New Times,
New Thinking.

7 May 2010

The Lib Dems have one chance

They must seize it. Now.

By James Macintyre

The progressive majority may have spoken at last.

Here is one thought as Nick Clegg prepares to make a statement at his party’s headquarters in Cowley Street, Westminster.

The Liberal Democrats have — in the twist of the election — not performed as well as most observers expected they would. That result threatens to diminish their influence. So?

Well, if they refuse to engage with Gordon Brown, who has now officially launched civil servant talks about a coalition, they will lose their one chance for real change. Some Tories say that the Liberal Democrats may not make electoral reform a deal-breaker. Well, the Lib Dem party at large may resent a crucial missed opportunity.

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Clegg may dislike Brown as much as some in the media say. But he has one chance to deliver his party’s agenda now. As I said earlier, his party and many in the country will be hoping that he doesn’t fumble it.

UPDATE: Clegg has just arrived at Lib Dem HQ and admitted that “last night was a disappointment”. He speaks with great dignity of how “I totally understand” why people stuck with the two other parties in times of economic difficulty.

Worryingly, though, Clegg has just dropped a heavy hint that he will go to the Tories first for a deal. He reiterated his campaign claim that he will support the party with the strongest mandate: which, he said, is the Conservative Party.

That he chose to say so will strike fear into the hearts of Labour strategists.

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