What exactly did the Bank of England governor tell Nick Clegg during the coalition talks?

Did the establishment ensure a Tory-led government?

Back in May, I speculated in a piece about the breakdown of Labour-Lib Dem coalition talks, on whether "establishment figures" -- such as, say, the governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King -- may have leaned on Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, with a view to ensuring a Conservative-led government.

My punt came at a time when some rather odd incidents were occurring, such as a Facebook page with hundreds of supporters urging Clegg not to get into bed with the Tories mysteriously disappearing from the site. But I had no way of knowing for sure that King had spoken to Clegg.

This morning, at the Commons Treasury select committee hearing from where I send this, King has just admitted he did indeed speak to Clegg -- by phone -- but claims he told him nothing about the economy that was not in the public domain. King was being questioned by the Labour MP Chuka Umunna.

Clegg, meanwhile, maintains he found out things about the scale of problems in the economy that helped cause him to change his position on cuts to tackle the deficit.

What Clegg was told, and by whom, remain crucial pieces of information for anyone interested in not just how we ended up with the coalition we now have, but also in who runs Britain.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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We're running out of time to stop a hard Brexit - and the consequences are terrifying

Liam Fox has nothing to say and Labour has thrown the towel in. 

Another day goes past, and still we’re no clearer to finding out what Brexit really means. Today secretary of state for international trade, Liam Fox, was expected to use a speech to the World Trade Organisation to announce that the UK is on course to leave the EU’s single market, as reported earlier this week. But in a humiliating climb-down, he ended up saying very little at all except for vague platitudes about the UK being in favour of free trade.

At a moment when the business community is desperate for details about our future trading arrangements, the International Trade Secretary is saying one thing to the papers and another to our economic partners abroad. Not content with insulting British businesses by calling them fat and lazy, it seems Fox now wants to confuse them as well.

The Tory Government’s failure to spell out what Brexit really means is deeply damaging for our economy, jobs and global reputation. British industry is crying out for direction and for certainty about what lies ahead. Manufacturers and small businesses who rely on trade with Europe want to know whether Britain’s membership of the single market will be preserved. EU citizens living in Britain and all the UK nationals living in Europe want to know whether their right to free movement will be secured. But instead we have endless dithering from Theresa May and bitter divisions between the leading Brexiteers.

Meanwhile the Labour party appears to have thrown in the towel on Europe. This week, Labour chose not to even debate Brexit at their conference, while John McDonnell appeared to confirm he will not fight for Britain’s membership of the single market. And the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn, who hardly lifted a finger to keep us in Europe during the referendum, confirms the party is not set to change course any time soon.

That is not good enough. It’s clear a hard Brexit would hit the most deprived parts of Britain the hardest, decimating manufacturing in sectors like the car industry on which so many skilled jobs rely. The approach of the diehard eurosceptics would mean years of damaging uncertainty and barriers to trade with our biggest trading partners. While the likes of Liam Fox and boris Johnson would be busy travelling the world cobbling together trade deals from scratch, it would be communities back home who pay the price.

We are running out of time to stop a hard Brexit. Britain needs a strong, united opposition to this Tory Brexit Government, one that will fight for our membership of the single market and the jobs that depend on it. If Labour doesn’t fill this gap, the Liberal Democrats will.

Tim Farron is leader of the Liberal Democrats.