UPDATE: Paul Walter is reporting that he has it on good authority this is bollocks planted by the Tories. Interesting. I had noticed with some curiosity that none of the other MSM sources had picked up the story (other than the Mirror, who are forever wailing that we’re a bunch of closet Tories and have been since the days of Charles Kennedy, so whatever). Still, if that’s true, it means the Telegraph has been printing some pretty dishonest stuff, since the article contains the words “Mr. Clegg ruled out…”, and so on.
I wonder who Paul’s source is, and how they can be so sure?
Here is the original story, anyway:
The Telegraph is reporting that Nick Clegg will support the Tories if they are the largest party in a hung parliament.
Note, of course, that “support” in the Telegraph’s language appears to mean “keep Tory policy firmly under his boot”. The devil is, as ever, in The Telegraph’s detail:
Mr Clegg ruled out taking a Cabinet seat in a Conservative government in return for his support and instead would provide Mr Cameron with “supply and confidence” – meaning he would promise to back a Conservative Budget and would side with the Tories in any votes of confidence.
As a result, Mr Cameron would be free to accept the post of Prime Minister from the Queen on the day after the next general election, even if he failed to win an outright majority.
In return, the Liberal Democrats would reserve the right to vet Mr Cameron’s first Queen’s Speech – the publication of his legislative programme for his first year in office.
Mr Clegg would have an effective veto over the Tories’ domestic policy proposals as he could withdraw the support of his MPs and order them to vote with the Labour opposition on measures with which he disagreed.
Before now, it had been thought likely that Mr Clegg would wait until after an election to embark on negotiations with both of the main parties in the event of a hung Parliament.
But The Daily Telegraph understands that he has decided that the public would not forgive him if he propped up a Labour administration that they had voted to throw out.
He is uninterested in taking up a Cabinet seat led by either of the other parties, as he believes it would fetter his ability to criticise an administration.
Instead, he wants the power to veto legislation, which, he hopes, would raise the Liberal Democrats’ profile enough to allow them to become the second largest party at a future general election.
Essentially, if you stop and think about this for a moment, that’s the surest way Nick has of ensuring that A) as much Lib Dem policy as possible is enacted and B) the Lib Dems aren’t associated for ever more with the Tories. Think about it: We aren’t in coalition, we aren’t sat round the cabinet table, we aren’t responsible for government cock-ups. We are, however, able to exercise judgment on legislation the government passes, and to exert pressure on those issues which we prioritise. All in all, a pretty good position for us to be in.
If this is true, then I think it’s pretty well judged by Nick.