Clegg Rules Out Joining SNP in Supporting Labour Government

British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg campaigns for his Liberal Democrat Party in Abingdon, England, March 29
British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg campaigns for his Liberal Democrat Party in Abingdon, England, March 29 (Liberal Democrats/James Gourley)

Britain’s deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, on Friday ruled out supporting a Labour government that also relies on Scottish nationalists for a majority in Parliament.

The Liberal Democrat leader told the Financial Times he would not “help establish a government which is basically on a life support system, where Alex Salmond could pull the plug any time he wants.”

Salmond, the former Scottish first minister, will lead the Scottish National Party in Westminster where it is projected to take as many as 54 out of 59 Scottish seats — an increase of 48 for the party that advocates independence. Given that many of the nationalists’ gains would come at Labour’s expense, the socialist party could probably only form a government with their support.

If Labour does worse in next month’s election than the polls now predict, however, it could need the support of a third party to take power.

Clegg said he wouldn’t be that third party and lamented that Labour had been consumed by “frothing bile” toward the liberals for the past five years.

After the 2010 election, Clegg could have supported Labour but chose to go into coalition with David Cameron’s Conservatives instead.

On Friday, he argued that any coalition with the party that finishes second in the election would lack “legitimacy.”

You cannot provide stability, you can’t take difficult decisions, if people are constantly questioning the birthright of a government.

Cameron is likely to fall short of an outright majority but could emerge with the most seats like last time.

Clegg claims the Liberal Democrats are the only party that can rein in the Conservatives’ worst instincts. He criticized the bigger party’s “socially regressive” plans for spending cuts as well as its “obsession” with Europe which he said undermined British influence in the world.

But the liberals have already accepted that a referendum on European Union membership will take place under another Conservative-led government and the two parties broadly agree on what fiscal policy should look like the next five years.

Both are in favor of raising the income tax threshold to take low-wage workers out of tax. Both want to keep spending down in order to reach a balanced budget within the next few years. Both agree the National Health Service should be exempt from austerity. They even agree “benefit tourism” from other European Union countries must be stopped.

Politically, another coalition also makes sense for leaders in both parties.

Cameron doesn’t want to be beholden to the most reactionary lawmakers in his party who would take Britain out of the European Union and cut back the state to such an extent that it would certainly alienate centrist voters.

Clegg has already lost many of his left-leaning voters to either Labour or the Greens. Joining the SNP in supporting a Labour government would appal his remaining moderate voters in especially the south of England.

Cameron Promises More Power for England in Next Parliament

British prime minister David Cameron vowed on Friday that “English votes for English laws” would be in place for the first budget of a next Conservative government.

Cameron also promised an “English rate” of income tax and a veto for English lawmakers over issues that only affect their region.

The constitutional changes would follow the devolution of tax powers to Scotland, Cameron said. Read more “Cameron Promises More Power for England in Next Parliament”

Left-Wing Populists Not Very Good at Winning Elections

British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband answers questions from reporters, May 3, 2013
British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband answers questions from reporters, May 3, 2013 (Paul Bednall)

Is there really a future for left-wing populism in the West? The Spectator‘s Fraser Nelson worries there might be. He is too worried.

Nelson, the editor of a conservative magazine, argues that Britain’s Labour Party has buried the pragmatism of 1990s “New Labour”.

In its place comes the politics of division: a Britain of tenants vs landlords, rich vs poor, even Premier League vs small football clubs.

Leader Ed Miliband’s agenda is more about what he will do to business than what he would do with government, Nelson argues.

He’ll break up banks, interfere with pay and make it easier for workers to sue their bosses. Miliband stands before us, catapult in hand, promising to slay these corporate Goliaths.

It wasn’t too long ago that such a lurch to the left would rightly have been seen as “a quixotic revival of 1970s socialism” and a form of political suicide. Now, even critics must admit “the creed is not only just populist but popular,” according to Nelson, “and winning elections elsewhere.”

Not quite. Read more “Left-Wing Populists Not Very Good at Winning Elections”

Scottish Nationalists Set to Divide Britain in May Election

Alex Salmond
Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond attends a meeting in Sacramento, California, June 19, 2012 (Scottish Government/Feature Photo Service/Matt Petit)

Even if only 45 percent of Scots voted for independence last year, they could still divide the United Kingdom in May’s election.

Polls conducted by the Conservative peer Michael Ashcroft and released on Friday confirm that the Scottish National Party is set for a landslide victory next month. Read more “Scottish Nationalists Set to Divide Britain in May Election”

Britons Do Not Reward Ruling Party for Improving Jobs Market

David Cameron
British prime minister David Cameron attends a meeting of the European Council in Brussels, March 20, 2014 (The Prime Minister’s Office)

The BBC’s Robert Peston asks the question many commentators have since the start of the British election campaign: Why isn’t the improving jobs market delivering more votes for the Conservative Party?

Unemployment, at 5.6 percent, is almost at the level where it was before the 2008 financial crisis and down from 8 percent when the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats took over from Labour in 2010. The employment rate, at 73.4 percent, is the highest since the country started keeping records in 1971. Yet Prime Minister David Cameron’s party is still neck and neck with Labour in the opinion polls. Read more “Britons Do Not Reward Ruling Party for Improving Jobs Market”

Upbeat Cameron Paints Post-Austerity Britain

British prime minister David Cameron in Riga, Latvia, February 28, 2013
British prime minister David Cameron in Riga, Latvia, February 28, 2013 (UK in Latvia)

A day after Labour’s Ed Miliband claimed his was the party of fiscal responsibility, British prime minister David Cameron said the Conservatives were really the party of “working people.”

