Comment of the day: Preparing for Government – in The Times

It is quite possible that we will look back on yesterday as the moment the Liberal Democrats demonstrated they are totally unsuited to the serious business of government. All the pious talk from Nick Clegg about the people being the kingmakers has turned out to be so much nonsense. Nick Clegg is the kingmaker and he has decided he can make any king he likes. With the resignation of the Prime Minister, narrow party interest replaced national interest in the calculation.

Mr Clegg has been taught a depressing lesson by his party. They are constitutionally unready to govern. Ideologically, they were caught out with policies — such as ditching Trident and an amnesty on immigration — that were not those of a government in waiting. Organisationally, they passed, in Southport in 1998, an obscure resolution, called the “triple lock”, which means that three quarters of the MPs and three quarters of the federal executive need to sanction a deal. Failing that, a special conference needs to be reconvened to consider the matter. It somehow feels appropriate that the current vice-president of the federal executive is Brian Orrell, who used to play a Cyberman alien in Doctor Who.

Nick Clegg now has to make a choice between weakness and leadership. His party may well be feeble, in love with its own eccentricity and perfectly happy to be inconsequential but that does not excuse the statement that Mr Clegg made about his plan to begin formal talks with the Labour Party. Having said repeatedly that the party with the most seats and the most votes has the right to govern, Mr Clegg’s volte-face is bordering on the dishonourable.

To defy his own party would, in fact, be to act in its own best interest. The paradox of Mr Clegg opening formal talks with the Labour Party is that, inspired by narrow party interest, it will in fact achieve the opposite. Read in full at The Times.


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