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26 January 2011

Miliband on working with Clegg: “Let’s see”

The Labour leader softens insistence that the chief Lib Dem would need to resign for a deal to be po

By George Eaton

Having once joked that he wants to make the Liberal Democrats “extinct”, Ed Miliband has adopted a more conciliatory tone in recent weeks. In his speech to the Fabian Society this month, he declared his respect for those Lib Dems who have “decided to stay and fight for the progressive soul of their party” and pledged to campaign for the Alternative Vote, having previously only promised to vote for it.

Now, in an interview with the Independent, he has softened his insistence that Nick Clegg would need to resign for Labour and the Lib Dems to do a deal in a future hung parliament.

He said: “I have no animus against Nick Clegg personally. I think he made the wrong political choice. It is hard to see how he can become the voice of progressive politics, but let’s see.”

The paper also reveals that Miliband held a secret meeting with Clegg in the Deputy Prime Minister’s Commons office last Thursday and offered to co-operate on issues such as House of Lords reform and party funding.

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I still don’t think that a Miliband-Clegg deal is either desirable or possible. After breaking his party’s election pledges on VAT, spending cuts and tuition fees, the Lib Dem leader can have no hope of detoxifying his brand.

But let’s not forget that the last party leader to sign a deal with Clegg did so having once dismissed him as “a joke”.