Unveiling the ruling party’s manifesto for the May election in Swindon in the south of England on Tuesday, Cameron promised voters to “turn the good news on our economy into a good life for you and your family.”

Growth hit 2.6 percent last year while unemployment has fallen below 6 percent. At 73.2 percent, the employment rate is at its highest since 1971. Inflation is almost zero. Food and fuel prices are falling and households’ disposable income is at a six-year high. The Conservatives can convincingly claim to leave Britain a better place after five years in power yet Labour complains the party hasn’t done enough for ordinary families who have seen few to no increases in wages.

Cameron promised to take minimum wage earners out of tax, provide up to thirty hours of free child care — the equivalent of £5,000 per year — to “working families” and five some 1.3 million housing association tenant the right to buy their homes at a discount.

According to the Financial Times, Cameron’s claim that the Conservatives are “the party of working people” is part of an attempt to further squeeze UKIP — the nationalist United Kingdom Independence Party that is especially popular in low-income areas — and win back voters who used to be attracted to Margaret Thatcher’s policies in the 1980s.

The relaunch of the Thatcherite “right to buy” scheme is aimed at 1.3 million people in housing association properties who will now have the same right to buy their home as their counterparts living in council homes.

Cameron desperately needs more voters as his party remains neck and neck with Labour in the opinion polls. If the Conservatives don’t expand their support, they would likely fall short of a parliamentary majority while Labour could form an informal coalition with the Scottish National Party.

Political commentators pointed out the upbeat rhetoric was a departure from the Conservatives’ solemn warnings that more austerity is yet to come.

“Gone too the warnings of red flashing lights on the dashboard,” writes the BBC’s Nick Robinson. “Gone all talk of difficult decisions.”

In their place comes not one but three giveaways — an extension of the right to buy, a doubling of free child care and a promise that tax allowances will rise to ensure that the minimum wage is tax free. This after a series of others — not least the pledge to cut inheritance tax and spend at least £8 billion a year on the NHS.

The promise to take minimum wage earners out of tax altogether is especially curious, argues the BBC’s Robert Peston, when the Conservatives have traditionally stood against “something for nothing.”

And what’s odd about guaranteeing that huge numbers of employed people will never pay tax is that David Cameron appears to be comfortable about the notion that these people can enjoy all the expensive services and benefits provided by the state without making even a gesture of a contribution toward them.

The Conservatives’ optimistic rhetoric does not befit a country that is still borrowing £76 billion this year, argues the Financial Times‘ Janan Ganesh.

The most obvious cuts and tax rises have already been made, leaving some excruciating work ahead under either party’s consolidation plan. And that work might take place in the context of a slowing world economy.

Although all major parties have credible plans for eliminating the deficit — the Conservatives would cut more public services, Labour would raise more taxes — their emphasis on extra spending and post-austerity Britain is not preparing the public mood for the cuts that still need to be made.

At precisely the moment that politicians should be shoring up public resolve, they have lapsed into the competitive bidding of a conventional campaign.

Miliband Says Labour Fiscally Sound, Tories Irresponsible

British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband in Glasgow, Scotland, August 8, 2014
British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband in Glasgow, Scotland, August 8, 2014 (Stephen Fyfe)

Labour leader Ed Miliband tried to turn the way Britain’s two largest political parties are typically seen on its head on Monday, claiming his was fiscally responsible whereas the Conservatives were “throwing promises around” with no idea how to pay for them.

Miliband was speaking in Manchester where he unveiled the Labour Party’s manifesto for the May election. He insisted the plan did not contain a single policy that wasn’t “paid for without a single penny of extra borrowing.” Read more “Miliband Says Labour Fiscally Sound, Tories Irresponsible”

Cameron, Miliband Clash in British Party Leaders Debate

  • British prime minister David Cameron has asked voters to give him a chance to “finish the job” and turn the economy around in the only televised debate of this year’s election.
  • Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg disputed Cameron’s promise to stay the course, warning that the Conservatives would lurch to the right on taxes and spending without his party in government.
  • Labour’s Ed Miliband said he would take on the energy companies “that are ripping you off”.
  • Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, claimed that none of the other leaders “understand the faults, hopes and aspirations of ordinary people.”

Liberals Could Support Europe Referendum in Next Government

British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg campaigns for his Liberal Democrat Party in Abingdon, England, March 29
British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg campaigns for his Liberal Democrat Party in Abingdon, England, March 29 (Liberal Democrats/James Gourley)

Britain’s Liberal Democrats opened the door to another coalition government with Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives on Tuesday when party officials told they Financial Times they could support a referendum on the country’s European Union membership.

While Cameron has promised such a vote if he is reelected in May, the Liberal Democrats’ official position is that a referendum should only be called if additional powers are transferred to Brussels. Cameron, instead, wants powers back to curtail labor migration from other European Union states.

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader and deputy prime minister, softened his stance on Monday when he refused to rule out a referendum altogether. Read more “Liberals Could Support Europe Referendum in Next Government”

Miliband Seen Benefiting Most from Sky News Debate

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband did much to boost his credibility as a potential prime minister in interviews broadcast by Sky News Thursday night.

By contrast, David Cameron, the incumbent, seemed caught off guard by presenter Jeremy Paxman’s grilling. He was forced to admit that his party had failed to keep its promise to bring down the national debt and only conceded after being asked several times that he would not be able to live off a zero-hours contract either. Read more “Miliband Seen Benefiting Most from Sky News Debate”