Charm offensives and the future of the Liberal Democrats

Jerry Hayes would be amazed if Tories and Liberal Democrats didn’t stand as coalition candidates at the next general election. Would this extend to the formation of a new centre party encompassing elements of both Toryism and Liberalism? Peter Bingle thinks so.

Whether it is something as loose as Tory/Lib Dem understandings in certain seats or as formal as a new centre party, Denis MacShane is convinced that the government’s mishandling of Sheffield Forgemasters means that something will have to give for Nick Clegg to retain his Sheffield Hallam constituency.

Clegg’s desires to remain both on the green benches and in the ministerial Jaguar drive the electoral relationship between the Liberal Democrats and the Tories inexorably closer. Chris Huhne seems as in need of a Tory helping hand as Clegg and Sayeeda Waarsi did nothing today to suggest that this would not be extended.

Neither this prospect nor the realities of the coalition please all Liberal Democrats, though. Lembit Opik’s stand-up comedy, for example, is spiced with anti-Clegg jibes. “I saw him in Portcullis House after the election. It was strange that he didn’t see me, but it was a large lift”.

Opik may well be saying publicly the kinds of things which the Liberal Democrat backbench part of the coalition is saying privately. And this, as Tim Montgomerie observes, is a coalition in three parts: “1) the almost indistinguishable front benches; 2) the Tory right; 3) the left of the Liberal Democrats who, in their hearts, would still have preferred a deal with Labour.”

It is hard to imagine closer electoral relations between the Tories and the Liberal Democrats not producing fireworks unless this changes. Whatever closer electoral relations Cameron and Clegg are aiming for, they will struggle to achieve them unless they can bind their backbenches into the coalition to a greater degree. But the irreconcilables will, by definition, elude the charms of their party leaders. Labour should now be charming those Liberal Democrats who potentially fall into this category.

Simon Hughes is the leading figure in this group and is joined by the likes of John Pugh, Jenny Willott, Tim Farron, Paul Burstow, Norman Baker and David Heath. Whatever happens, gently encouraging Liberal Democrats of this vintage to think ill of Clegg and Cameron and well of Labour is likely to assist Labour’s hopes of returning to government. Perhaps, Labour-Lib Dem bonding over beers at Opik’s next gig would be a logical step.

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3 Responses to “Charm offensives and the future of the Liberal Democrats”

  1. mike says:

    Clegg wont care about losing as he will be off to the Lords

    unlike the other Tory voting fodder

    but really need to keep up pressure in Hallam
    and win back Sheffield City Council

    I think their will be a Coalition candidate in some areas

    we cannot afford Continuity SDP (CONDEM) candidates
    to get free run anywhere

    roll on Norwich & Exeter by elections

  2. paul barker says:

    youre all living in a complete fantasy world, the coalition is meant to be just that, not a merger. Clegg wont be going to the lords because we are going to abolish it, something your “progressive party never even tried to do.

  3. mike says:

    abolish the Lords

    never will!!!

    wake upans smellthe coffee (fig variety)

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