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Daily View: Nick Clegg's coalition strategy

Clare Spencer | 10:05 UK time, Monday, 15 March 2010

Nick CleggAt the Liberal Democrat spring conference, party leader Nick Clegg used his speech to lay out the big themes for his party. Commentators are generally only interested in one thing - Mr Clegg's refusal to reveal who the party would form a coalition with in the event of a hung parliament.

Andrew Gimson in the Telegraph is perturbed by Nick Clegg's refusal to name who he would support:

"If the opinion polls now give an accurate account, not just of voting intentions but of the outcome of the general election, we could end up with a hung Parliament in which Mr Clegg helps depose first Gordon Brown and then David Cameron. Yet the Liberal Democrat leader insults our intelligence by denying this possibility even exists."

Michael White in the Guardian admires Nick Clegg's attempt to hold the balance of power once the votes have been counted while not smothering the policy message:

"Clegg's 'I am not a kingmaker' formula, paraded all over the press, addressed this problem skilfully. It flattered voters and activists by telling them they 'give the marching orders' while avoiding offence by leaning even slightly left or right. The party with the 'strongest mandate from the voters will have the moral authority to be the first to seek to govern', he said. Careful words which leaves options open."

Peter Oborne in the Daily Mail suggests that Nick Clegg won't name which party he would go into coalition with to maximise his supporters:

"Yesterday, Clegg said he was 'not a kingmaker'. As so often when politicians make an emphatic comment of this kind, he meant the exact opposite - that he hopes to have the power to endorse Gordon Brown or David Cameron depending on what happens on polling day. The big question is whether Clegg can walk the tightrope without falling off and carry on trying to appeal to both undecided Labour and Tory voters all the way until election day."

In the Times sketch-writer Ann Treneman guessed what Liberal Democrat party member reactions would be to the secrecy:

"The question hanging over the speech, and indeed the weekend, was whether Nick preferred Dave or Gordo. First, he told us that he was not the kingmaker. The Lib Dems clapped while hoping, desperately, that it wasn't true. Then, just like a kingmaker, he told us what was wrong with each."

Paul Waugh in the Evening Standard says the only way to read Nick Clegg's claim that he is not a 'kingmaker' is that he won't be prepared to enter into coalition with either Labour or the Conservatives:

"Given that Clegg won't be Prime Minister, the only sense in which Lib Dem voters are going to be the Kingmakers is a negative one. Their votes could rob either Cameron or Brown of a majority.
The most surprising thing about today is Clegg's decision to depart from the usual obfuscation and evasion on the issue of coalitions (evasion which some Lib Dems say is vital for keeping their options open). It looks like he has, for the first time, ruled out any form of coalition. If he means what he says."

Fraser Nelson in the Guardian looks at how a coalition with the Conservatives would affect policy:

"The most important part of any Lib-Con pact would involve the budget. On this, Clegg can be relied upon to play ball. In his speech yesterday, he declared himself 'the guarantor, whatever the outcome of the election, that no risks will be taken with Britain's financial position'. He has some credibility on this point, having torn up almost all the Lib Dem proposals for extra spending and saying that the deficit must be tackled using only spending cuts - rather than the mix of tax rises and cuts that the Tories advocate. A Lib-Con axis on finance would be a marriage of tough, and tougher."

Links in full

TelegraphAndrew Gimson | Telegraph | Nick Clegg the kingmaker
MailPeter Oborne | Daily Mail | So can Nick Clegg pull off his high wire act?
MailPeter Mckay | Daily Mail | We get the politicians we deserve
GuardianMichael White | Guardian | Keeping the Liberal Democrat campaign on track
TimesAnn Treneman | Times | Nick Clegg: does he prefer Gordo or Dave?
GuardianFraser Nelson | Guardian | Any Lib-Con team can't last. But it would be fun to watch
see alsoPaul Waugh | Evening Standard | 'I am not a kingmaker' - oh really?

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