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Nick Clegg condemns talk of minority government as preposterous

February 27, 2014 10:30 AM
By Rowena Mason in The Guardian
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

Nick CleggLib Dem leader condemns Labour and Tory 'tribal' talk of ruling without a coalition as destabilising and bad for UK.

Nick Clegg has condemned as preposterous the idea that either David Cameron or Ed Miliband could run a minority government, saying such an administration would be unstable and bad for the country.

His comment follows reports that the prime minister is considering a promise that the Conservatives would go it alone if they were the biggest party but lacked a majority in 2015. At the same time, Len McCluskey, the Unite leader, has called on the Labour leader to run his own minority administration if he falls short of an outright victory at the next election.

Clegg, anxious to remain kingmaker in the event of a hung parliament, said these calls represented the "last gasp" of tribal politicians who still assumed they had the right to govern alone. Politicians on both sides were wrong to believe the pendulum of voter support would go back to swinging "between the red team and the blue team", the deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat leader said.

Speaking at his monthly press conference in Whitehall, Clegg said: "Clearly, there is a sort of McCluskey tendency in both the Labour and Conservative parties.

"I think what you are seeing, in a sense, is the last gasp of the assumption from the two bigger parties that somehow they have got a right to run things.

"We should let the British people have their say rather than people constantly assuming that they can decide, rather than the British people, about how this country is governed.

"I think what you are seeing is some very tribal voices who are so tribal that they want to even go so far as deprive the British people of stable government.

"Because minority government is deeply unstable, because you are basically governing without the authority to do so ...

"I think a Labour-only government would jeopardise the economic recovery, and a Conservative government certainly would not govern with the emphasis on fairness that has been the hallmark of much of what the Lib Dems have brought in the coalition."

Despite intensifying his assault on his coalition partners, he also launched an exasperated attack on those who suggest he is pursuing a policy of aggressive differentiation from the Tories.

The public understood that the Tories and Lib Dems did not always have to agree on everything, or get on personally, in order to work together, he said.

As well as condemning the idea of minority government, Clegg made clear he is opposed to the idea of a confidence-and-supply arrangement - a looser sort of deal between parties where the Lib Dems would support the dominant party on votes of confidence and on the budget.

On the format of television debates, Clegg repeated his claim that he would be "not really that fussed" about the idea of the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, taking part in a contest in the runup to the next election. However, he wants a three-way debate between himself, David Cameron and Ed Miliband sorted out before the presence of Farage is discussed.

He rejected recent suggestions by senior sources from the other two parties that a television debate could take place simply between Miliband and Cameron - the only two men who have a chance of being prime minister after 2015.