Friday, 21 March 2008

Nick's view on the hung parliament debate

At last night's public meeting in Morpeth, one member of the audience asked Nick about the importance of PR to the Lib Dems if we are in a position of negotiating with other parties in a hung Parliament after the next election.

It's a question which is being discussed by a large number of fellow bloggers and by some of the political hacks. Here's a rough paraphrase of what he said:
The Lib Dems believe that we have the change politics fundamentally if we are to restore trust in politics and politicians. Such changes should not be limited to changing the voting system. It involves far more. Politicians are always expected to have easy answers to every problem but this might be one of those occasions where there is no easy solution. But being more open and accountable is a step in the right direction.

If PR was the only change that was needed then I would be Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society. But as a politician, I need to look more widely.

As Nick said in Liverpool, so he repeated last night. There is no way he would take the Lib Dem sinto a position as simply an adjunct to another Party - either of them. But if another party really wanted to change the political system then we would be interested in talking to them. But the onus is on the Leader of the largest party to make the first move, not the Leader of the Lib Dems (unless they are one and the same person of course!)
So, that's what he said. What is the interpretation:

Well, he hasn't delighted those who are passionate about STV by setting out that STV is the absolute prerequisite for any discussions. But he has said that root and branch reform of the political structure is needed for us to be interested in talking. So I guess that we won't trade our position just for a few ministerial Prius's, but we can't be absolutely sure that it would be full STV that we would get.

There is, I think, an implied slap down to Paddy in the rejection of becoming a mere adjunct of another party. That is what most people assumed that Paddy wanted to create through his talks with Blair up until (and just after) the 97 election.

In demanding that Brown or Cameron should make the first move, it is clear that Nick is not about to let anyone know what our bargaining position is in advance. On PR, if Nick responded to the 'AV - is it good enough?' then it would take the pressure off Brown to act now. Let's face it, Brown won't be doing anything in response to a Nick 'demand' until after an election (at the earliest).

1 comment:

Alasdair W said...

It sounds like Nick Clegg wants to be careful. He wants to look at the possibilities that might be neccessary for change. I think that's probably a good thing. People do have doubts about P.R. we need to be able to work out if it work for our country. E.g. in Germany PR has driven the country forward, where as in Italy it has given power to tiny parties with more power than they won. I think for us it would work