The screams from the Tory (“bluetop”) press this morning are frightening. If this is what money from wealthy Tories can do, give me the “dishonest and grubby” attempts by the LibDems at trying to achieve a consensus on policy every time. When you add the backing of individual wealthy Tories (Lord Ashcroft’s name comes to mind) targeting LibDem seats and you can see that the LibDems have not much to feel comfortable about in any arrangement with them. Will the headlines tomorrow read differently if Nick Clegg came out with a principled argument for coalition with the Tories – I think so – these newspapers are totally unprincipled other than in the promotion of greed, bigotry and self-interest. Hence my praise for the Tory negotiators who have been very reserved and statesmanlike to date – that will of course break down in the event of no deal … I’m absolutely certain of that!
And if a deal with the Tories was achieved, would it be a “comfortable” one. Could they deliver on voting reform. I don’t think so. An offer of a vote on a referendum to adopt the alternative vote is a) not acceptable anyway – as it’s not PR, and b) not deliverable as the Tory old-guard would in all probability vote it down.
Then there’s Europe. Paddy Ashdown has said “We have, on one hand, the question of stability and on the other hand, the programme of what is best for the country. He suggests that having a party “that is rabidly anti-European” in power – i.e. the Tories – is not in those best interests. Like it or not, the whole question of economic stability is connected to Europe, the Tories would be shouting from the sidelines and our best interests would not be protected.
Then we have the old Labour guard – why don’t they just fade away? To hear Diane Abbott, David Blunkett and John Reid pontificating about credibility and viability you’d think they were honorable people, but no … they are just looking after their own skins and old Labour because under PR there would be a re-alignment of the progressive left and they would become as much dinosaurs as the Tory grandees that Cameron is lumbered with.
So with the likelihood of bad press whatever you do – go LibDems with your heart and principles. I don’t believe either arrangement will offer strong and stable government – it’s bound to end in tears. All you can do is hold out for political and electoral reform in the context of a fixed-term parliament and just hope that you have a good story to tell at the end of that period.