The Corner

A Conservative Deal with Nick Clegg Would be Disastrous

As Gordon Brown clings grimly on to power, Conservative leader David Cameron has reached out to the Liberal Democrats offering to work with them in forming a new government. Whether this takes the shape of a formal coalition, with the Liberals taking some key posts in the Cabinet, or some kind of informal power-sharing arrangement, remains to be seen. But there can be no doubt that the Conservatives and Liberals are oceans apart on most key issues, including electoral reform, Europe, counter-terrorism, foreign policy, defense, immigration, and the economy.

Nick Clegg, whose party actually lost seats last night compared to the last general election in 2005, is the most left-wing British party leader in a generation. There is not a shred of evidence that Clegg is willing to accept the kind of hard-hitting economic reform measures that are necessary to cut Britain’s ballooning budget deficits, and bring down astronomic levels of government spending. He is a big government liberal, with a highly interventionist outlook that could not be further from the free market agenda that needs to be put in place if the UK is to stave off a Greek-style financial crisis in the future.  

As I’ve written before, Clegg’s views on foreign and defense policy are cause for major concern as well, not only in Britain, but in the United States. Clegg is opposed to the Anglo-American “special relationship” and the transatlantic alliance, and believes that the UK should be submerged in a federal European superstate. He is against a nuclear deterrent, and stringently opposes the use of force unless it is mandated by the United Nations. His views are completely incompatible with the Atlanticist approach of the Conservatives, and diametrically opposed to the vision of great Tory leaders in the past such as Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill.  

It is hard to see how such an arrangement can work — an agreement between the center-right and the center-left would be unprecedented in British history, and would have an unsettling effect on the financial markets. It would be an extraordinary marriage of convenience that may quickly end in a political divorce. A far better alternative would be for David Cameron to form a minority government, which will work with different parties on an issue by issue basis to pass legislation. There are no firm guarantees this will succeed either, but at least it does not involve a transfer of significant political power to a left-wing party that is hostile to conservatism.

— Nile Gardiner is director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation.

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