Lib Dems firmly locked into an executive they have no control of…

I see Mike Smithson’s taking advantage of the Tories’ two per cent poll lead over Labour to call into question the future of Ed Milliband. However, that question has always been there. He’s simply not rated as a political operator, even by own his party’s footsoldiers at Westminster.

If anything the mystery has been his substantive lead over the government. Even now, it’s not that he’s dropped points, more that Cameron’s disaffected Eurosceptics are coming back to after his ‘veto’ move last week. For now, the two party arrangement – which over the very long term has favoured by the UK’s quaint First Past The Post system – is slowly reasserting itself.

For now, there is only Labour and Conservative in the game. And the second part of Cameron’s two part play with the LibDems comes into play: after the romance, comes the brush off. As my old buddy in arms, and co-author of The Long Peace, David Steven spotted it immediately after the Euro walk out:

Nick Clegg is dead, politically. That was already true, but I can’t imagine even Miriam González Durántez now plans to support her husband at the next election. Paradoxically, accepting his terminal status could give Clegg new freedom of action. Instead of continuing to play the role of coalition gimp, he should offer leadership to those keen to explore what comes after the storm. Politicians with proper jobs – Cameron, Osborne, even Cable – are going to be overwhelmed by events throughout this parliament, even in the best case where Europe struggles back onto its feet. Clegg, though, has an opportunity to focus energy on the longer term. He’ll still lead the Lib Dems to electoral Armageddon, but catalysing a vision for renewal might make posterity a little kinder to the poor man.[emphasis added]

As predicted, locked into an executive they have no control of, the LibDems have been relegated to the status of ‘mudguard’.

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  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Was it ever going to be anything else with Clegg and the Lib-Dems? They are simply not going to get credit for anything positive that may emerge from this government and as with all ‘mudguards’ end up in the brown stuff.

    He is reported (Daily Telegraph) to have told his party that to attempt to bring down the coalition over Europe would mark the end of his party. If that is his genuine belief then he is simply postponing the inevitable.

    Not being able either to speak up to support Cameron nor be in a position to speak out against him with any credibility is the worst of both worlds for poor Clegg.

  • Isn’t this the same bind the Irish Green party ended up in? Being the smaller partner in a coalition is never an enviable position. You get blamed for everything and credited for nothing.

  • Drumlins Rock

    And we all castigate Camerons negotiating skills? He fully embraced the Leb Dems giving them far more credance than their vote warranted, and by doing so has probably destroyed them. Who knows what will come out of this all before its is completed, maybe DC has a plan B for Europe when Mercozy’s project fails.

  • SethS

    “Isn’t this the same bind the Irish Green party ended up in? Being the smaller partner in a coalition is never an enviable position. You get blamed for everything and credited for nothing.”

    The LDs were in even more of a bind though as if they had refused to join the coalition, another election would have been called and they’d have been punished anyway.

    The trick, not an easy one, is to stay long enough to look credible, not give in on any fundamentals (tuition fees, Europe …), and to leave at the right time. Unfortunately the right time seems to be long past.

  • the UK’s quaint First Past The Post system – is slowly reasserting itself.

    For now, there is only Labour and Conservative in the game.

    Hmmm … does that work north of Berwick? Or west of Solway (despite this week’s DUP-Tory love-in)? Or even in the land that is for ever Dewi‘s? Or should we interpret “UK” there to mean “the English bit between south of the Tweed, and east of the Usk and Tamar”?

    I’d also shove in the thought that LibDems, when they try, still seem to be able to muster support in local elections: Somerset CC by-election (1st Dec: LD +17.4%, Tories -12%); arch-Tory 20%-majority Wycombe (24th Nov: LD +19%, UKIP +33%, Tory trailing third – 34%, even Lab +8%).

  • A tad pedantic, perhaps, but shouldn’t that be “..locked themselves into..”. Astonishing case of the head staggers. They will probably go the way of the Liberal Party in the 20s. Such a pity.

  • Mick Fealty

    Malc, there’s only two players in Scotland, they’re just not the same as the two south of the Tweed.

  • Cynic2

    So the Lib Dems have no electoral futiure – now ther’s a shocker!!!

  • Mick Fealty @ 4:12 pm:

    That’s why I did a run-on to the second quoted sentence.

