Liberal Democrats could hold the balance of power after general election
Mar 5 2010 By Jonathan Walker
The Liberal Democrats could be holding the fate of the nation in their hands. Political Editor Jonathan Walker looks at the real possibilities of a hung parliament.
The Liberal Democrats are often overshadowed by the two larger parties, but they will be the centre of attention when they arrive in Birmingham next week for their annual Spring conference.
All eyes will be on party leader Nick Clegg when he delivers a keynote speech at the International Convention Centre, because he could very well be the person who holds the fate of the nation in his hands.
With opinion polls showing the gap between Labour and the Conservatives closing, a hung Parliament is a real possibility.
And if neither Labour or the Conservatives can command a majority in the House of Commons without Liberal Democrat support, Mr Clegg may decide who gets to be Prime Minister.
But unlike his predecessors as Lib Dem leader, who spent election campaigns fending off questions about hung Parliaments, he is more than happy to discuss what his approach would be.
Speaking to the Birmingham Post as he prepared for his visit to the city, he was even willing to speculate about the possibility of joining a Government – led by either Gordon Brown or David Cameron.
He said: “I think it is a very natural question, particularly given that the polls suggest all bets are off at this election.
“My view is really very pragmatic. Firstly, I am not a kingmaker. David Cameron is not a kingmaker. Gordon Brown is not a kingmaker. There are 40 million-odd voters in this country and they give us our instructions, and I want to hear what they have to say before any politician can decide how they want to respond.
“Secondly, there are no deals, undertakings arrangements, undertakings between ourselves and any other party – until the voters, the real kingmakers, have had their say.
“Third, and probably most importantly of all, are our four priorities. Fair taxes, which means no tax on the first £10,000 you earn. Smaller class sizes. A complete change in the way we run the economy. And cleaning out the rotten state of politics in Westminster, giving people for instance in Birmingham the right to sack their MPs if those MPs have been shown to be corrupt.
“Those are the four things that I will fight for, campaign for, insist upon, in whatever context I find myself; hung parliament or not a hung Parliament, in Government out of Government.
“And I think that’s a really clear guide to people. It’s a kind of copper-bottomed guarantee that if you like those four things, those are the things I will fight for in whatever way the Liberal Democrats can exercise influence.
“And that I think is actually very far in revealing my hand about how I would act in the future.”
These four issues will be at the top of the Liberal Democrat list of demands if they are approached form a coalition government, and also at the heart of their spring conference in Birmingham. But Mr Clegg’s arrival at the ICC, in the Ladywood constituency, may also draw attention to controversy surrounding the party’s candidate in the seat, Coun Ayoub Khan.
Elections Commissioner Timothy Straker QC concluded in April 2008 that Coun Khan misled an election court with a “sordid story” about a Labour rival. And Coun Khan, a barrister, may now face an inquiry from the Bar Council, which could end his legal career.