Five more years of coalition government: Nick Clegg tells Liberal Democrats to prepare for another term in power as poll shows voters warming to two-party administration


Political Editor

Nick Clegg has told the Liberal Democrats to prepare for another five years in power amid new evidence that voters are warming to the idea of coalition government.

A ComRes poll for The Independent found that 34 per cent of people believe that Britain is better off with a coalition government than if the Conservatives or Labour had won the last general election outright – higher than the 29 per cent figure recorded last July.

The findings are a boost for the Lib Dems. Last night, a bullish Mr Clegg announced that he is setting up a team to prepare for negotiations with other parties in the event of another hung parliament after next year’s general election. The Deputy Prime Minister insists he is not taking voters for granted but is increasingly confident his party will remain in office and that Britain is entering an era of coalition government.

A senior Lib Dem source said: “We were well prepared last time but Nick wants us to be even better prepared this time. We have every intention of returning to government after the election to anchor the country in the centre ground.”

According to ComRes, a majority of people (54 per cent) do not agree that Britain is better off with a coalition than a Conservative or Labour government – but that figure has fallen from 57 per cent in July last year. Current Conservative supporters (37 per cent) are more likely than Labour voters (31 per cent) to believe that Britain is better off with a coalition.

Many Tory and Labour supporters would be expected to prefer one-party rule. Significantly, the proportion of people thinking the country is better off with a coalition is much higher than the Lib Dems’ current 10 per cent poll rating. That will raise Lib Dem hopes of doing  better than that at next year’s election amid growing signs of disenchantment with the “big two” parties which no longer dominate the political landscape.

Cameron denies cuts and spending squeeze is driven by 'smaller state ideology'

The Tories and Labour will react coolly to the Lib Dem preparations and rule out any negotiations before the general election. In public, the two biggest parties insist they are going all-out for a majority. In private,  some senior figures in both parties concede that another hung parliament is the most likely outcome next year. A debate has begun in both parties about whether it would be better to go into full-scale coalition with Lib Dems or to run a minority government in the hope of securing an overall majority at a second election, perhaps after a year or 18 months.

Mr Clegg told a meeting of Lib Dem MPs last night that Danny Alexander, the Chief Treasury Secretary, will head the team planning talks with other parties in a “balanced parliament”. The other members are David Laws, the Schools Minister who is in charge of the Lib Dem manifesto; Baroness (Sal) Brinton; Lynne Featherstone, the International Development Minister and Steve Webb, the Pensions Minister.

Mr Clegg said: “The Liberal Democrats will fight the next election as a strong, independent party. Though, like last time, we do not take any outcome of the next election for granted and so we want to be prepared for any eventuality. By preparing well, we will ensure that the Liberal Democrat Party is best placed to deliver a stronger economy in a fairer society in whichever circumstances we find ourselves in.”

He declared: “The worst outcome next year would be either a Conservative or Labour-only government - because only the Lib Dems can anchor the country in the centre ground.”

Although the Lib Dem manifesto will spell out the party’s priorities in another coalition, officials deny that it will water down its programme to accommodate its opponents.

But one said: “It is right that we take the appropriate steps to ensure that the Liberal Democrats are fully prepared to make our contribution to strong and stable government, should the election once again return a parliament with no party in a majority.”

Mr Alexander said: “We owe it to the British people to be as well prepared as possible so that we can ensure a responsible, stable outcome, as we did in 2010.”

He added: “We are on a journey as a party of government. Having Lib Dems in government next time is the only way to secure the economic recovery, keep British politics in the centre ground, and deliver a stronger economy in a fairer society. That is why we take preparing seriously.”

Last week, Downing Street played down reports that David Cameron would promise he would not enter another coalition with the Lib Dems but did not totally deny them.  A formal manifesto commitment is unlikely, as Mr Cameron wants to keep his options open.

In public, Labour has rebuffed speculation about a Lib-Lab coalition.  But  Labour sources admit that bridges are being built with Mr Clegg’s party behind the scenes and that Labour anger about his decision to enter a coalition with the Tories is  cooling.

Labour is reluctant to talk up a deal with Mr Clegg since that might encourage Lib Dem 2010 voters who have switched to Mr Miliband’s party to return to the Lib Dem fold.

ComRes interviewed 1,004 adults by telephone between 26 February and 2 March. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
John Travolta plays John Gotti in the upcoming 'Gotti: Three Generations.'
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam