A Lib-Lab coalition would be hilarious

Talk of a new Labour-Lib Dem coalition is in the air. This is piquantly nostalgic to those of us whose earliest political memories were forged in the fire of the red-hot excitement of David Steel and Jim Callaghan’s short-lived Lib-Lab pact of 1977-78. My initial reaction, along with many others I’m sure, was a guttural ‘oh God no’. But a moment later a different aspect of it occurred to me, in a fine example of what the young people call ‘cope’. My banter senses started to tingle. Because, yes, it would drag out and exacerbate the country’s current despairing decline. But it would also be hilarious. PR might very well

High life | 15 June 2017

I was busy explaining to a 23-year-old American girl by the name of Jennifer why the election result was not a disaster. She is a Spectator reader and wants to work in England, preferably in politics. She called the result the worst news since her father had abandoned her mother. I begged to differ. Actually, it was a far better result than it would have been had the Conservatives won a majority of 100, I told her. She gasped in disbelief, but soon enough she was hooked. Do not be alarmed, dear readers. I have not taken LSD. Nor am I suffering from populist-nationalist rage at global elites and starting

May says general election will be in 2020

Theresa May is on her way to her first G20 summit. But she has still sat down for the traditional start of term interview with Andrew Marr. Reading the transcript of it, it looks like a classic Theresa May interview: with very little given away. She avoided answering Marr’s questions on whether she would like to see more grammar schools and refused to say whether she shared her chief of staff Nick Timothy’s view that Chinese involvement in the Hinkley point nuclear project would be security risk. On Brexit, May said little new about the deal she would like to strike–confirming the sense that, as one Minister told me, the

Vince Cable takes credit for Matt Hancock’s public school interview pledge

This week Matt Hancock has found himself in the firing line over his social mobility drive. Following Hancock’s call for companies to ask job applicants if they attended private school at interview, the Provost of Eton College has threatened to resign from the Conservative Party. So, with Hancock — who attended the King’s School — feeling the heat, Mr S doubts the latest figure to wade into the row with help soothe Tory tensions. Speaking at the Hay Festival, Vince Cable — the former Business Secretary — revealed that Hancock had actually personally sent him the report along with a personal letter just a few weeks ago. He says that it

Our leaders’ suicidal urge to sex it up

It has been over a month since Parliament voted to bomb Isis in Syria, yet in that time there have been fewer raids than there are Lib Dem MPs. A flurry of three attacks took place immediately following the vote on 1 December, but since then there has been only one — by an unmanned Reaper drone on Christmas Day. And even that only ‘probably’ killed some Isis guards at a checkpoint. The three earlier manned missions had focused on an oil field that a US military spokesman later described as having previously suffered ‘long-term incapacitation’ at the hands of the US air force. Presumably the facility had already been blasted

Revealed: David Cameron’s ‘well watered’ election bouquet

No doubt David Cameron looks back on his 2010 election victory with fond memories — the excitement on the night, the subsequent celebrations and of course the gifts that followed. So Mr S is sorry to report that one election present may not have been quite what it seemed. Julian Sayarer’s forthcoming book Messengers details his time as a delivery courier in London. In this, there is one intriguing entry regarding a delivery he undertook in May 2010 to Downing Street. His job was to deliver a bouquet of blue and yellow flowers to the newly appointed Prime Minister — David Cameron: ‘On the occasion of a 2010 election victory, I was obliged to

Nick Clegg reveals his biggest coalition regret (and it isn’t tuition fees)

It’s fair to say that during Nick Clegg’s time in the coalition, the former deputy Prime Minister appeared to make a number of catastrophic mistakes when it came to the wellbeing of his party. However, when asked in an interview on Newsnight what he would list as his biggest regret, the former deputy Prime Minister chose not to dwell on policy blunders such as the Liberal Democrat’s disastrous tuition fees U-turn. Instead Clegg said his ‘biggest mistake’ was sitting next to David Cameron at PMQs: ‘I think maybe my biggest mistake was sitting where I did at PMQs and maybe I should have sat somewhere else.’ Clegg says that his seat of choice next to

Lib Dem ‘Glee Club’ goes to party conference

As the Liberal Democrats try and find a place for themselves in politics following a disastrous election result, the party can at least pride itself on having the most musical party conference. After their Lib Dem Disco over the weekend, a Lib Dem Glee Club is at conference today: Alastair Carmichael leads #ldconf in song… Glee Club goes crazy — Sophy Ridge (@SophyRidgeSky) September 22, 2015 Sky News’s Sophy Ridge, who is covering this year’s Lib Dem conference, says there is a ‘Glee Club’ karaoke song book dedicated to the late Charles Kennedy. In this, they list a range of classics for which they have rewritten the lyrics to reflect

Tim Farron: I’m not a ‘homewrecker’ for Labour MPs

The Liberal Democrats are gathered in Bournemouth for their annual conference and the media hasn’t taken much notice. But according to the party’s leader Tim Farron, it’s the biggest conference since Liberal Democrats came together in the late 1980s. On the Today programme, Farron claimed the party was in a good position, having gained 20,000 new members since the election, and is poised to take advantage of the changing political times: ‘Over the last week and a half, we’re in a situation aren’t we where the tectonic plates of British politics have changed massively and we are in a situation where we alone stand as the one party who are socially just and

Diary – 17 September 2015

With four days to go until the result of Labour’s leadership election, a call from the Sunday Times. Would I like to write a piece, along the lines of the opening chapter of my 1980s novel A Very British Coup, about the first 100 days of a Corbyn government? Anything up to 3,000 words, he says. I am sceptical that the sense of humour of the censors at Murdoch HQ will stretch to the prospect of a Corbyn government, however fanciful. Especially since any such government is likely to be interested in breaking up the concentration of media ownership. What they are really looking for, I suspect, is tale of