    Whereas, by the look of it, for NI it’s a case of the proper shade of Cameron fitting Cameron to a “t”. Which raises a small matter nearer home: is this the East Belfast question?

    Much as I would wish it, the LibDems are not to be written off. Dougie (the non-rodentine one) Alexander doesn’t think so, for one. And that’s a really interesting development (ask Peter Hoskin).

  • Framer

    Actually Milliband is quite an accomplished performer and can think on his feet. Given that Labour won’t see government for the best part of a decade it matters little.

    It will take a decade of cuts and decay to undo the Blair/Brown years of spending other people’s money.

    None the less Labour could become electable, not least because the public sector is not quite 50% of the economy which is a point where democratic states normally implode – governments to get re-elected are bound to promise more which means ever more borrowing.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Apparently Ed Milliband is not rated as a political operator ………one wonders why he was elected leader of his party ? 😉

  • Framer @ 8:50 pm:

    Fair enough. Say no more. Nudge. Nudge.

    What ought to be a notable historical curiosity is how the UK “unthinkable” alternative suddenly becomes electable — 1847, 1868, 1885, 1906 (annus mirabilis!); 1923; 1945 ditto!; 1966; 1997 …

    Bob Mitchell of Kinnegad in the County Westmeath (and the other begetter of “Malcolm Redfellow”) reckoned that the bellwether was the Isle of Wight. It went Parliamentarian in the Civil Wars, and then (once voting become a decent occupation for us ordinary folks) Liberal in 1832-70, 1886, 1906 (actually Lib-Lab) through 1924, 1974 and 1997.

    Onwards and upwards

    So, those who propose the “Labour is unelectable” should be addressing the growing number of constituencies where social issues are rising rapidly up the scale. Let’s put individual emplyoment-prospects to one side here. Then let’s look at “expectations” (which is the single most potent motivator, politically). One example, honourable, committed parents are seeing their well-educated offspring unemployable. Or, worse still, having expended £50k+ on education, working in a call-centre. Alongside there’s the unsaleable state (at that expected “profit”) of much “middle-class” housing”. Note how Cameron’s sole fig-leaf, as at today’s PMQs, is the mortgage rate

    The “spin” of the ConDem administration will become more and more interesting as this parliament progresses.

  • Barry the Blender

    Apparently Ed Milliband is not rated as a political operator ………one wonders why he was elected leader of his party ?

    Labour does have something of a history of this. Foot, Kinnock and Milliband were never going to be taken seriously by the voters as a potential prime minister.

  • Harry Flashman

    I see that in the HoC vote on the Euro summit Clegg told his MPs to vote against the government whilst the DUP lined up in support. Some are suggesting that Cameron will wait for the boundary changes to kick in reducing Labour’s traditional seats and then force an election with the DUP’s eight MP’s already in the Tory bag should the Tories not get an overall majority.

  • andnowwhat

    True Barry but there again, how many tory leaders did Blair see off.

    The old political truism of weak opposition being the enemy of democracy comes in to play here. Blair was never held to account nor challenged and look at the crap he got away with. Now we have Cameron in power with a very clear programme and the opposition, in the form of Ed Milliband, is just not up to the job. Granted, Cameron got him with a cheap enough joke about his brother but that should not have knocked Ed back in the slightest.

    I’d gladly let Ed babysit but I’d never have him leading a party, especially at times like these, never mind run a country. The old guard, such as Jack Straw, have to back him up all the time.

  • Harry Flashman @ 1:54 pm:

    Which raises a thought or two, mainly about turkeys and Christmas.

    First, the new constituency proposals require a further Commons vote. Many MPs are reflecting on their personal futures, and may yet vote the proposals down — which, at the very least, means considerable delay. In any event, that measure may not come to the Commons before 2013.

    Second, thanks to the fixed-parliament rules the ConDems imposed, it requires Conservative and Labour both to support early dissolution — no other combination delivers the specified plurality. If there was ever a political case of “beware of what you wish for”, here it is.

    Third, that DUP motion was more about embarrassing others (e.g. Naomi Long in East Belfast) that forging a variant of UCUNF. Were the DUP looking for a bad dose of electoral halitosis, the merest hint of breathing Tory air is just the ticket.