and money in these areas. And the message should be clearly JOBS JOBS JOBS. Labour strategy in this regard has been correct from word go. You have focussed on the economy and jobs all they way through. The problem with Labour however seems to be GB and his massive unfavourables.

    You have to stick to your mantra of jobs and economy, and be more positive with your messages about how things will improve again from here under Labour.
    The economy, jobs, the NHS, Education.

    Remember, just hearing a negative message eventually turns people off.

    A. Holden

  • Nick


    With regards to canvass returns, I am really not sure who you have been talking to. It must have been either Lord Lucan the Labour canvasser, or Lord Mandelson. Labour activists on the ground are about as plentiful in this election as Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. You are going to need to invent another Dodgy Dossier soon, to explain away the massive defeat that Brown is heading towards. There is zero enthusiasm for your brand of Labour on the doorsteps that I have canvassed. There is worse than derision for the Labour leader.

    Its time for change.

  • Mark Wright

    A tactical mistake from Clegg. His popularity rests on his being the new honest face of politics relatively unscathed by the recent corruption and controversy. The electorate would not react kindly to a Lib Dem leader who appears eager to abandon his principles at the first whiff of power.

    And that is precisily what Clegg is doing by seeming to move towards the possibility of a coalition with Cameron. By signaling an interest in a coalition with the Tories he then opens himself up to answering questions on all their policies as well as his own. And many Tory/Lib Dem proposals are just plain contradictory.

    How can Clegg talk about the inherent unfairness of cutting inheritance tax for the wealthy and then speculate on the possiblity of sharing government with the party who staedfastly refuse to drop the proposal despite the change in economic climate since that policy announcement in 2007?

    On the flip side how can Cameron and the Conservative Party consider pairing with the Lib Dems when Vince Cable’s commitment to the £2 million ‘Mansion Tax’ is a significant and symbolic part of a Lib Dem manifesto based around the idea of fairness and justice?

    The Lib Dems and The Conservatives in coalition is a circle that cannot be squared.

  • Al Rhodes

    Alastair – either you and your team do something, or we are doomed to 30 years of Tory permarule.
    how about getting some of G’s splendid speeches on telly?

    these are darks times.
    why are the Tories like the Daleks – just when you think you’ve gotten rid of the fuckers back they come.
    And a very similar social policy too!!

  • Matthew Patrick

    Nick, my canvassing in the North West (a seat that the Tories are favourites to win) has shown me a considerable level of support for Labour still exists.

    Key messages I’ve got:

    ‘I don’t like David Cameron’
    ‘You don’t deserve it, but I’m voting Labour’
    ‘Labour may have made mistakes, but they are the best option’

    Very few people want DC – three people I’ve spoken to have expressed support for DC and one of those was on the basis that he supports fox hunting.

    Nick Clegg has blown the race wide open but it is interesting to see very few people I speak to consider the Lib Dems a serious vote. It was good to see John Prescott come down and support us at the weekend, too!

    Haven’t yet met someone who can explain to me why the Inheritance Tax policy of the Conservatives is a good idea. I don’t know why Labour, Lib Dems and political journalists don’t question harder on this policy. – GB at the next debate needs to turn to Cameron and say ‘One question David. One vital and important question. For everything you say about us being in this together. Explain to me and explain to the people of this country why you are committed to raising the rate of IHT so that only the richest people in the land benefit financially. Personally, it sounds like a throwback to the Tories of old where you protect your millionaire backers and leave the rest of the country to ‘get on with it’. If you keep this policy, you can afford to run expensive political campaigns but you shut the door on so many people that you have promised to help. It is contradictory and, as a man that talks of values, explain to us the values behind this policy.’

  • Nick

    @ Andrew Holden

    The problem with Labour’s so called “jobs jobs jobs” strategy is that;

    1. They tend to be “created” in the bloated Public Sector, and in the midst of a slump it pleases only the readers of Society Guardian to see so many vacancies for Smoking Cessation Officers or Confused Gender Outreach Workers, each paying ridiculous salaries of £30k plus and with an uncosted pension to match.

    2. Official stats show that 90% of new jobs under Labour go to non UK residents, which in turn merely highlights what an almighty mess Labour has made of immigration.

  • Astral

    Liverpool 4 Burnley 0

    One down, one to go

  • Hazico

    Hi Alastair,
    Have seen the following articles:

    “Ashdown: Nick-Dave can’t work.”
    (PEOPLE 25/4/10.)

    “Tory members reject idea of Lib Com pact.”
    (Cons Home 23/4/10.)

    Could this all be just the LD’s way of negotiating the best position?! Seems a little premature to me, and may not be in their favour if they come 3rd place…

    Although personally I’d welcome a Lab LD coalition if a hung Parliament.Was glad to see Alan Johnson being pragmatic on this too on the BBC Politics Show.

    Good luck, and great to see GB at the Royal College of Nursing conference today.

  • Richard

    Perhaps just the one Elvis impersonator wasn’t enough to turn around the polls. Probably should try another one?

  • Tricky Dicky

    AC; it seems to me that the Lib Dems are interested in a decapitation as the price of support + PR and bank reform. I think Labour can live with that…losing Brown is also not the end of the world for the party although he will be a loss when it comes to getting a fair deal for the people from the banks.

    Cameron getting in with a majority IS the end of the world for thousands of low income families.

    Cameron largest party with Lib Dem support is not the end of the world however, as I am sure any deal would not last beyond the first heavy round of job losses.

