Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats want to stay in bed with the Tories and position their party as kingmakers after the May 2015 General Election, according to a Manchester University Professor.
The party formed the coalition government along with the Conservatives in 2010 but has come under fire during that time as they have backtracked on many of its policy’s – most notably allowing student fees to rise.
But ahead of Mr Clegg’s Party Conference speech today, head of politics at The University of Manchester, Professor Andrew Russell, believes the Lib Dems would be open to another coalition government.
“Some may argue that the coalition has been a disaster for the Lib Dems and that come 2015, they would actually prefer to stay out of coalition and rebuild but I don’t hold to that view,” he said.
“In fact, it’s the Tories who might be the more significant block if they prefer to govern as a minority party.
“Indeed, many Conservative backbenchers hold the Lib Dems responsible for holding back their core policies and others might blame the Lib Dems for blocking their individual aspiration of holding ministerial post.
“It’s true, the Lib Dems have been made to see the downside of power, but for a party that has been waiting so long for a chance to play the role they now occupy, it’s unlikely that they would refuse it again.”
Professor Russell believes that the idea of a coalition government with Labour would not work however, as it would be difficult to justify a coalition government which did not the get most votes, as is predicted.
“A coalition with Labour could be problematic for the Lib Dem front bench even – as many experts predict – Labour were to win the most seats in 2015 but not the most votes,” he said.
“Supporting Labour in such circumstances may cause many voters to question the legitimacy of any coalition that ignored the party that gained the most votes.
“And with the Lib Dems likely to be battling UKIP for third-place in the popular vote, Lib Dem participation in such a coalition would be doubly problematic.”
UKIP could well be a serious threat to the Lib Dems, as their popularity has risen over recent months.
Many Tory MPs have jumped ship lately and sided with the Euro-skeptic party, adding further support to their cause as they prepare to try and win the by-election in Heywood and Middleton.
And Professor Russell believes the Lib Dems are very much on the back-foot.
“In the run up to 2015, the Lib Dems are deploying a defensive strategy,” he said.
“They are targeting those seats which they feel they have a stronger chance of holding on to in 2015 and banking on a mixture of the electoral bonuses from incumbency effects and strong local party machinery.
“In national contests such effects are often overstated but there is evidence that incumbent Lib Dems are harder to oust than sitting MPs from other parties and the Lib Dem local vote has for the past three years declined less in those areas where the party has a sitting MP.”
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