Get fracking

Over the past week, the government has finally made a decisive move to kickstart a fracking industry in Britain. Licences have been issued for shale gas exploration and the planning process streamlined so that in future, if local councils fail to make decisions within 16 weeks, the communities secretary will step in and adjudicate. It’s excellent news that the years of prevarication over shale seem finally to have come to a close, and greatly to the credit of our Climate Change Secretary, Amber Rudd, and Communities Secretary, Greg Clark. But the dismally slow speed at which our much-vaunted ‘shale revolution’ has taken place will end up costing this country. The

Highland star

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”James Forsyth and Isabel Hardman discuss Charles Kennedy’s career” startat=1211] Listen [/audioplayer]Charles Kennedy’s eloquence, intelligence and humour were famous in the Highlands long before his election to the Commons at the age of 23. When I started at Lochaber High School, the prizes he had won as a school debater adorned the walls; as pupils knew, at university he had gone on to win the national championship for Glasgow. It was clear that he was a phenomenon. Charles knew, perhaps better than anyone in British politics today, that how you say something is critical to being understood. Politics is the art of making and winning arguments. He was

How David Cameron will manage his Tory coalition

Up until Thursday night, everything that David Cameron and George Osborne had done in government had had to be agreed by the Liberal Democrats. Every policy had to go through the ‘Quad’, the coalition government’s decision making body made up of Cameron, Osborne, Clegg and Alexander. That doesn’t have to happen anymore. As one Downing Street figure says: ‘It is all completely different now, we can power forward with what we want to do. There’s no need for everything to be watered down. It’s invigorating’. Not having to manage a coalition, also frees up huge amounts of time for both Cameron and the Number 10 operation. It would be well

Coalitions of the willing

Whatever the result of the election, it has become clearer by the day that our ‘democracy’ is run by politicians not in the interests of the dêmos but of themselves. If the polls have been right, the most egregious example is even now unfolding before our eyes: the attempts to stitch up a coalition, which will have no manifesto and, since no one has voted for it, will take power without any electoral legitimacy whatsoever. Ancient Athenians would have been appalled. As far as Athenians were concerned, they ran the political show through their Assembly of all Athenian-born males over 18. It made all the decisions, and there was no

Barometer | 7 May 2015

Party packs Is it possible to form a stable coalition with more than one political party? The Conservative/Lib Dem coalition of 2010– 2015 was in fact unique in being the only British coalition featuring just two parties. — Lord Aberdeen’s coalition on 1852–55 was made up of 11 Whigs, six Peelites and one Radical, Sir William Molesworth, who served as First Commissioner of Works and was later described by Gladstone as ‘perfectly harmless’. He did, however, give us Westminster Bridge. — The wartime coalitions of Asquith (1915–16) and Lloyd George (1916–22) were mostly Liberals and Conservatives but also had three Labour junior ministers and an Irish Nationalist, James O’Connor, who

James Forsyth

A voting system that’s past it

The defence of the Westminster first-past-the-post voting system is that while it’s certainly unfair, it delivers decisive results. A relatively small swing in support from one party to another can deliver the kind of parliamentary majority that ensures fully functioning government. This worked well when British politics was a two-party business, and pretty well when it became a three-party affair. But in this new era of multi-party politics, the Westminster voting system is no longer fit for purpose — as the past few months have demonstrated. When Britain was asked about changing electoral systems in the referendum for the alternative vote, we stuck with the devil we knew. Understandably: at

Nick Clegg got coalition wrong. Tomorrow, he’ll pay the price

It’s hard not to feel a bit sorry for Nick Clegg. He’s a decent man who took a tough decision to put his party into coalition with the Conservatives, and lost half of his support as a result. Tomorrow, his party will be hammered. His great miscalculation was imagining that in England the Lib Dems would emerge with a list of achievements voters would applaud – as they did in the 2003 Holyrood elections when, after four years of coalition, the Lib Dems overtook the Scottish Conservatives to become the third-largest party. On the radio the other day Clegg vainly paraded his boast list, his own version of Kelly Clarkson’s Because

James Forsyth

Tory backbenchers increasingly reconciled to another coalition

Speaking to various senior Conservative backbenchers in the past 24 hours, I’ve been struck by how much support there is for the formation of another coalition. There is a recognition that if the Tories have around 290 seats on Friday morning—which is at the optimistic end of the election projections, it is simply not realistic for them to try and run any kind of minority government. The view among those I have spoken to is that Cameron should be given a decent amount of flexibility to negotiate a deal with the Liberal Democrats as that is the most likely way for the Tories to be able to begin to put

State of play

Writers and producers have shown little appetite for putting the coalition on stage. Several reasons suggest themselves. In 2010 wise pundits assured us all that the Rose Garden duo would squabble and part long before the five-year term expired, and theatre folk were persuaded not to gamble on a ship that might sail at any moment. And the conduct of parliamentarians has been pretty unhelpful to dramatists. Chastened by the expenses scandal, MPs have reinvented themselves as models of probity and self-restraint. The Commons has been all but free of sin. Eric Joyce cracked a few skulls. Nadine Dorries bunked off for a fortnight in the jungle. The occasional ex-minister

Election podcast special: nine days to go

In today’s election podcast special, Fraser Nelson, James Forsyth, Isabel Hardman and I discuss David Cameron’s ramped up rhetoric on the SNP threat to the Union, the Tories’ promise to create 50,000 new apprenticeships from Libor fines and Labour’s latest attempts to talk about controlling immigration. We also briefly look at the Liberal Democrats ‘red lines’ for future coalition negotiations and Ukip’s attempts to woo voters in the north. You can subscribe to the View from 22 through iTunes and have it delivered to your computer or iPhone every week, or you can use the player below: