I have just watched Nick Clegg interviewed by Adam Boulton of Sky and heard him on Radio Four earlier today. On both occasions he was asked about preconditions for coalition in the event of a hung parliament. He says there are no preconditions. If Cameron gets most seats, that would involve Clegg doing a deal with the Conservatives - propping up a defeated Brown would simply not wash with the public in England. One Lib Dem contact on facebook this week advised "hold your nose" and vote in such a way that will guarantee voting reform next time around. But when was the last time you heard Clegg mention proportional representation? It used to by the first phrase on any Lib Dem leader's lips. But no previous Lib Dem leader has been so lip smackingly close to power. In both the interviews, Clegg lists his priorities for reform: the £10k tax threshold, smaller class sizes, sorting out the banks/economy, and - it's always number four - "cleaning up politics". What does that mean exactly? After all, everybody wants to "clean up politics", even those who, like Clegg, were forced to pay back expenses money to parliament. This is not the same as changing the voting system. Unattributed newspaper reports have already been softening us up for this - suggesting that tax reform is more important that PR, which might be sacrificed in a Cameron/Clegg coalition.
In Scotland, we are used to Lib Dems not being quite living up to their sales pitch. They are all for local democracy and constitutional reform, but refuse to support a referendum on Scotland's future. They are supposed to be federalists, but support the Calman Commission, which falls far short of their favoured constitutional option and the commission headed by their elder statesman, Lord Steel. They were so hostile to the SNP government, that they could not come together to create a sensible alternative to the council tax - which both parties had pledged to replace. Their insistence that the leadership debates on television fairly reflected the options for Scotland put them in the very same camp as the "old parties" they denigrate. And how can the Liberal Democrats in Scotland justify a coalition with a governing UK party which is likely to have no seats and therefore no mandate here? They were leading players in the Scottish Constitutional Convention of the 1980s and 90s which was predicated on the Claim of Right document that upheld the traditional Scottish position that sovereignty lies with the people.
Clegg - whose name means horse fly in Scots - has some things in his favour. A wife who refuses to be an appendage, a love for Samuel Beckett, and a vow to break up the banks. But that last one was Vince Cable's idea and as the Cleggmania has taken hold, St Vincent has been airbrushed out of the campaign. Is that a warning, I wonder?
I would therefore advise everyone to vote for what they believe in this Thursday...and avoid disappointment later on...