Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will seek to persuade voters his Liberal Democrat party should have a permanent place in government by arguing that coalitions are better for Britain than single-party rule.
Three and a half years after the U.K. got its first two-party administration since World War II, Clegg will say today that it’s been stable and delivered better policies than the Conservatives or Labour would have done if they’d taken power alone. The Liberal Democrat leader will make the comments as he closes the party conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
After a week in which Clegg has sought to distance the Liberal Democrats from the two bigger parties, he’ll say he’s willing to govern with either. If the 2015 election results in another hung Parliament in which no single party has a majority, he’ll open negotiations with whichever has won the most votes and seats, rather than based on any personal preference.
“The absolute single worst thing to do would be to give the keys to No. 10 to a single-party government -- Labour or the Conservatives,” Clegg will say, according to remarks released by his office. “We’re not here to prop up the two-party system. We’re here to bring it down.”
The Liberal Democrats have been criticized by Labour Party lawmakers for putting Conservative leader David Cameron into the prime minister’s office at 10 Downing Street, and by Tory lawmakers for blocking policies they advocate such as making it easier for businesses to fire workers.
Internally, Clegg’s party has shown signs of tension since it became the junior coalition partner, putting Liberals into government for the first time in the postwar period.
Clegg, who began his career as a member of staff at the European Commission for a former Conservative minister, Leon Brittan, spent much of the early part of the government’s five-year term emphasizing how well he worked with Cameron.
Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat business secretary, is a former Labour local lawmaker who devoted much of his own conference speech two days ago to attacking the Conservatives, whom he labeled “Tea-Party Tories.”
“I’m endlessly asked who I feel more comfortable with,” Clegg will say. “As if I was buying a new sofa. The best thing would be to put all of the predictions and personalities to one side: whether or not we have another coalition is determined by the British people. Only their votes can tell us what combination of parties carried the greatest legitimacy.”
In a series of interviews yesterday, Clegg said he could see himself as a deputy prime minister to Labour leader Ed Miliband after 2015. “I’m not saying I should be deputy prime minister for ever and a day, absolutely not,” he told the BBC.
Labour is ahead of the Tories in national opinion polls, though its lead has narrowed in recent weeks, increasing the possibility that the Liberal Democrats may again hold the balance of power after 2015.
Tory lawmakers are skeptical about the merits of coalitions. Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative rank-and-file members of the House of Commons, backbenchers, said they mean the party is forced to drop parts of its electoral platform.
“Notwithstanding that coalition can do good things, coalitions tend to be less democratic and less transparent,” he said in an interview. “If you look at the way in which this coalition was formed, you have party manifestos that are then superseded by coalition agreements.”
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