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There's no doubt about it - the Liberal Democrats are flatlining.

Their 'progress' in the polls since the shenanigans at the beginning of the year is very misleading - they are doing no better than they were when the whisky-sodden dipsomaniac was in charge.

As time goes on, they will probably come to regret two major blunders this year - booting the personable, media-friendly Charles Kennedy well and truly into the cold and electing Sir Menzies Campbell leader instead of Christopher Huhne.

Although, to be fair, both cases were arguably no-win situations.

I can see clashes over Europe and immigration should a coalition arise. Public opinion may be in our favour but I doubt that would dissuade the Lib Dems from keeping quiet. No doubt they would also demand PR. We need to find a way to shrink them again. I would rather have Labour running the country than the Lib Dems.

As long as PR is not on the agenda

Sorry, should be "persuade the Lib Dems to keep quiet."

This is the most ridiculous part of the Cameron Project.

As I see it there are two big problems with a Conservative - Lib Dem coalition. Firstly, they would want proportional representation as a condition for any coalition. This must be an absolute no-go for the Conservatives. Secondly, there would inevitably be big divisions over Europe - apart from tearing apart the coalition it would reopen very damaging divisions within the Conservative Party. I also wonder how different a blue-yellow government would be from New Labour - would it serve any real purpose?

There is a case for tactical co-operation between the parties, so that the Lib Dems can take votes from Labour's Left, and we take them from Labour's right.

But I think a coalition between both parties would be so cynical as to be completely counterproductive. We really have far too little in common with them for it to work.

Can only echo comments made by the posters above.Things have moved on hugely since the 1970's when there was more common ground between the parties.Now I can't honestly see any more benefit in having a Lib/Con coalition than a Lab/Con coalition!

I've always been suprised at the Conservative hostility towards propertional representation. The stability of governments is never worth the price of trading away the electorates right to choose the government they want. Its almost certain that if Labour have a majority next time, we will still have a greater share of the public vote than them.

Proportional representation would most likely also help increase voter turnout, as people realise that there vote will actually count. I may not agree with Labour voters view on the government, I do however recognise that they have a right to be able to vote for that government.

On Thursday we saw a couple of ties occur in the local elections. How depressing must it be for a candidate to lose due to picking the smaller pencil, especially when losing their seat gives control to the Liberal Democrats! How would we feel if Labour won the next election with half of their seats having majorities of less than 100? Is that a real mandate to govern?

Ignore the grand coalition idea - it's too far away and unfocused to waste time worrying about for now. Instead, look at the fundamentals.

We need to move voters away from LD's and NewLab. Their transition to Conservative voters needs to be made as smooth and painless as possible. So we have to accommodate their aims and aspirations and adopt policies that they are comfortable in supporting.

So we should move closer to the LDs to reassure those voters, the same as Blair did in the 1990's, then see what the outcome of the next GE is. Hopefully the result will be as positive for us as it was for NewLab then.

I can't see how a coalition is feasible, but there are plenty of good reasons for colonising LibDem positions:

1. The LibDems are dangerous electorally. They have strong bases in naturally Conservative areas. Young people who are basically centre-right may find more to appeal to them in the Orange Book LibDem view of the world than the Conservatives, who are still tainted by association with sleaze and authoritarianism.

2. LibDems aren't always wrong. I could never vote for them because of their views on tax, Europe, PR and so on, but there's nothing wrong with being concerned about the environment, opposing ID cards, supporting gay rights and so on, and a lot of voters support them for this reason. Blair turned the Labour party around by adopting a lot of, at the time, Thatcherite ideas, which now seem like common sense. Similarly, there's no shame in taking up policies of other parties if they're correct.

3. Even without a coalition, a potential minority (or small-majority) Conservative government will rely on support from other parties. The Orange Book wing of the LibDems are ideologically closer to the Conservatives than Labour. It's sensible to develop areas where it is possible to cooperate in advance so that in the event of a tight result, parliament doesn't reach gridlock.

As for the LibDems, I think their current 'crisis' is overstated -- they had strong results last year and are quite likely to be power-brokers after the next election -- and for every election after for a long time if they manage to get through PR.

