Will Lib Dems like John Leech really join Calamity Clegg on the Tory benches?

‘At the last election Labour tried to con people in Withington, by saying that if they voted Lib Dem they would let the Tories back in. This wasn’t true, and it won’t be true at the next election.’
– John Leech MP, Liberal Democrat, by e-mail May 2008

Lib Dems: 'Thatcher's back'Check the date on that email. It appears that nothing upsets John Leech, Liberal Democrat MP for Manchester Withington, more than being called a Tory… and when he says Labour has warned people that a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for Cameron he’s right… but we now know that this was no Labour con.

So angry has the Tory slur left John, he’s felt compelled to return the favour, using images of the woman he’s described as ‘the worst prime minister of the twentieth century’ (by email, February 2007) to scare people off Labour.

To be fair as time has gone on, I’ve found John’s anti-Conservatism to be on the wane. Regular readers of this blog won’t be surprised to learn I wrote to him, as my local MP, to express concern over the Atlantic Bridge. I received no reply.

And I’ve warned John Leech about Calamity Clegg in the past.

Yet I know that John Leech is not the only Lib Dem MP who is strongly anti-Tory. The expectation of perpetual opposition makes it easy for Lib Dems like John to ignore the fact their leader is, at heart, a Europhile Conservative who felt obliged to leave the Tory party because the Eurosceptics had taken over the asylum. At heart Lib Dems know Clegg isn’t that fussed about electoral reform, which is why they’ve felt it necessary to issue warnings.

The tragedy for Lib Dems like John is further compounded by the knowledge that Nick Clegg has not even brought them electoral success, just the reverse. He’s just been lucky enough to be in the chair at a time when neither Labour nor the Conservatives could win over the electorate.

Accepting perpetual opposition has allowed Lib Dems to be all things to all people. Suddenly, that’s gone and they’re out of their comfort zone. Expect the Lib Dems to collapse into civil war any day now.

4 thoughts on “Will Lib Dems like John Leech really join Calamity Clegg on the Tory benches?

  1. Stephen
    I’ll be interested to see if your prediction re LDs comes true. In 1974 Thorpe was keen to be a Cabinet minister but his MPs insisted on a price the Tories wouldn’t pay. If their much vaunted ‘triple-lock’ arrangement has any credibility it’ll say the same thing to Clegg 36 years later.

  2. The conference motion that brought in the ‘triple lock’ (full wording here) also committed the Lib Dems to ‘replacing the discredited, reactionary Conservative Party’ as a first step toward government, which may be read as confirmation that the Lib Dems are a party of the left.

    You may argue that Calamity Clegg has already ignored that motion by going to Cameron first. Lib Dems are very proud of their internal democracy and many will be seething.

    Realistically, Clegg needs to secure three-quarters of his MPs and three-quarters of the Federal Executive. If he gets a smaller majority they have to call a special conference, where he has to get a two-thirds majority to avoid a membership ballot.

    The Social Liberal Forum, which includes about a third of Lib Dems has set out ‘red lines’ that appear to overlap Tory red lines on immigration and the economy.

    A special conference would be a public affair, filled by heated debate. There would have to be some interim arrangement — supply and confidence to a minority Tory government? — until it was concluded.

    How messy is that?

  3. Seems that LD MPs will need to vote 3-1 in favour of Clegg’s deal. Would expect about 10-14 – including John Boy – to vote against ANY deal Clegg brings forward. The betrayal of the liberal left urban intelligentsia and working poor will not however come immediately in any Lib-Con inter-regnum. It will come when Cameron cuts loose and has a re-match at the polls. Libs will declare a win on their one firm policy aim re tax reform (other three are flannel), some progress on FV, and that Labour were scaremongering. Then Tories will ambush them (and us) and go for the full on mandate for their evil works.

  4. I agree the rematch is certain. But it could just as easily be the Lib Dems who pull the rug in a few months time… when Labour would likely have a new leader.

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