Conservative Diary

« The MEP selection purdah is a farce | Main | Theresa May is right to take on police corruption »

Gove blames Lib Dem leadership plot for Clegg's U-turn on childcare

By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter

Michael Gove spoke for nearly every Tory minister on the Marr show earlier. Growing frustration at the way the Lib Dems agree to a policy before abandoning it boiled to the surface and the Education Secretary made a planned and pointed attack on the way Mr Clegg is constantly looking over his shoulder at a rebellious Liberal Democrat party.

What Gove said is recorded on the BBC website:

""Nick Clegg only questioned plans to allow nursery staff to look after more children to shore up his position as Lib Dem leader, Michael Gove has said. The Conservative education secretary said Mr Clegg had to "show a bit of leg" to his party but actually backed the scheme for nurseries and childminders in England. Mr Gove suggested Lib Dem peer Lord Oakeshott was behind a plot to "destabilise" Mr Clegg and install his ally Vince Cable as party leader."

Gove has suffered from Lib Dem roadblockery himself but it's not the roadblockery that most annoys Tories. It's the U-turnery. It's not just Liz Truss who has been the victim of seeing an agreed policy on childcare torpedoed. Theresa May has suffered on the Data and Communications Bill. Gove has suffered from it on education reforms. Most infamously the whole Conservative Party suffered from it on boundaries reform. The Lib Dems back a policy or initiative in a Cabinet committee or in the Quad or even in the Coalition Agreement and then U-turn; mainly because of unhappiness within their own party.

Cameron only gave up on boundaries reform last summer when David Laws told senior Conservatives that Clegg would be dumped if Tories insisted on Lib Dem ministers pushing the Tory half of the AV deal through. Tories are happy for Clegg to be replaced before the election. They think that a new more left-leaning and less disliked Lib Dem leader is the only way that Labour will be stopped from winning just about every Lib/Lab marginal in the country. They don't want Clegg replaced too early, however. They worry that a Cable or Farron leadership would rip up the deficit reduction strategy.

Can Cameron complain about Clegg's behaviour? That's a more difficult question. From Nadine Dorries' whipping to Europe he's increasingly led by his party as often as he leads it. But if you want to know why last week's Queen's Speech was such a damp squib we have our explanation this morning. The Coalition partners are struggling to stick to agreements they make with each other.

PS Good to hear Gove also say he'd vote to leave the EU if a vote was held now. I Tweeted my informed guess at the other Cabinet-level Outers.


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.