Remember, Hague dominated in PMQs but it never did him any good because most people didn't see it. While Ming may not move the party significantly forward, it's difficult to see them losing all that much core support. Nobody expects him to last long anyway, and he still has a fair reputation as being as 'statesman' to fall back on. Sometimes politicians should know when not to attract attention -- Ming doesn't need to seek publicity and risk a baseball cap or "quiet man" gaffe at a time when his party is doing well by historic standards.

Completely off topic, or has anyone else noticed the changes on the Telegraph website?

People have posted on previous threads about the LD's changeability in terms of policy. I remember a time not SO long ago when any mention of controlling immigration with a LibDem in the group (on Telly) would draw shrill calls of racism or such-like as they advocated freedom of immigration! It has only been since the whole thing has become such an obvious fiasco, that if they have to they admit that there has to be some sort of policy!

So they don't impress me as being very practical!

Chris: Please post off-topic observations on the frontpage.

Sorry, but "4 more years opposition" would be better in my eyes than a coalition with the Limps. Labour would have completely destroyed themselves by the time, leaving the Conservatives to beat a number of Lib Dim MPs in their constituencies.

I'm sure we can mould the libdems into our government, their views change so often that they usually go with the mood of the country. In this case if Cameron is the mood of the country, then the libdems will follow.

The problem is, if there is a coalition what cabinet posts should the LDs take. The environment should be Camerons, Home Office (if its not seperated by then..) is a sure for the Tories, and foreign office is usually a core Tory issue too. Deputy Prime Minister..The minger? lol It sounds like a joke.

Strange you lot don't mention the "OTHER" leadership crisis - the complete failure of the Tories to break out of the South and the increasing chuntering amongst the reactionary element of the Tories about the direction Cameron is leading the Tories in.

9.5% of the vote in Newcastle? Hardly evidence of enough support in the North and Scotland to produce a Commons majority next time....

It certainly isn't stupid to advocate collaboration with the Orange Bookers. My concern is that, in his tactical naivety, Oliver Letwin seems keen to collaborate with the likes of Norman Baker who has always struck me as the worst kind of self-righteous sandalista bossy boots. As for Ming, he is in political injury time. Besides, given his self-importance, he is much more likely to opt for an early offer of patronage from Blair or Brown than wait for Cameron's largesse.

The aim surely has to be to work night and day to expose the contradictions that bedevil the Lib Dems. Once they are softened up, you offer part of their party a merger on your terms not theirs.

As for the PR debate, surely the status quo cannot go on? The system is grotesquely skewed in Labour's favour, has been for years and Labour will not let that change. The Tories need to work for a form of PR which creates a level playing field and not allow Labour to preempt them by proposing a form of PR (such as AV) which perpetuates an unlevel paying field.

co-operation on particular policies is fine; coalition is not going to work because there is a huge difference between people like Vince Cable and the majority of the LD membership. Most of them hate the tories in much the same way as other socialists do.

There is little real Liberalism amongst activists and no doubt Emperor Ming will start to be seen as too right-wing to win the Labour seats they need in order to prevent annihilation at the next election.

They are a left of centre party and people like Clegg and Laws should wake up to that fact, move to the party they really belong in and fight by-elections to confirm their position. If they want to stay part of the left wing party they joined that's their choice but forming any sort of coalition government would be very unwise - I would look at the Scottish government as a model for the likely outcome, not Birmingham.

"Hardly evidence of enough support in the North and Scotland to produce a Commons majority next time...."

Sorry, do Bolton, Sunderland, Trafford, Chorley, Bradford, North Tyneside, West Lancs, Carlisle, Doncaster and Bury not count as being "Northern"?

Why is the BBC so fixated on Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester?

Coalition with the Lib Dems is a bad idea. If we get into a position where power could only be achieved with their help, it would be much better to let Labour limp on. The only benefit I can see of such a coalition would be that it would avoid the introduction of PR, which would be a disaster.

