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David Laws gets Education in cabinet

By Angela Harbutt
May 11th, 2010 at 10:20 pm | 7 Comments | Posted in Election, Liberal Democrats

ok it’s still not confirmed – but source is quite good… Also heard that Danny Alexander to get Scotland . well which Tory would YOU put in the post?… and from another source Nick IS deputy prime minister…. A less committed source suggests Huhne might get Home Affairs – though that would be a huge leap of faith from the Tories. But who knows….

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By Julian Harris
May 11th, 2010 at 3:33 pm | 6 Comments | Posted in Election, UK Politics

And so it seems like the Lib-Lab talks have broken down, as even a Labour minister signals the end, and Sky (reassuringly, in my opinion) say that differences of opinion over the deficit caused the breakdown.

Mike Smithson at cites a “top source” from the Lib Dems informing him that Lib-Con talks are back on, and the LD cabinet is said to be meeting later this afternoon.

Could we soon see the climax of the most chaotic and fun 5 days in modern British politics?


Is a referendum on AV enough?

By Angela Harbutt
May 10th, 2010 at 8:23 pm | 30 Comments | Posted in Election, UK Politics

At 5.32pm I asked whether the Liberal announcements this afternoon were “Calamity or canny politics” .

 Well it would seem that the moves by the Liberals did indeed enhance Cameron’s hand such that – regardless of all those Tory back bench MP’s comments through this the day about preferring a minority Tory government to a Lib/Con agreement – the Conservative parliamentary party are, following their meeting, now backing an offer of a referendum on AV to the Liberals. And fixed term parliaments – though I thought that was already on the table – perhaps not!

There are questions that remain to be answered… WHEN would the referendum be held (ie soon?) andwill they put the legislative process in place beforehand, such that IF the referendum is passed by the voters – it goes onto the statute book a week or two after…. No long grass….

But then just as I am about to hit “publish” …I get a call to say that the Labour party have now privately offered the Liberals legislation on AV anda referendum on PR. Aution-orama…

The Liberals have invited talks with the Labour party – and I suppose to turn around just 3 hours later and say “oh sorry guys we were just using you to get the Tories to the position  we needed” might not be diplomatic. So I guess an hour or two or talks is necessary to save face.

But the lib/lab alliance would NOT be stable…it cant work… and would be a disaster. It’s a small step from being canny to over-egging it . Get this sorted soon.. Tie up the loose ends…do the deal with the Tories…..4 days is enough and people are beginning to tire of it now.

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Calamity or canny politics?

By Angela Harbutt
May 10th, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Comments Off on Calamity or canny politics? | Posted in Election, Liberal Democrats

What a game the Lib Dems appear to be playing.

My first thought was – its chaos and calamity. The decidedly “odd” David Laws press call, inside parliament rather than walking a few yards to address the hoards of cameras outside (and  reported bizarrely on the BBC over a mobile phone), where, for all the world it looked like Lib/Con talks were progressing nicely with, what seemed to be, a few tweaks to sort. The anouncement that the meeting with the MPs went well – with “clarification” needed on just a few issues….. Ok we may read that as Liberals want more than the Tories feel able to get past their own backbenchers….. but it all seemed …well, as though they were getting there (if slowly).

….Then the biggest car smash you can imagine — Nick Clegg is reported as saying that formal talks are now being opened with the the Labour party (though ongoing with the Tories)…. Gordon Brown confirming that Clegg had spoken to him… Brown resigning (though not just yet! – very Gordon Brown) to facilitate the option of a LibLab pact …markets crashing (OK I exagerate to make a point – I have not looked at the markets).  

WTF is going on.. How does David Laws lunchtime statement that the parliamentary party agrees that the over riding priority is to create a “strong and stable government”.. square with the notion of the Liberals going into a  hotch potch agreement of Lib/Labs/SNP/DUP/Plaid/greens etc ?

I admit it was a joy to watch this unfold on the news channels – quick quick get the fractious whinging Tory backbenchers off the screens (who cares what they think) and get some Labour big wigs in here now…

Now I have had my cup of tea and had a chance to ponder, I wonder if this is not calamity – but rather canny politics. Knowing that Cameron faces a difficult meeting with his MPs very shortly this evening- and knowing that many are gruntling on about “rather be in minority party than work with those damn yellow bellies thank you very much” …how brilliantly Clegg has strengthened Cameron’s hand in that meeting.  

Cameron can legitimately stand up and say “look guys we have waited in the wings for our chance to govern. It is within our grasp BUT you have to be willing to play nicely with the Liberals – if you wont then it’s very possible that you will miss your chance again”. Minority Tory government is not the only game in town any more. So the Liberals want a bit more give on political reform – is that such a hard price to pay? – as you watch a smug Alistair Campbell already rehearsing Nick’s justification for a Lib Lab pact…. That may make the Conservatives think twice on their discussion with Cameron tonight.