    Labour cannot win a majority now unless the media change tack and focus on policy. Today the opportunity for the media to go to town on the schools policy showed that they are really not interested in policy only personality.
    The election is a done deal for them, its a hung parliament and the story is the fight between Libs and Cons in the aftermath.
    I am really fed up with the way the news on all channels report a brief statement of the fact then a 30sec personal spin….mostly anti Labour.
    The people are being short changed by our media and we have no redress this side of the election. Shame about Burnley but they can come back next year….and maybe the Labour party can come cheer you up with a good last minute rally.

  • Patrick James

    PinkNews has reported a drastic fall in support of the Conservative party by LGBT people. In June 2009 the Conservative party had 39% LGBT support whereas yesterday it had 9% support.

    As a gay person I’m delighted and this fall in support has come because in June 2009 very few LGBT people knew about the Conservative’s homophobic actions and had only heard of Cameron’s LGBT friendly spin, whereas today they all know about the Conservative’s homophobic activities in the European Parliament and at Westminster as well as their homophobic friends in the European Parliament.

    This is a stark example of how easily the Conservative support can collapse once it knows about the reality of Conservative party policies rather than how the party is spinning itself.

    I feel that in the next days before the election the Labour party should promote its own policies and deflate the fantasies presented by the Conservatives and the Lib Dems.

  • Brian Gate

    I am standing as a Labour Candidate for the London Borough of Harrow. This will be my 4th full election since winning a By-election in 1997. My ward is split – 2 Tories and myself. The figures last time in 2006 indicated 3 Tories should have won, yet the electorate kindly elected me to serve again, albeit from 3rd place in the poll. Our returns this year have been most encouraging and local issues again will affect the outcome in my ward and in Harrow as whole. The Tory Council are very unpopular where I live due to a CPZ and a threat to privatise the local park. I believe we have a very good chance to unseat the Tories and win all 3 seats for Labour. The moral of the story :- ignore the opinion polls, talk to the electors, remind them of what the Tories have done in their ward and get them to vote Labour for MP and Council. If every constituency has these issues under the radar, the result may still be one hell of a surprise!!

  • Nick


    You say that nobody has yet explained to you why the Conservatives plan for I.T are a good idea. Please let me be the first.

    1. Given the rise in house prices over the last 20 years, it will benefit far more than the so called 3,000 millionaires myth put forward by Brown and Co.
    2. People who have worked hard all of their lives have every right to pass on what they have worked for to their children. The State i.e. Labour has no “right” to take it, especially given the amount of money they already waste.
    3. If you are unlucky enough to be born into a family that does not work hard and leave you anything then…well..tough. You are probably a Labour core voter anyway or a member of their Shameless Underclass…or both.

    Finally Matthew, we know that Conservative plans for I.T are a good idea, because Brown forced Darling to copy them in his 2008 budget ! Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and all that….

  • Nick Winstone-Cooper

    Oh dear!

    The old myth that you are rich because you work hard and, if you’re not, then you haven’t worked hard!

    Tell that to nurses, teachers and shelf stackers in Tesco who work hard and get paid a pittance.


  • Ray


    But there are several others who have worked hard and are working for themselves and hiring people. What motivation do they have to expand their business and hire more people when Labour taxes them at over 60% for income tax and national insurance.

    I for one will not be hiring any more people, taking on a lot more work and responsibility in doing so, working more and more hours in order to strive to push my earnings over £150K. I am not the super rich, I have worked hard for what I have achieved in life.

    Its a tax on work, a tax on employment, a tax on people bettering the economy, the country and themselves and contributing to society.

    And for what? A Government that spends like money is out of fashion… I wish I could do that in both my own personal life and in with my companies money.

    Don’t get me started on public sector pensions and my company not being able to compete against public sector pay and pensions when trying to recruit people.

    This is why after May 6th this country will not have this Government in power….

  • @jlocke13

    how many more times will GB repeat the lie that Tory IT plans only benefit the richest 3,000… think about it..if the threshold is £1 million about the only people who will pay it will the the richest 3,000.. it is the same with the “taking £6 billion out of the economy” lie…how is leaving the NI money in the hands of the employers and employees taking it out of the economy? Unless of course you think the government is the economy….!

  • Shibley

    I think it was Douglas Alexander who said today that, “Nick Clegg is intoxicated with power.”

    I have already had a barrage of people on Facebook saying: “How dare Clegg decide after 10 days that he has become the Kingmaker?”

    One person said she was apoplectic with horror.

    Tom Bradby called it ‘hubris’. I call it mere arrogance.

    Even then, I sense a backlash coming on.

    The thing about the polls, as Clegg knows, is that the people who say that they going to vote to Clegg may never vote for him at all at crunch time.

  • libertarian


    I know teachers on £70k per year and nurses on £50k. I don’t think Tesco shelf stacking is “hard” work, just boring, physical and repetitive. Stop talking bollo

  • Matthew Patrick

    Thanks for your reply Nick. I appreciate you taking the time out to explain that to me. In 2007, the proposal to raise inheritance tax was a good idea because we were then at the height of the property boom. So, yes, Brown copying the policy was also a good idea. My interest in politics is because of an interest I hold in the country bettering itself (not Labour looking good) therefore I approve of copying a policy that works.

    Though, when the housing market collapsed, the policy suddenly didn’t benefit the majority of people again. On this basis, it doesn’t make sense to me. My family home is worth about £450,000. I gain no benefit from this policy whilst still living in a comfortable house. This simply and exclusively benefits the wealthy. Again, something that in current economic conditions doesn’t make sense to me.

    Your second point is like saying ‘people work hard all week/month, why should the government take money out of their pay packet?’. If people are inheriting a windfall, I think it is reasonable for the government to take a portion of this.

    Your third point seems slightly aggressive. And not a point I think that is of relevance so I won’t respond. Again, thank you for your time but, to me, it still seems like a ridiculous policy.