Let the Lib Dems coalition with Labour if worst comes to worst, it will then give us the ultimate slogan against the Lib Dems that a vote for them is a vote for Labour.

We should focus on winning an overall majority not making ourselves more acceptable to Lib Dems for a hypothetical coalition.

I'd rather the LibDems become discredited in a left-wing Brown govt than taint a Conservative one. It would cause divisions in an already fractured Labour Party, and it would be hilarious to watch Hilary Benn/John Reid having to step aside at Deputy PM in favour of Ming. Can't see this happening though, as Gordon's antipathy towards the Liberals is probably greater than that of the Tory Party.

Andy, that list is a bit slack, you missed Hyndburn, Rossendale, Ellesmere Port, Chester, Wirral, Tameside, Barrow-in-Furness, Sefton, Wigan, Salford, Macclesfield, Congleton, Preston, Pendle, Burnley, Calderdale, Kirklees, Wakefield and Leeds - all northern, many urban and all either with a significant Conservative presence already, or gains last Thursday.

It hardly matters, Iain!

If Election Special says we have no presence in the North because we have no councillors on three particular councils, and will therefore inevitably lose the next election, it must be so!

Five months under new leadership has already transformed the Party's image in the greater part of England but the Party does not yet have properly formulated policies to present a really positive impression, especially in the hard nosed northern towns and cities where we have as yet little representation.
We could with complete justification take the very successful slogan "Labour isn't working" that the Tories used years ago and recast it as "Labour isn't working - again". Whatever Blairites claim, we are all aware that the Home Office is a shambles, that the NHS has been badly mismanaged, that Defra is a laughing stock (as, of course, is the DPM), that universities are not able to serve either the nation or their students properly, that the CBI and Chambers of Commerce deplore the standards of too many employees who have just left school, that Iraq is a bloody mess, that Brown has clobbered our pensions schemes and that the tax credit system is a fiasco etc etc.
The various policy groups are working on policies that should not only be practical but also that should hang together.
It is only by going through this exercise and ensuring that we have fair, simple and commonsensical policies to address these Labour inspired problems that we will be able to convince the electorate that, although we might be quite close in some aims to New Labour, our methods will be the tried and tested ones of top class management.
That way, I don't believe we need concern ourselves about debating a coalition with the Lib Dems; some of their good, sensible MPs and many voters will change their allegiance to a fresh, vigorous party that they believe will work.

I wonder at what point the Newcastle, Manchester and Liverpool seats come in on our target list. Anthony Wells has a guide to the new boundaries here and unsurprisingly no seat from those conurbations features in his Conservative target list of 114 seats...

Conservatives talking up the possibility of a coalition with the Conservatives is actually brilliant politics under FPTP. Reversing the tactical voting present in the 2005 results could be worth 20-25 seats. And take those 20-25 seats away and an overall majority looks eminently possible.

One only has to look at 1997 to see what can happen when the fire of two parties is concentrated almost solely on the third.

"I wonder at what point the Newcastle, Manchester and Liverpool seats come in on our target list."

Our position in Liverpool is dire - the fact that we are no better than fifth, in terms of political representation, in one of our major cities should be a major concern.

We should be thinking about ways to win these voters round, rather than writing an entire city off completely.

On the flip side, Guido (www.order-order.com) had a comment in his blog today that interested me:

"Tories know that a Brown led Labour party will turn England blue. Focus group polling shows that Brown is utterly detested by the English. So he won't win a general election for the Scottish Raj against Cameron even if he does win the Labour party's leadership."

Is it possible that a Brown/Cameron general election would see the country polarised even more along broadly regional lines?

"Anthony Wells has a guide to the new boundaries here and unsurprisingly no seat from those conurbations features in his Conservative target list of 114 seats..."

I have also wondered whether or not we need to take control of these cities to win an election. I know it looks better if we represent these areas but looking at things from a position of realpolitik we can take the country without taking the major northern cities.

We narrowly lost out to the Liberal party (not the LibDems) in Liverpool for third place in terms of votes, Daniel.

I totally agree it shouldn't be written off, but Liverpudlians are an extremely hard bunch of people to influence - many of them still bear grudges from the 80s.