And its just possible I suppose that Cameron knew of this turn of events – maybe even condoned it..Hell maybe even thought it up? Anything is possible on this odd day…

And IF this is not a clever ruse….Are they serious that whilst we struggle to get out of this recession and sort out public spending etc – the senior coalition partner in this “progressive” Lib/Lab government will have the top five or six of its portfolio-handling ministers all scrapping over a leadership battle? Come on guys…

I am left wondering what all of those voters out there think of all of this. It looks for all the world like the politicians are still putting their small petty interests ahead of the public’s – whatever they say – and goodness knows what the markets will make of  this turn of events. I want to go and lie down in a dark room til this is over.

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I didn’t vote Lib Dem to get a Tory government…

By Angela Harbutt
May 10th, 2010 at 2:00 pm | 20 Comments | Posted in Election, UK Politics

Ha. That’ll have the tweeters wondering what on earth is going on over in LV land!

No I have not gone mad. I am quoting what I have heard on phone-ins/read on various blogs over last 24 hours or so. IF I am to believe some posts, thousands, indeed “hundreds of thousands” are about to walk away from the Lib Dems because “they didn’t vote Lib Dem to get a Tory government”.

I found it a bit annoying when I first heard it – but as this sentiment seems to be spreading – I am getting increasingly irritated by it. In part it’s because I hate that sort of post-event whinging ( “I didn’t get what I wanted so I will throw my toys out of the pram”) but there are more specific reasons why it’s getting under my skin…..

1.     No one voted to get a Tory government. People voted to elect their constituency  MP (or indeed to stop a constituency MP) and hoped that others across the country would vote similarly (the only way to “stop” a Tory (or indeed Labour) government). That worked in some area’s – which is why there are fewer Tory MP’s than anyone expected. Even if “voting Lib Dem” in one area did stop a Tory, clearly not enough people in enough areas did the same – hence the situation we are in. The idea that one vote for one local MP would somehow stop a whole government is laughable.


2.    This seems to throw the blame onto the Lib Dems when the blame (if that is the right word – which it probably isn’t) sits with the voters. If this nation really cared about stopping the Tories (or indeed Labour) more people would have voted Lib Dem. That would have given Nick a much stronger negotiating position to choose who to talk to and on what terms. Just because Mrs Miggins voted Lib Dem to stop the local Tory, does not mean that Mrs Miggins view out trumps the nations view. And whilst she and those like her might whinge now, they have to look at themselves frankly and ask whether, if they cared that much, they could have done more. Goodness knows I think Nick did his bit.


3.    Actually the Lib Dems HAVE STOPPED a Tory government – or at least stopped such a strong Tory government that they can ride rough-shod over everyone. Had the Tories taken the Lib Dem seats they targeted we would already have Mr Cameron at No 10. As we stand here now, it is likely/possible that the Lib Dems have the ability to be a balancing item on Tory legislation. And even if a coalition doesn’t happen the Tory party will have to listen to its own backbenchers much more than the previous regime – and indeed listen to the Lib Dems- that’s in part a result of people voting Lib Dem.


4.    Perhaps most importantly it’s annoying because Nick Clegg could not have been clearer, throughout the general election, that the Lib Dems would not decide who to talk to in the event of a hung parliament – he would NOT be kingmaker. It would be the people who would dictate it by virtue of which party  had the largest mandate. It is demonstrably clear that the Tories have the most seats and the largest vote share. In these circumstances, had Nick decided to ignore the Tories, I think the country would have rightly been outraged that Nick had gone back on his word. Where were these people-  who are now complaining that they did not vote Lib Dem to get a Tory government – during the last 4 weeks? Integrity matters – and like the outcome we find ourselves in or not (mainly “not”)- Nick has shown to be a man of integrity – and that counts for a lot these days.


Now of course the proof is in the pudding. Can the Lib Dem negotiators extract enough ground across its 4 key manifesto pledges to feel that their position is honourable (and right for the country let’s not forget!) – accepting of course it’s relative position in the situation (more people voted for Tory policies than Lib Dem policies).


If the Tories are not willing to concede sufficient ground to allow the Lib Dem’s to feel their position with their voters is honourable, then I suspect that they won’t go into full coalition – but sit back and allow a minority Tory party to govern as best it can.   (I remain convinced that the idea of a Lib/Lab/nationalist/green uncle tom cobbley and all coalition is for the fairies).


But to read/listen to people moaning at this stage because Nick is attempting to find a workable solution with the Tories is nothing short of ridiculous.

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