Though they didn’t call them ‘red lines’, the Liberal Democrats did spend yesterday making clear the things they won’t accept if they have to work with the Tories in another coalition after the 2015 general election. Today’s Financial Times sets out a line that the party is apparently happy to cross: the EU referendum that the Tories have promised as their own ‘red line’. Listening to Nick Clegg huff and puff his way through the Today programme, you’d have been forgiven for thinking he was a bit annoyed that he was being asked once again about his party’s own position on a referendum: inconveniently, it was suggested that this wasn’t really enough. Clegg didn’t respond particularly well to these questions, but it doesn’t really matter if the Lib Dems do or don’t promise a referendum, as unless they end up in coalition with Labour, they’ll go along with a vote anyway.
And what about that coalition with Labour? Though the Libs have been super-keen to tell anyone who is even half listening how ghastly the Tories are, it was Norman Lamb’s intervention at a fringe meeting yesterday that betrayed what the party really thinks of this. He voiced what many Lib Dems feel privately: though it’s up to the voters, his party would find it difficult to be in partnership with Labour:
‘I’m afraid I don’t see Ed Miliband as a Prime Minister. And I think the idea of us being latched into a Labour government with a low percentage of the vote, led by Ed Miliband, and what’s gone on in France, under Hollande, I think it could be enormously damaging for our party to be in that sort of relationship.
‘It doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen, if it’s the right thing to do for the country, but the political implications I think are enormous, of that.’
There is one problem, though.