Our best shot is to make a pitch for the ever-growing yuppie class, the young professionals who are living in the city in its renaissance. If this was combined with an innovative poverty-fighting agenda the party's perception would slowly, but surely, change in the great city.

I totally agree it shouldn't be written off, but Liverpudlians are an extremely hard bunch of people to influence - many of them still bear grudges from the 80s.

Wonder how long it will be before they forgive Boris?

Vince Cable 4th March:
"But, more seriously, the idea of the Conservatives reinventing themselves as a liberal party is on a par with UKIP becoming a Euro federalist party advocating that we adopt Deutschland Uber Alles as our national anthem."

Update:Roger Knapman just embraced cheap polish Labour....gulp.

Cable continues:
"They've [the Tories] also abandoned their principals and policies."

Update:The parties are even more similar than we thought! :-)

I get it, leave the EPP because it is federalist, then go into coalition with the federalist LibDems. Very eurosceptic!

I imagine that the Liberal Democrats would only go into coalition with Labour or the Conservative Party if they had equal shares in the cabinet, alternating choice of Prime Minister and full involvement in policy formation, something probably unacceptable to Labour or the Conservatives, in fact a Labour-Conservative coalition may well be more likely as the Liberal Democrats are likely to see it as being vital that their first full participation in government since the 1920's be more than just being a slight influence otherwise they would merely frustrate their members.

If Labour was to lose it's majority the most likely thing is that either Labour or the Conservative party would form a minority government and rely on forming coalitions on different measures to get them through much as the Labour governments of 1924 and 1929-31 did.

Daniel - of course we need to win round voters in Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle. But it's downright misleading to suggest, as does "Inamicus" (aka Newcastle Lib Dem Councillor Greg Stone) that we can't win a general election without seats in these areas.

After all, we won the 1987 election with a 100 seat majority and no seats in Newcastle.

And, as other posters have pointed out, we are strong and getting stronger in other areas of the North - such as North Tyneside, right next door to Newcastle. And North Tyneside, unlike Newcastle, contains a Lab/Con marginal (Tynemouth) where we won 8 seats to Labour's one last Thursday.

So, although we need to be stronger in the North, and it would be good for the party's credibility to win seats in Newcastle, Liverpool, etc, let's not get too hung up about it.

Wonder how long it will be before they forgive Boris?

Not that long!

I probably repeating myself .. but I don't see a necessary conflict in being a good Tory *and* wooing centre-right LibDems. The Orange Bookers are centre-right thinkers, and would be at home with a deep strand of mainstream conservative thinking. This isn't Cameron saying "we were wrong", it's the party gently saying to the LibDem NonNutters: "guys, we know we looked unelectable 5 years ago; we don't now; if you are serious about getting a centre-right government then for goodness' sake why are you hanging around with the likes of Shrill Teather and Shriller Susan - why not come and work with us and build an anti-Labour coalition?". Best way would be for defections straight to us; but if in the initial period a Tory govt would get its majority through the support of a number of decent, centre-right LibDems, I can't see the problem with that (it would be psychologically easier for the LibDems in question too).

And PS there is a tradition of this in our party - I am pretty sure the "and Unionist" part of our name came from the merger with the Liberal Unionists early in the 20th century (but see other postings from me where I admit to usually being wrong about everything:0-))

PPS The "inamicus" response, picking a northern city where we don't have representation, and implying this proves we can't win an election, is a non sequitur, because

-- well, see David's response, both parts.

This inamicus response is exactly the same nonsense that Susan Wossername, can't bear her, Kramer innit, screeched on and on about the day after the elections, as though we'd just sat through a tremendous libdem national victory, which on closer inspection seemed to come down to winning a ward in Camden.

Note to liberals: you're flat-lining. Your leader is a laughing stock. Your coalition between leftwing students and centre-right thinkers was viable ONLY when it delivered election victory. Winning the odd ward hear and there is NOT victory.

we could take the votes from the right of labour, lib dems from the left and destroy labour - going back to the old 19th century liberals v conservatives.

Whigs v Tories!

Whigs v Tories!

The former got absorbed by the latter towards the end of the 19th century. They went from being a precursor of the Liberal Party to a small-c conservative faction within it. As the Liberals became increasingly radical the Whig faction began to join the Conservatives.

"I get it, leave the EPP because it is federalist, then go into coalition with the federalist LibDems. Very eurosceptic!"

Chad, the Conservative Party calls for reform of the EU, so does the Orange Book. It is critical of those pro-EUers who never criticise the EU and have handed over complaints to the EU-Skeptics.

They want reform, we want reform.

In general, I think we should be championing civil liberties.

'Vote Conservative to have your civil liberties restored!'

1. You won't be arrested under anti-terrorist legislation for heckling a party leader.

2. You won't be arrested at the Cenataph for reading out the names of our war dead in protest.

3. You won't be arrested for a protest within a mile of Parliament.

4. You won't have to carry an ID card.



Oops! Cenotaph.


Hear Hear.

How useless the Lib/Dems are and how badly they are doing with there new ageed leader its only a matter of time before they start to implode and some of the more impressive MP`s start to defect to us.
This party doesn`t need any other party. People should have the self-confidence and belief that we are going to win on our own, And we will.

".....its only a matter of time before they start to implode......"

That was predicted about the Liberals for much of the middle half of this century, and indeed about the Tories after 1997.

Cameron doesn't need to aim at a coaltion with the Libdems, but given the likely results at the next election is it would be foolish to destroy the possibility completely. Look at the bookies - it's almost evens for a hung parliament. Electoral reality makes it almost impossible for Cameron to win a majority, even with a spectacular percentage of the vote nationally.

>>>>That was predicted about the Liberals for much of the middle half of this century<<<<
In the early to mid 1950's there wasn't much left of the Liberal Party to implode - it had about the same levels of support that UKIP do now.

Cameron doesn't need to aim at a coaltion with the Libdems, but given the likely results at the next election is it would be foolish to destroy the possibility completely.
The Liberal Democrats are likely to make a referendum on STV, equal representation in cabinet positions and in policymaking and probably a rotating Prime Ministership a condition of coalition with either party, in the event of a Hung Parliament a Minority Government with no formal agreements is the most likely outcome.

>>>>Cameron doesn't need to aim at a coaltion with the Libdems, but given the likely results at the next election is it would be foolish to destroy the possibility completely.<<<<
That bit in the previous message should have been in quotes.

Some of us would rather abstain than vote for a Lib-Con coalition...

As for Civil Liberties - a distraction from key issues, even more than Europe in 2001 and Immigration in 2005. At least Europe and Immigration gave us clear poll leads over the other parties.

Our voters (and me) to be blunt, don't care very much about human rights/civil liberties in the abstract. I'm not keen on carrying a piece of plastic around all the time that cost a lot of money, but I am far more worried about other issues. Note the performance of Ben Rogers, expert on Burma, in the City of Durham.

Before you think, what a cynical and uncaring person, most Tory voters and members do care about crime (which harms the poorest most), mass and uncontrolled immigration (into areas which are full of poor white and British Ethnic minorities and are not equipped to cope with this), and antisocial behaviour (which is far more of a problem in poorer areas than rich ones). Most people feel sorry for those who have to suffer the results of poor policing/immigration/general community breakdown. They also feel sorry for those living in the developing world in failed countries. Civil liberties/human rights nuts don't give a damn about these kind of people.
I personally admire China. OK, so it might not have a perfect human rights record. On the other hand, unlike sub-Saharan Africa, it doesn't have 10-20% of its population dying of aids, an inability to fund even the most basic education for its people, millions dying of unsanitary conditions, an economy which could best be described as a 'partial basket case' and an overall life expectancy of around 45.

The kind of nonsense spouted by the civil liberties/ human rights judiciary is extremely irritating - for example today a ruling allowing people who hijack planes from Afghanistan having the right to claim asylum in the name of human rights... what kind of nonsense is this?!

The Tory Party should remember it is the 'firm but fair' party. Or at least, when it wins elections it is...

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