Rumbling dissent on backbenches mars Lib Dem breakthrough

The Liberal Democrats were celebrating the beginning of a new era for their party last night after agreeing to form a coalition that will see them form part of the Government for the first time in their history.

The deal will see senior figures take critical jobs in David Cameron's Cabinet. They will be the first Liberal politicians to sit around the Cabinet table since the Second World War. The coalition Government will serve for five years under a fixed-term parliament.

However, some senior Liberal Democrats on the left of the party said they would never accept Government posts and would struggle to support the coalition.

Nick Clegg's party secured huge concessions from the Tories as part of the agreement that will him become Deputy Prime Minister. Last night, Downing Street confirmed that four of his senior team will also serve alongside him in a Cameron-led Government. Vince Cable also looked set to the Treasury to serve as George Osborne's deputy.

Danny Alexander, Mr Clegg's chief of staff, was also tipped to be handed the role of Scottish Secretary. The Liberal Democrats have a much stronger presence in Scotland than the Tories. David Laws, the Liberal Democrat Education spokesman, was also expected to be handed the role of Education Secretary, ousting one of Mr Cameron's closest advisers, Michael Gove. Liberal Democrats will also be given junior ministerial positions right across Mr Cameron's Government. The strength of their presence within the new administration is a major coup for the party.

The two teams of negotiators from the parties finally emerged at 7.35pm last night after more than five hours of negotiations at the Cabinet Office, with a crucial concession on voting reform making a full coalition between the parties possible. In exchange, controversial plans for an amnesty of illegal immigrants were dropped by Mr Clegg's party. However, his negotiators were staggered by the number of their demands that were met.

Scrawled notes and lists of concessions were drawn up by each side as they came close to an agreement. Shared ground was also reached on education policy and political reform, as well as on tax. Mr Cable was seen in the Treasury yesterday afternoon as the agreement neared completion, the first major sign that a deal on a full coalition had been hammered out.

Desperate to return to power, the Tories were quick to offer the Lib Dems a key concession on electoral reform after Mr Clegg had begun talks with Labour. Their offer of a referendum on the alternative vote (AV) system was more than senior Lib Dems had hoped to secure. The party's negotiating team, comprising of Chris Huhne, Mr Laws, Mr Alexander and Andrew Stunell, had even been minded to push for accepting the Tory deal when they met with their MPs and peers on Monday.

Sources suggested last night that the Tories had agreed to alter their plans to raise the inheritance tax threshold, while also conceding ground on the Liberal Democrats' desire to spare millions of workers from paying income tax. Despite anger among some Tories that the Lib Dems had spoken to Labour in private, Mr Cameron's negotiators were keen to keep discussions amicable.

The spotlight will now be on whether discipline can be maintained in both parties. Some Tory backbenchers, vehemently opposed to voting reform, were reluctant to accept the concession of a referendum on introducing AV. And discontent is already surfacing in the ranks of Mr Clegg's party last night. Some Liberal Democrat MPs warned that they would not abide by any coalition with the Tories.

Mr Clegg needed the approval of his party last night to formerly complete the deal. Under the party's "triple lock" system, three-quarters of MPs, peers and the party's federal executive needed to green-light to the coalition. Even staunch opponents said they would abstain rather than vote against the pact as it was the only workable agreement. However, several senior figures said they would refuse to work in the coalition. "I cannot be a defender of such a government," said one. "I've no idea where this puts me."

While talk of a Lib-Lab deal swelled on Monday night, the first signs a deal with the Tories could be back on came early yesterday, as several Lib Dem MPs realised a stable government was unlikely under a rainbow coalition with Labour. "The heart is saying one thing, but the head another," said one MP. Another was quick to say the Labour deal was "sinking fast".

As speculation built in Westminster that Mr Clegg personally preferred a deal with Mr Cameron for the sake of building a stable coalition, talks between the two parties were back on. Tory MPs were informed about the final deal at 10pm last night. Many will be uneasy about the number of Cabinet posts surrendered to Mr Clegg's party.

The party's statement

"It is clear that the Labour party never took seriously the prospects of forming a progressive, reforming government with the Liberal Democrats.

"Key members of Labour's negotiating team gave every impression of wanting the process to fail and Labour made no attempt at all to agree a common approach with the Liberal Democrats on issues such as fairer schools funding for the most deprived pupils and taking those on low incomes out of tax.

"It became clear to the Liberal Democrats that certain key Labour Cabinet ministers were determined to undermine any agreement by holding out on policy issues and suggesting that Labour would not deliver on proportional representation and might not marshal the votes to secure even the most modest form of electoral reform.

"It is clear that some people in the Labour party see opposition as a more attractive alternative to the challenges of creating a progressive, reforming government, not least in the context of a Labour leadership election campaign."

A Liberal milestone

After the last Liberal Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, was skewered by the Conservatives in 1922, it took the Great Depression of 1931 for the door of No 10 to again be opened to the party.

Ramsay MacDonald's minority Labour government couldn't cope with the unprecedented economic disaster, made worse by Britain's adherence to the Gold Standard, a policy brought in by Chancellor Churchill seven years previously.

MacDonald set up the National Government. Sir Herbert Samuel, a dedicated Zionist recently returned from his role as high commissioner to Palestine, was given the job of Home Secretary. The 90-year-old Marquess of Reading took the Foreign Secretary job. But not for the first time, disagreements over protectionism split the party. The anti-protectionist ministers resigned their posts. The pro-protectionist "National Liberals" stayed put, with their leader Sir John Simon taking the job of Foreign Secretary. When the Conservatives' Stanley Baldwin won the 1935 election, standing under a National Government ticket, Sir John Simon maintained a senior role, this time Home Secretary, but as the gathering storm approached from Germany, their policies became progressively irrelevant.

The leadership of the Liberal Party fell to Sir Archibald Sinclair, who Winston Churchill included as Secretary of State for Air in his 1940 wartime coalition. Sinclair lost his seat in the Labour landslide of 1945, and the door to No 10 clicked gently shut behind them.

Tom Peck

News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionPart of 'best-selling' Demeter scent range
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Warehouse Developer - (Oracle, PL/SQL, ETL, OLAP, B

£65000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: One of the global leaders in fina...

Deputy Education Manager

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Deputy Education Manager (permanent ...

Science Teacher Urgently required for October start

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: We are currently recr...

ICT Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Group: We are looking for an outstandi...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering