Clegg hints at Lib-Lab coalition: hold your horses, says Prezza
Lib Dem leader has gone off ‘ideological’ Tories and now fancies ‘more realistic’ Labour
NICK CLEGG has spoken openly to the BBC about the possibility of power-sharing with Labour after the 2015 general election - but John Prescott, the Old Labour peer, has made it clear it will be over his dead body.
The Lib Dem leader makes his flirtatious bid for a new marriage with Ed Miliband in a Radio 4 programme to be broadcast at 8 pm today called Nick Clegg: The Liberal Who Came To Power.
Clegg says the Tories under David Cameron have become more ideological and out-of-touch with “mainstream” voters while Labour under Miliband have “changed” and are being more realistic about power-sharing if they cannot win an overall majority in 2015.
"I think they've changed,” he says of Labour. “I think there's nothing like the prospect of reality in an election to get politicians to think again and the Labour Party, which is a party unused to sharing power with others, is realising that it might have to."
Clegg is, of course, seeking to distance himself from the Conservatives in order to save Lib Dem seats in the local and European elections this May.
It marks a complete turn-around for Clegg who made Gordon Brown's head the price for a deal with Labour at the 2010 general election. Brown refused to step down and Clegg climbed into bed with Cameron instead.
Until recently, it looked as though Labour would insist on Clegg removing himself as Lib Dem leader before even considering forming a coalition with his party - but that was before Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, opened the way for a deal by praising Clegg's "integrity".
In tonight’s radio programme, Clegg reflects on the role the Lib Dems might have in a possible Lib-Lab coalition, saying: "There is just no doubt in my mind that if there were a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition, we the Liberal Democrats would absolutely insist that government would not break the bank."
But before Ed Balls prepares his speech as the best man at a wedding between Clegg and Miliband, John Prescott, who was Tony Blair’s deputy PM, has made it clear that not everyone will be celebrating. Prezza tweeted today: “Clegg indicates willingness to stay in government after next election. I'd say there's more than 20 million voters who might be against that."
Others might ask: whatever happened to the Lib Dem leadership’s constant refrain to their disgruntled grassroots members that, by sharing power with the Tories, they have acted as an anchor on Conservative ideological excess?
Lib Dem grand dame Shirley Williams also appears in tonight’s programme, criticising Clegg for failing to consult his senior Lib Dem colleagues (such as herself). As a former Labour Cabinet minister who broke away from Old Labour to form the SDP - a move that could be seen as the start of New Labour under Tony Blair - it is unlikely she will want to play maid of honour at a Clegg-Miliband civil wedding.
Ed Miliband got the message and told ITV’s Daybreak that he was working 100 per cent for a Labour majority victory. Clegg would be wise not to book the registry office just yet.