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The coming Lib Dem – Tory war

Vince Cable yellowBelieve it or not, there is one time of the year the political commentariat are more insufferable than the nonsense of the silly season. And that’s when it’s Liberal Democrat conference. And it is painful, I mean, really painful. Let’s look at the exhibits.

Underneath the demand-destroying cuts and general laissez-faire attitude to economics, Vince Cable has been hinting that he’s a bit of a lefty (again). There are “red lines” he tells us. Matters of principle that would have him up sticks from the cabinet should the government do especially appalling things. I wonder what they are.

His department and Vince’s Tory colleagues in the Treasury have sat on their hands for three years, allowing untold numbers of firms to go to the wall and see good, public sector occupations replaced by zero hour, low paid, and precarious jobs in their hundreds of thousands. He’s also happily gone along with attacks on the poor so vindictive, so utterly vile that even the UN have condemned them.

A less tarnished figure is Lib Dem president Tim Farron. Like Vince, he’s out on manoeuvres. He’s been burnishing his left credentials too, and has cast a few sultry glances at Ed Miliband. It is so stunningly obvious that he’s angling for the Lib Dem leadership and the deputy PM slot under a Labour-led coalition government it’s bordering on the indecent. Still, there’s nothing wrong with ambition. And it’s entirely appropriate our Tim desires to be a number two.

And then there’s good old Calamity himself. Nick Robinson’s interview with Nick Clegg boils down to who the Lib Dems want to get in bed with come 2015, should Britain’s archaic electoral system deliver up another hung parliament. Is that a little hint he’s leaning toward Dave? Or could it indicate he favours Ed Miliband?

Mind-numbing. You really have to be paid to write about LibDem intrigues at length. But there is something about the current Lib Dem/Tory relationship that I don’t think has yet been fully appreciated by Westminster watchers.

General elections everywhere and always involve political parties setting out their stall, attacking opponents and defending their period in government. The problem for our coalition parties is one inadvertently highlighted by my Tory Twitter friend, Angela Neptustar. The Lib Dems will lay credit for something that is popular, like today’s announcement of free school meals for our youngest pupils, and the Tories will dispute it. The Tories will claim that a particular policy is theirs while the LibDems insist otherwise. Likewise with awful policies – one party will denounce it as an exigency of coalition, and the other will blame their erstwhile partners for dark deeds done. Fun and games.

What this means for 2015 is the introduction of a new logic of competition between the two parties. They will be forced to defend their records, as par the course, but also have a perceived electoral interest in squabbling with each other about who was responsible for what. This could lead to rows no one cares about easily derailing their campaign timetables and making them look even more out-of-touch then they actually are. Which is some feat.

Of course, this is only a plausible possibility. Politics comes with no iron certainties. The Tories and LibDems may run properly disciplined election campaigns on the basis of some informal non-aggression treaty. But it’s difficult to see how intense wrangles over who-did-what won’t occur. And when they do, it will be to their mutual ruin.

5 Comments

  1. Syzygy says:

    I had to laugh when I heard Vince Cable using the ‘Tory dog whistle’ line as a dog whistle..

  2. Rob the cripple says:

    lets just hope one of these parties get enough votes to send the Liberals back into oblivion again.

    As a disabled person it really does not matter to me whom it is labour or Tory, both are hammering down on us.

    But to see those lefties and to be honest they may be all that’s left of the real labour left sitting back in the corner of the room would be worth it, then again they may have the back seats if UKIP gets it supposed voters and MP’s.

    Which I doubt but it is a pity we are desperately short of a real third party.

    But just to see Danny Alexander looking to see if he can get a Tory seat , and the Tories smiling and say oh no Danny sorry mate, then the little man asking labour for a safe seat say in outer Mongolia or North wales as we call it.

    Ah the days of conferences I’m waiting for Labour’s and I bet I’m in for a working over again, no legs walk on your hands no hands use you back side.

  3. Gary Elsby says:

    Liberals issue free school meals for children.

    Labour closes care homes.

    I rest my case, M’Lud.

  4. swatantra says:

    I’m struggling over what Lib Dem values are. I say they are the values of a harlot, jumping into bed with whomsoever. But, in the event of another Hung Parliament, beggars can’t be choosers and the electorate don’t trust Labour, or the Tories, and they despise the Lib Dems. So there you go.

  5. Gary Elsby says:

    We shouldn’t listen to half hearted and weak kneed excuses about Labour not putting forward what they would do in power though should we?

    Lib Dems come out with free school meals and £10K tax free pay.

    It is noticeable though, is it not, that Ed wishes ‘credibility’ for his party by intimating that Labour would stick to Tory spending plans if an election is won.

    Is Labour hoping that Governments lose elections while opposition wins by default?
    We are all against free lunches and free tax?

    I’m not sure that Labour will turn up in 2015.

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