Leading article: Beware the siren voices of alliance

Share

No one can accuse David Cameron of lacking chutzpah. It was a cheeky piece of opportunism for the Conservative leader to call on the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party to join the Conservatives in, as he put it, "creating a new progressive alliance to decentralise British politics".

But no one should blame the Liberal Democrats either for their sharp rebuff. If Mr Cameron had hoped to catch them in a moment of weakness as their acting leader, Vince Cable, prepares to give way to the new leader, when the result of the contest is announced tomorrow he overstepped the mark. In Mr Cable, and the former leader, Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrats had vigilant elder statesmen ready and willing to defend their party's interests.

The Liberal Democrats cannot afford to enter any alliance formal or informal at this stage. Nor do they need to. Barring accidents, a general election is at least two years away. The new leader, whether it be Nick Clegg or Chris Huhne, has time to consolidate his authority and stake out new territory. Why begin by dancing to Mr Cameron's tune?

In saying he wants to put pressure on the Government to decentralise power, the Conservative leader has chosen an issue that is close to Liberal Democrat hearts. And it may be that this is an issue on which the two parties can usefully make common cause. But there are different ways to decentralise government. The new Liberal Democrat leader needs to begin by charting his own course.

The timing of Mr Cameron's overture, however speculative, though, is useful. It is a warning to the Liberal Democrats, once they emerge from their latest bout of introspection, that Mr Cameron is still interested in stealing their political clothes, especially those of a localist and greenish hue. They must be on the look-out for chances to broaden their appeal, while being careful not to dilute the qualities that make them distinctive.

But Mr Cameron's intervention should remind the new Liberal Democrat leader, too, that the next election could give the party its best shot at sharing power for many years. He must always bear that in mind and avoid all appearance of third-party amateurishness. This is a time when the appearance of substance and authority could make all the difference.

To lean too far towards one major party or other would also be a big mistake, however seductive the calls from Cameron-land might sound. It would be folly for any Liberal Democrat leader with a realistic shot at a slice of power, to surrender any of his cards before the bargaining is for real.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Copywriter / Direct Response Copywriter

£20k plus sales linked bonus. : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Copywriter to j...

Recruitment Genius: Accounting Technician

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has bec...

Guru Careers: 3D Creative Designer

Up to £26k DOE: Guru Careers: A Junior / Mid-Level 3D Creative Designer is nee...

Recruitment Genius: Ecommerce Website Digital Marketing Manager - Fashion / Retail

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You'll be joining a truly talen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Between the covers: Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet, opposite Colin Firth's Mr Darcy, in the acclaimed 1995 BBC adaptation of 'Pride and Prejudice'  

To talk about 'liking' a character may be a literary faux pas, but I don't care

Memphis Barker
Hinkley Point A to the right of development land where the reactors of Hinkley C nuclear power station are due to be built  

Should the UK really be putting its money into nuclear power in 2015?

Chris Green Chris Green
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen