Lib Dems to join Brown cabinet?

by Stephen Tall on June 20, 2007

That’s the startling story in today’s Guardian, which reports:

Gordon Brown and Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat leader, have held private discussions in recent days about a plan for one or two senior Lib Dems to join Mr Brown’s first cabinet, the Guardian has been told by a well-placed source. It is being emphasised that the discussions have not been about a coalition and may not have been conclusive.

The comments of the quoted party spokesmen do not refute the story, which by implication suggests there’s something to it:

One of Sir Menzies’s closest aides, Lord Kirkwood, issued a qualified denial last night but declined to deny the story of recent discussions. He said: “We are getting this sort of speculation all the time from people who want to write stories about cooperation [between the parties] at levels which are in their imagination.
“But they [Mr Brown and Sir Menzies] talk all the time, they talk about Fife and other things. If you start getting into particular meetings it’s impossible. This suggestion is not known to me and not admitted. Some of these players do have to trust each other in relationships one-to-one.”
A spokesman for Sir Menzies said: “We are not commenting on this tittle-tattle or any other story based on rumour and speculation, now or in the future. We are an independent party which firmly disagrees with Labour and Gordon Brown on the issue of Iraq, civil liberties, including ID cards and 90-day detention, nuclear power and council tax to name but a few.”

What do LDV readers think of this development? Three questions occur:

1. Is it tenable for Lib Dems to serve in a Labour cabinet, but for the party to maintain it’s not in coalition with Labour?
2. Who would serve, and in what capacity? Nick Clegg at the Home Office? Vince Cable at a Treasury spin-off department?
3. What Lib Dem policies is it believed one or two Lib Dems serving in a Brown cabinet could have implemented?

For me the answers to questions 1 and 3 are “no” and “nothing” respectively (which makes question 2 rather redundant).

As a party which believes in proportional representation, and the breaking down of petty tribalism in favour of mature cross-party working, we will at some time have to think about what this might mean in reality – which will often be uncomfortable. However, we don’t have PR yet, and careless coalition whispers without it being in place strike me as foolhardy.

For years, the Lib Dems operated a firm policy of ‘equidistance’ between Labour and the Conservatives, a concept which was, perhaps understandably, dropped by Paddy Ashdown during the derided fag-end of the last Tory Government.

But tactically, strategically, and in principle equidistance is the policy which best fits a spiky, independent, liberal democratic party.

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12 comments

For the record, there is no prospect of any Liberal Democrat joining the Brown Government.

by Edward Davey on June 20, 2007 at 9:09 am. Reply #

Phew – long winded comment narrowly averted by Ed’s response. Well done Ed.

I think most of us would be appalled at the prospect of LibDem MPs proping up this governmemnt in the final year(s) before a general election (however much some of them might want to get behind >that

by Stephen G on June 20, 2007 at 9:34 am. Reply #

‘well placed source’ – journalist code for I am just making this up as I have no story and I am worried I am going to be sacked!

by Tim Kent on June 20, 2007 at 9:45 am. Reply #

It isn’t a “development”. It’s a load of B/S from the Guardian. It’s not going to happen so why bother to comment on it?

by Paul Walter on June 20, 2007 at 9:52 am. Reply #

I think the headline here is ‘Guardian provides cheap kite, Iain Dale tries to fly it.’

by Peter McGrath on June 20, 2007 at 10:51 am. Reply #

Nick Robinson says it is true and that it maybe Lib Dem peers joining.

by Climb every stairway on June 20, 2007 at 11:06 am. Reply #

1 NO!

2 & 3 therefore irrelevant.

by Neil on June 20, 2007 at 11:08 am. Reply #

Cameron approaches us and asks us to run a joint mayoral candidate – we say no.

Brown approaches us and (possibly) floats us joining his cabinet – we say no.

I think we can safely say our independence as a party is safe in Menzies Campbell’s hands.

by Rob F on June 20, 2007 at 11:55 am. Reply #

I suspect that this whole story is more about Brown (or more likely one of his supporters) trying to give out the message “we would be prepared to work with the Lib Dems in future”, than anything to do with us. Nick Robinson’s suggestion that there is some difference between having Lib Dem peers in a Labour cabinet, and Lib Dem MPs is just plain silly.

by Jeremy Sanders on June 20, 2007 at 12:24 pm. Reply #

I must say the people who’re claiming Ming will cross the floor really don’t understand him. He’s had ample opportunity to get cabinet positions by crossing the floor, and he hasn’t. Why would he do so now when the party he loves is doing better than ever?

As for equidistance – that’s a stupid policy, it forces us into the left/right paradigm. We should be liberal. You can’t be liberal by being between Labour and the Tories, or to the left of them (or to the right).

by Tristan Mills on June 20, 2007 at 1:23 pm. Reply #

Tristan – why does equidistance mean we have to stand inbetween the Tories and Labour? Surely it means we’re out in front?

The serious point is that liberalism is equally unrelated to the philosophies which underpin both the Tory and Labour parties. We should therefore treat both imposters just the same.

That’s what equidistance means to me.

by Stephen Tall on June 20, 2007 at 2:15 pm. Reply #

please do not do deals with the devil

by dprendergast on June 21, 2007 at 10:38 am. Reply #

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