Nick Clegg stabs PM in the back saying: 'I'll work with Miliband'

If MPs weren't lying on the beach right now, there'd be a full-scale crisis of confidence in the coalition

Column LAST UPDATED AT 07:54 ON Mon 23 Jul 2012

IN THE same breath as he declared he would like to be a reality TV cook, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has plunged a carving knife into David Cameron's back to keep his post as Deputy Prime Minister.
 
In a complete volte face, which the Tories will regard as an act of treachery, Clegg has said he would be prepared to work with the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, in a Lab-Lib Dem coalition after the next election, leaving Cameron and the Tories in Opposition, if there is another hung Parliament.

And the reason for this stabbing? Clegg is beginning to fear his days are numbered after Miliband and Ed Balls let it be known that Clegg would have to go, if they do a deal with the Lib Dems.

In an interview with The People newspaper, Mr Clegg said: "If the British people, like they did last time, say no one lot has won, then I'll be open to working with other parties."

Clegg says the Lib Dems had explored the possibility of joining with Labour to form a coalition after the 2010 election but "the maths" did not work. The Mole distinctly remembers the price for Clegg's support for Labour was that Gordon Brown had to go. Brown refused, and Clegg opted for a marriage of convenience with Cameron. Clegg seems to have erased that from his memory bank.

But Clegg's efforts to hang on to the leadership of the Lib Dems – and his ministerial office – were dealt another blow by his colleague Vince Cable, who, despite his grey wisps of hair, looks as frisky as a filly at the prospect of running for the leadership.

Cable told the Mail on Sunday that he "didn't exclude" the possibility of running for the Lib Dem leadership, despite turning 70 next year. "Who knows what might happen?" he said. The big tease.

Tories who hate the coalition and are this morning pouring scorn on Cable's naked bid for the leadership on the grassroots website ConservativeHome are missing the point. Cable may look to them as attractive as Arthur Mullard in a bikini, but for Labour, he is Mother Theresa and Kim Kardashian rolled into one.
 
The Lib Dem Business Secretary used to be a Labour councillor in Glasgow and is an old ally of Gordon Brown. He's now privately dreaming of one day dumping Clegg and doing a deal with Miliband to put Labour back into power after just one term in the wilderness. All the opinion polls suggest that is now on the cards.

That is why Clegg is wetting his pants and turning on his 'partner' David Cameron.

If MPs were at Westminster, instead of lying in the sun on the beaches of Europe, there would be a full-scale crisis of confidence in the coalition as a result of this jockeying for position by Cable and Clegg. That will have to wait until September when they are back in Westminster – and Cameron tries to save his own skin with a reshuffle.

Still it's not all bad news for Clegg. He may have a future as a reality TV cook. Cleggy confessed that his favourite television programme was Come Dine With Me. "They might ask me on there perhaps." What a carve-up. · 

Disqus - noscript

This is not news. The Tories and Lib Dems may be in government together, but they remain separate independent parties. So of course the Lib Dems are going to approach the next election with an open mind about which party, if any, they will go into government with, just as the Tories hope to win the next election outright and govern on their own. This isn't Clegg "stabbing the PM in the back"; it is simply a belated assertion by Nick Clegg of his party's independence, after Cameron has been doing much the same by hinting about what a Tory-only government might do (e.g. cut Housing Benefit for the under-25s).