Thorpe's advice to Clegg: don’t go into coalition

by Stephen Tall on January 28, 2008

There’s an in-depth interview former Liberal party leader Jeremy Thorpe in today’s Guardian – focusing not on his past, but on the party’s future. Here’s the skinny:

On the Lib Dems helping form a coalition government:

I’d prefer Clegg not to go into coalition. He should keep the party a free agent, keep on opposing the government.”


On David Cameron:

Cameron is a phoney, a Thatcherite who is pretending to be progressive.”

On Gordon Brown:

Dour and unimpressive. Like Callaghan … You have to go back to Attlee to get a really good Labour PM.”

On proportional representation:

In the large rural areas, enormous constituencies, it is better to keep a single MP.” PR should be saved for the cities, he says.

And… on that scandal:

I wanted to clear the air, but I was pretty shattered. I would have gone on leading the Liberal Democrats. I think I could have pushed up our number of seats.”

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It’s ammazing how native MPs and ex MPs get regarding their little fife doms in their constituncies.

Given a lot of rural constituencies don’t really have any centre but can be made up of lots of different communities, e.g. the new Broadland seat, I would have thought you could have just as much justification for a large constituency as you can in a city.

by Simon on January 28, 2008 at 1:45 pm. Reply #

The point is that to make PR work reasonably effectively you need a multi-member constituency; you would probably have to do this on a county wide scale, or as in the case of west Wales or northern Scotland, over a vast area possibly hundreds of miles wide, before you could include enough electors to justify a (for the sake of argument) 4 member constituency.

Churchill advocated such a model – multimember PR for the cities, single member FPTP for the districts – in the 1920s and indeed as late as his premiership in the 50s, but conceded he couldn’t get such a measure through the Tory party.

by Greg on January 28, 2008 at 1:52 pm. Reply #

I think calling Cameron a Thatcherite is being a bit kind…
He’s sub-Thatcherite, he doesn’t even have any of the liberalism Thatcher introduced to the Tories, he’s simply an old Tory, with a good smattering of the sort of progressivism which really means less freedom and more for vested interests (rather like Rosevelt’s New Deal)

by Tristan Mills on January 28, 2008 at 2:34 pm. Reply #

Yes, of course, what a sensible idea – asking someone who is clearly such a good judge of character, and who in no way was a failure as a politician himself, to evaluate today’s politicians…

Yeeeesss…as Jeremy Paxman might say…

by Dennis the Menace... on January 28, 2008 at 2:41 pm. Reply #

From the interview with Thorpe..

“Instead, Clegg must win as many by-elections as he can.” Thorpe taps the arm of his chair as he lists the five by-elections his party won under his stewardship. How can Clegg do this? “I had an uncanny way of finding out who was going to die,” Thorpe says. “Instinct. I gave Richard Wainwright [a Liberal MP] a tip and he said: ‘Is he dead?’ … I said: ‘No, not yet, but he’s going to …’ And he died.”

You really couldn’t make it up…

by Dennis the Menace... on January 28, 2008 at 2:47 pm. Reply #

Cameron is just another Old Etonian hack….like Jeremy Thorpe.

by Martin Land on January 28, 2008 at 3:20 pm. Reply #

Another Old Etonian? Well, at least it wasn’t Westminster….

by Terry Gilbert on January 28, 2008 at 4:32 pm. Reply #

As a Liberal of Jeremy Thorpe’s generation I always found him capable, intelligent, a good party leader, and a true Liberal. On the other hand his judgement was always a bit erratic, and I never felt he was likeble.

One key thing about him is that he learns. That is why his advice is worth listening to; especially on coalitions. Even so, Ming had better judgement. When Gordon Brown rang him, his preliminary and right move was to talk to his colleagues.

by Diversity on January 28, 2008 at 6:33 pm. Reply #

What is ” I want a referendum” doing here , when you are shoring up the Brown administration from the consequences of their own rebels. The Liberal Party has assisted anmd colluded in the fraud perpetrated on the voter for a generation and now it is conniving to remove democracy for the country.
Should you not replace that with “I want evry9ne to do as they are told so assorted fawning Westminster Courtiers can juggle PR deals in Europe and the unwashed masses be ignore which will be a great relief when it comes to stealing thei mkoney to pay over paid teachers even more to do sod all.”…?

Its not snappy but …hits the spot

by newmania on January 29, 2008 at 8:54 am. Reply #

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