James Forsyth

The Lib Dems’ toughest week so far

The Lib Dems' toughest week so far
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This, in the admittedly short life of the Coalition, has been the most difficult week so far for the Lib Dems. The Coalition agreement had the Lib Dems winning huge concessions from the Tories. Afterwards, all the talk was of Lib Dem negotiating skills, what a good deal that they had won for themselves. But after the Budget, the mood was very different. It is now clear that this is, first and foremost, a fiscally conservative government.

One of the problems as Andrew Rawnsley notes in his column is that the Lib Dems are now being depicted as dupes by large sections of the media and the Labour party. However unfair this caricature may be it is going to prey on Lib Dem minds. Combined with a falling poll rating, it is going to make the Lib Dem base even more jumpy about whether they have done the right thing by going into Coalition.

All this makes Vince Cable of critical importance; Ben Brogan lauds him as ‘the stabiliser of the Coalition today. It is certainly true that as long as Vince stays in government and offers reassurance that the Lib Dems are doing the right thing in very difficult circumstances then Nick Clegg’s internal left flank will be pretty well protected.