Senior Liberal Democrats expressed serious concern about the future of the coalition today after the Prime Minister sought to reassure them by saying his party takes the pledges in the coalition agreement a seriously as the Liberal Democrats do.
In a speech yesterday, the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg delivered a thinly veiled warning to David Cameron saying that he would not accept being in a coalition with anyone as lacking in integrity and honesty as he was:
Everyone knows a pledge by the Liberal Democrats is worth jack-diddly-squat so obviously if the Tories take their pledges as seriously as we do, the coalition’s in serious trouble. The Liberal Democrats have consistently lied and sold-out our every principle for the sake of the coalition, and it is absolutely unacceptable for anyone to treat us in the same way we have treated the electorate.
The comments, on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show, came amid reports that at least six Tory cabinet ministers would prefer to follow the Liberal Democrat’s example when it comes to breaking promises and ignore the pledges their party made in the coalition agreement over controversial reforms to the House of Lords.
The party’s backbenchers are also threatening a mass revolt amid deep unhappiness over what they see as a serious strategic mistake made by the Prime Minister when he decided to try to appear to be honest instead of being more true to Conservative principles and be openly duplicitous instead.
Experts believe there is even the potential for resignations by several ministerial aides if the party leadership continues its policy of pretending to be more ethical and principled than their coalition partners.
A senior Conservative, who has voiced doubts over the effectiveness of being too truthful in government, described the concerns many backbenchers were having:
The Liberal Democrats are mistaken if they think only they can be unscrupulous and unprincipled when it comes to making promises. The Tory Party has a rich history of double-dealing and chicanery, so we don’t see why the LibDems should be having all the fun.
But Clegg cautioned against a situation where the coalition parties began competing over how dishonest each of them could be:
I have asked Liberal Democrat MPs and peers to lie about a number of things – the NHS bill, tuition fees and other things that they promised the electorate they wouldn’t do.
But I did it because one of the great things about this coalition, despite a lot of pressure to do otherwise, is that we haven’t indulged in sort of tit-for-tat selective choice about who is more untrustworthy. Mainly because clearly my party would win any contest of dishonesty, hands down.
Related articles by Tom Pride:
Nick Clegg announces £126m scheme to encourage employers to take on unemployed Lib Dem politicians after next election
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